January 22, 2010

see you later, conan

It's a sad night. I've stayed out of the back and forth about Conan/Leno/NBC over the past few weeks. Though, I've made no secret of my feelings about NBC's decision to broadcast The Jay Leno Show in the 10:00 hour. For me, those feelings are more about my preference for good dramatic and comedic scripted programming during that hour. I was worried that this move signaled a bigger shift for television - one that's been happening over time for the past 10 years, a shift away from quality scripted programming on the major networks.

For all the resources (though dwindling) and talent surrounding NBC, there's so much potential. The decision to keep Jay on for fear of losing his audience came at the cost of good programming, and more importantly tonight, at the cost of a really good late night television host.

A lot can be said about the poor business decisions made by NBC in the past year or so. Their indecision and lack of confidence that kept Jay in a slot that didn't end up pulling the right ratings and also impeded Conan's chances. NBC made one huge mistake - they underestimated the intelligence of the audience. Sure, we're numbers, sure that translates to dollars. But they forgot that we're also a collective brain, a brain that can be influenced by even the slightest move. They failed to recognize or take advantage of that. Most of us saw keeping Jay as a lack of confidence in Conan, and for those who weren't familiar with Conan's Late Show, his hands were tied from the beginning.

All of that said, this situation made for some of the best late night television in recent years. Great performances on all networks taking advantage of this comic gem - Jimmy Kimmel dressed as Leno for an entire episode? Genius.

Not to get mushy, but Conan's final words summed up why I write this blog. There's a lot of cynicism about what "watching TV" means. Some may say television is a lesser medium, one that fails to stimulate your brain or inspire creativity. Others just look down on it from the high horse. Many others are caught up in talking about how modern television is doomed. I couldn't agree less. I love television, and I embrace that. Watching the award shows over the past couple of weeks, showed me just how much talent and creativity is streaming into this medium - perhaps now more than ever. So, I'm going to continue celebrating it on this here blog.

Mr. O'Brien:

"All I ask is one thing. And I'm asking this particularly of the young people who watch. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it's my least favorite quality. It doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen."

"Tonight we're going to have a lot of fun on television. That's what we're going to do."

Thanks for a great show Conan, I'm sure we'll see you later.


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