Wednesday, April 3, 2013
THE LATE SHIFT 3? LENO, NBC, (Again, ugh!) FALLON, KIMMEL, and the latest "TONIGHT SHOW..." CLUSTERF***!
Honestly, I was really, truly hoping that I wouldn't talk about anything regarding NBC for awhile, after having been obsessed with the network over the last few months or so, but..., well, you know, what's happening. Different players, but it's the same crap as before, and this time, it isn't even that interesting. Even that relevant anymore, if we're being completely honest. Really, NBC? An embarrassing 5th place in the ratings, the "Up All Night" obsession/disaster, the fact that, no channel has more problems and fewer solutions, as well as a lineup that so beyond schizophrenic that no sane person can make any sense out of it, now's the time, you've got to recycle, the "Who's gonna host 'The Tonight Show' story line in the media?" (Shaking head in disappointment) By the way, this media-panicked story line ended early this morning apparently. Fallon's signed on as the next host of "The Tonight Show", whenever that may be. Of course, as we all know, we've heard this story before.
For those of you new to this thing, and I can't imagine there being too many of you, but NBC seems to always run into very unique problems regarding "The Tonight Show", particularly when the job of hosting it, is being chosen. I'm not gonna go over the entire history of this, but if for some reason it isn't common knowledge for some of you, just look it up, and/or, go rent the HBO movie "The Late Shift". I don't know how accurate that really is, but it's accurate enough, and it's basically what happened, when Carson retired and Leno and Letterman fought for the job. The latest one, involved Conan O'Brien, who replaced Letterman hosting "Late Night...", and he was promised to host "The Tonight Show", starting in 2009. This was given to him, after in 2004, he was being offered big money to go host on other networks, against "The Tonight Show", and even though it was five years away, it was the only way to keep Conan on the network, so Leno was essentially fired. In that five-year time, Leno's ratings remained high, so NBC, made a strange decision to give Leno his own show at ten o'clock, which was hated by everybody except me, but more importantly, it was bringing down the ratings of Conan, which were already disappointing, although more importantly, "The Jay Leno Show" lead-in was bringing down the ratings of the eleven o'clock news, which is where NBC affiliates make most of their money in local advertising, and they can't afford to have their rates lowered. So, this led to a series ridiculous ideas, that eventually led to NBC buying out Conan's contract, and Leno going back to host of "The Tonight Show", with Conan, after going on a tour, which you can see documented in the film "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop", eventually signing with TBS.
I re-read my review of that film by the way, and the most striking thing about it, was this tunnel-visioned need for him to be performing, somewhere, somehow, he needs to be on stage. This is something that needs to be discussed to give you an idea of the unusual nature of the people who, over the years, have at one time or another fought and/or tried to get "The Tonight Show", or at least, compete to get it. Think about, being a stand-up comedian, especially in the old days before all of them with some degree of talent were given television pilots. You work out material, 2-3 minutes worth at a time, you hone at numerous comedy huts and nightclubs, sometimes doing dozens of shows a week, often staying until 4, 5 in the morning just to perform, sometimes performing, 3-4 shows a night at different clubs if you're in New York or L.A. perhaps, or some other large city. It can take years, and I mean many years, sometimes decades in some cases, before finally, you get to be, a guest on "The Tonight Show", and in the old days, if you performed you're act well-enough there, possibly getting the call to the couch from Carson, you were set for life, and could command the highest amounts per performance. That was the goal, to be on, "The Tonight Show", to some degree, that still is the goal. There's more opportunities and ways to become one of the bigger-named comics, but they're just equivalent versions of that classic goal, of getting on "The Tonight Show". That's the normal mindset. The goal of hosting "The Tonight Show", that's a not mindset. Yeah, there's some truth to the notion that you have to fight to keep that job, and that there's always somebody looking to replace, but do you realize just how determined you have to be, to even get that chance? Even if we decide to extend this list a bit, to every single name possible that we can conceivably consider as somebody who wanted the job, or that place in pop culture, and came even think of the names that were somewhat close to being considered, we're talking a short handful of names, since Carson. Merv Griffin, Dick Cavett, and Joey Bishop, are the "Maybe" people of this select group. Arsenio Hall, is not even in this discussion. We're talking, Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, I'll throw him in, and that's about it. You can throw in a few pretenders, like Dennis Miller, Craig Kilborn or Chevy Chase, maybe, but after that, you're stretching it as far as you as you can go. To get in the positions that they were in, they really wanted that job. I mean, that's their lifelong superobjective. You don't go from the writers' room of "The Simpsons," straight to becoming a late-night icon, with little-to-no performing experience like Conan O'Brien did, unless you had to want it. If you didn't, you'd only last about,- how long was Chevy Chase on, six weeks? Yeah, that's about it.
And look at this select group, except for Joan Rivers, it's a who's who, of the least-outgoing comics out there, but the other thing they have in common, is that they're the hardest-working people out there, especially in comedy. Fallon's a bit of an exception, but Kimmel, has done as many as, three or four different TV shows, at one time, through much of his career, takes a lot of gigs, and is a fairly private person, with the exception of dating Sarah Silverman. Leno, is notoriously private, and is never seen anywhere on the town. He does the show, he goes home, and works on his cars, and when he's not doing that, he tours and does more stand-up everywhere. He's come here to Vegas, every couple months to do a weekend gig. Letterman, does less than that. When that guy tried to blackmail him a couple years ago, with the affair he had with one of his employees, arguably, the most shocking part of that, wasn't that he had an affair; it was that he did anything. Rarely does he make appearances, outside of his show, except occasionally on an IndyCar track, and even then, it's because he co-owns a team. He's showed up for the Emmys, once, and that was to honor Johnny Carson. He's the most reluctant winner of the Kennedy Center Honor of all-time. What few stories I've heard about him, he's private, and he isn't known for being personable. Nice guy, but definitely shy. It's an unusual kind of comic/performer that takes these jobs, and they're tough jobs. Most comics, maybe have 20 minutes of regular material, these guys have to come up with ten minutes every night, + a sketch or two. Then they have to interview people, which isn't inherently easy, especially when part of their job is to get laughs out of them, which in some cases, can be harder than others, even with all the pre-interviewing that's done, and they have to do it five days a week.
It takes a certain kind of determination mixed with an ego, an absolute need to perform, and an extensive work-ethic just to even really get around the mind of people who would want this job, and think about the lengths they've gone through to keep it. You know the strange thing, it's not even than prestigious a job anymore. Even without all the NBC problems being on "The Tonight Show", isn't what it used to be. It's number one in the ratings, but that's compared with the Big 3, fewer people watch it than you actually think. Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, is a good example. They go head-to-head with "The Tonight Show", and typical get about double the ratings. In fact, that's part of why "Family Guy", returned to FOX, their rating on cable reruns were through the roof. That encouraged FOX to un-cancel the show, and bring it back. It's not even the most prestigious late night Talk Show job anymore. I think we can all agree that that mantle, goes to Jon Stewart's seat on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", and if it wasn't for NBC, the bigger story on the late night landscape was the announcement that Jon Stewart's taking time off of "The Daily Show...", to direct a movie this summer, and that John Oliver would take his place for eight weeks. Network shows, don't consider cable ratings as much as they should in some circumstances, (other times it is irrelevant), but if it did it with the Late Night shows, they might seriously consider getting rid of all of them at some point. There's too many available options out there now, and let's face it, unless Johnny Carson comes back from the grave to host "The Tonight Show", again, nobody's gonna hold a candle to him. To paraphrase what Conan O'Brien once said, it's been twenty-years since he went off the air, and he's still the standard of excellence, and it's beginning to get annoying." I think you can go both ways into whether or not that's a legitimate complaint, and I think it is, but let's face it, whomever gets these jobs next and standing in the shadows of giants. Letterman's ten years-older than Jay Leno, by the way, there's no talk about him being replaced anytime soon, is there? And btw, when his contract expires, between "Late Night..." and "The Late Show..." he will have hosted Late Night talk shows, longer than Carson.
People aren't even really discovered on "The Tonight Show" anymore. Yeah, I talked about it, but how often do you see comics on "The Tonight Show" anymore? Especially lesser-known up-and-coming ones? Hardly ever. They're showcased more often on Letterman, and Fallon and Ferguson, and Conan even, but pretty much once you get a half-hour of material, it's not that hard to get a Comedy Central special. Hell, look at Dane Cook, you don't even need that, just a well-run, highly publicized MySpace page. The next Beatles are gonna make their TV debut on "...Carson Daly", I hate to tell you that, but they are. Actually, it'll probably be on "The Voice," now that I think about it. This is the television landscape we live in now. These shows used to be a smorgasbord of the cultural landscape of the day, 'cause that was the only place you'd see it all. You're host comes out, gets you some laughs about the news, which had just ended. There's a celebrity or two, there's a magician, or somebody with a wild animal, maybe a Stupid Pet Tricks even. A singer, a comic, maybe an author. That used to be "The Tonight Show", when it was almost two hours long. Now, the TV landscape is so specialize, we can pretty much see who we want to see, anywhere anytime. I haven't even talked about the ability for people to do that on the internet. We're approaching an era, where "The Tonight Show," and most of these shows, aren't even gonna be relevant, so you need a damn good host, before anything else.
I personally don't even care who it is, whether it's Leno, or Fallon, or someone else ultimately. But why all this waffling around about it, and in the press too. Behind closed doors is one thing, but why am I reading about it everyday? Despite everything, the real blame is NBC. For letting this get out in the press, to begin with, for having and even exacerbating the fact that they can't make up their minds, and make a firm decision one way or the other, (And on multiple times I might add) and for admonishing Leno for making light of the situation, as though it's something new, and that God forbid, somebody on the 5th place network, says something bad about a fifth place network, especially one that deserves to be here, especially since Leno and Lorne Michaels are the only two guys keeping the damn network afloat! Believe me, I didn't want to talk about NBC anymore in the immediate future, but I look at imdb top page, and there it's been every single week. When they keep finding more imaginative ways of being stupid, what-the-hell am I supposed to do, ignore it? Hopefully this is all over now, and we'll have a year or two of none of this "The Tonight Show" media crap, and God-willing, some kind of simple and relatively peaceful transition from one host to another, and hopefully it'll stay that way, at least until Leno makes his cable deal with FX, and NBC has buyer's remorse again. Hey, I don't wanna be that cynical either, but exactly what in the past, makes it seem like that won't happen?