Monday, January 11, 2010

Forget Jay vs. Conan, it's NBC vs. Me

Forgive me for not submitting a traditional Monday slice of life column. I had a couple of ideas in the works, but then NBC pushed me a little too far this past Friday and I haven't been able to concentrate on anything since.

I've written about this a lot during the past year, but to quickly catch up any new readers: NBC used to be my favorite network in the 90's, but a string of bad decisions has driven the once gold standard of television into a struggling wasteland. The one recent NBC bright spot for me was when late night talk show host Jay Leno finally decided to retire and the Peacock promoted my favorite host, Conan O'Brien, to The Tonight Show at 11:35 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). But when Leno realized he was so easy to replace and wanted back on the airwaves. In what will go down as one of the worst broadcasting decisions of all time, the Peacock panicked at the thought of Leno going to a competitor so they scrapped their entire 10 p.m. programming block and handed over five hours a week of prime real estate to Leno. Naturally it hasn't worked and Jay's new show is regularly beaten by whatever ABC and CBS throw up against it (including reruns).

So that leads us to this past week when rumors started swirling that Leno's 10 p.m. show would be cancelled all together and I was pleased to see that NBC might finally be coming to their senses.

Until I saw this headline on Friday, "NBC to Conan: Move To Midnight Or Take A Walk"

Basically what they're trying to do now is move Leno back to 11:35 for a half hour show, Conan would air from midnight to 1:05 a.m. and then poor Jimmy Fallon would be pushed to 1:05-2:05 a.m. But if Conan doesn't want to comply with that adjustment, then NBC would be willing to let him out of his contract so that he could go to another network (If Conan leaves, then Leno would air for an hour from 11:35 p.m. to 12:35 a.m. and Fallon would stay in his spot at 12:35).

If I was Conan, I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

It's so rare that you get a free pass off of a sinking ship and this is the perfect opportunity for him to do just that and move to a more stable (and ultimately more beneficial) situation.

I realize that most every talk show host dreams of anchoring the prestigious Tonight Show, but is it really that prestigious anymore? The Allen to Paar to Carson legacy is amazing and worth reverence, but it seems it's been living off of the legacy aspect over being an actual quality product for almost 20 years.

So what if Conan has to limp away with a slightly bruised ego? Dave Letterman suffered through the exact same situation back in the early 90's and I think he's OK with how everything worked out (PS - it's unbelievable to me that Dave and Conan will have both been screwed by NBC over Leno 18 years apart).

Fox has already expressed interest and I can't imagine a better landing spot for him. It's a thriving network that has connected with the highly coveted 18-49 year old demographic.

In fairness, I think even Conan fans can admit that his jump to 11:35 might have been a little premature. Even he regularly jokes that the older generation just doesn't get his comedy, but the catch is that the younger generation does. If Conan goes to Fox, he can just let Leno run his course for a few more years and then he'd be set up to dominate for the next ten, maybe twenty years with an established, built-in audience at a place that fits with his comedic style and is happy to have him.

Feels like a no-brainer to me.

I just don't know if Conan's pride is going to get in the way and force him to stay at the Peacock for the next time that Leno retires.

I know that NBC doesn't care about my opinion, but this whole situation has just rubbed me the wrong way. As if running a pristine company into the ground wasn't bad enough, now they're directly taking aim at my viewing habits (as I've gotten older, not having to keep myself awake for Conan's later show has been beyond convenient, especially now that I live in the Mountain time zone and his show comes on at 10).

I'm going to wait to hear how it all sorts out before I make any grand proclamations, but a boycott of NBC for at least the rest of this season is not out of the question at this point (and as a huge fan of The Office, that would be extremely difficult to endure).

Growing up, I never understood why people wasted their time with boycotts because you rarely see any positive resutls, but now I'm starting to get it. You just get to a certain point in life where you're tired of annoying decisions being made that affect you but you don't agree with. You know that nothing is going to be done about it and that these conglomerate powerhouses could care less, but sometimes you just have to take a stand to feel a lit bit better about yourself.

I'm getting close to that point with the Peacock.

Besides, as we've seen the network deteriorate over the past decade I really wouldn't be missing that much.

I'm sure I'll be updating any new developments throughout the week and especially on Thursday in the TV News & Notes feature; and don't forget that I'll be starting an American Idol recap on Wednesday morning after the season premiere of the singing competition show on Tuesday night.

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