It’s official, people. We are watching the implosion of a television institution in real time. It would be fascinating if it wasn’t heartbreakingly sad.
And we don’t want any comments about how what’s more heartbreaking is real world problems. We’ve had our share of real world problems this year. (Yes. Already.) What we need is a distraction from that.
NBC is providing us with one by destroying their late night lineup and ushering in a feud the likes of which has not been seen since the last time they picked Leno over the funnier guy.
Conan issued a statement yesterday. Some websites have been ridiculously ready to enjoy themselves a backlash bloodbath, telling us what we already know: That this is a fight between millionaires over who gets piles of money. “Rich white guy writes letter of complaint.” Except it’s more like “Rich white guy hired a non-rich staff to help produce his show, then moved them to L.A. where they are all being fucked over by Jay Leno.” Some rich white guys are classier than others.
There are reports that Conan broke down when reading the letter to his staff. Oh my God, we want to give Conan such a big hug!
But the gist of Conan’s statement was: “I am not going to take part in the destruction of The Tonight Show. I will not follow Jay Leno at any time. If NBC wants Leno, they’re going to have to fire me.”
You know, we think Conan is the funniest late night host. Hands down. But this proves he is also a savvy, savvy man. His letter implies (not very subtly) that Jay Leno IS participating in the destruction of The Tonight Show. And how! By refusing to follow Leno at 12:05, Conan is forcing NBC to nut up and fire him. Which they will, since they’ve already announced that Leno is going back to 11:35. (OR IS HE? More on that later.) His statement puts the honus back where it belongs: on NBC. Their statement talking about how they want to keep everyone happy and move people around and it all depends on what Conan wants was sooooo bogus. It is nice to see him tell them to take their Sophie’s Choice and make it themselves. We are with him. There is only one Tonight Show and NBC should just decide who they want to host it and fire the other guy. Let’s get on with it.
What is truly remarkable about last night is that all the other late night hosts joined Conan in EVISCERATING both Leno and the Peacock. Gawker has a roundup of all the relevant clips for your viewing pleasure. But we have some commentary. Let’s start with the man himself.
Conan walked out to a huge standing ovation and applause that went on forever. News of his statement had been bouncing around the wires and internets all the live-long day. He launched into his monologue with lots of jabs at NBC execs and a few at Leno. The rage seems to have subsided a little bit. And that’s only natural because he appears to have gotten it all out in his letter. In which he also declines to move the Tonight Show because it would fuck up the Late Show’s timeslot and he doesn’t want to do Jimmy Fallon dirty. GET IT, JAY? He also had one of his writers call NBC a pimp and him a ho. And Howie Mandel was on hand to play Deal or No Deal to help Conan figure out what to do next. His guests were interesting choices: Tom Brokaw, who famously and generously handed over NBC Nightly News to Brian Williams, and Zachary Levi, whose show, Chuck, has been dicked around by NBC so much that it’s almost been cancelled twice.
We watched Conan’s show last night and had the following chat conversation:
Jess: This is amazing.
Tanis: It really is. I love how the other late night hosts have essentially set the stage for everyone who is on the fence to just totally loathe Jay’s new show, whatever it turns out to be. It’s like they called each other!
Jess: This scandal needs more Norm Macdonald.
Tanis: OMG. Yes! He has to go on Conan’s show tomorrow! They can talk about being fired by NBC! I will not rest until this happens!
Jess: Yes! I want to see Conan and Norm on Dave’s couch on Monday!
Speaking of Letterman…
He gave us a frank discussion and told us it’s all about money. But we think it’s more than that. And he should know better, because Leno and NBC fucked him over exactly the same way once. If it was about money, Conan would just quit and take the cash. If it was about being on TV and currying favour with his bosses, he’d move the show to 12:05 and follow that hack. No. This is about taking pride in your work and standing up for yourself and your family when somebody tries to push you around.
NBC’s statement earlier this week about how they wanted to keep Conan because he’s one of the most respected performers and comedians made us laugh. Respected by other people, maybe. Certainly not respected by NBC.
But we digress. If we could, we would watch Dave treat Jay like dirt all night just because he has been waiting a long time for the opportunity to just outright say what a complete and total jag Leno is.
Craig Ferguson charmingly accented his way through a monologue that recast HBO’s Late Shift movie about the Letterman/Leno feud in the 80s. He then straight up called NBC a pack of lying rat bastards. We love the Scots!
Two nights ago, Stephen Colbert had Morgan Freeman look into a camera and tell Conan that he could have the 11:30 p.m. timeslot. Because when Morgan Freeman says something, nobody dares challenge him. He is the voice of God.
But Jimmy Kimmel might just get the gold medal in comedy for his reaction.
Last night, he did his ABC show as Jay Leno, which effectively drove home the point of how terrible Jay Leno really is. Wig and chin prosthesis in place, he came to slap hands with his audience and band, started out with a painfully unfunny monologue, then moved on to Headlines, where he KILLED US with his impression of Leno laughing. He then interviewed Chevy Chase, who came out dressed like Conan, wearing a red pompadour wig. He also hired a yes-man bandleader who reeked of Kevin Eubanks.
We’ve seen Kimmel’s stunt called a “low blow” because it’s not really Leno’s fault.
The Mean Girls are here to tell Jay Leno that THIS IS ALL HIS FAULT! Here goes:
Jay, the hook has been coming out to drag you off the stage for FIVE YEARS now. You can talk about how you weren’t ready to retire until you are as blue as your denim collar. But it doesn’t matter, because you didn’t put up much of a fight.
The correct response when one does not want to do something that the network wants them to do is to say “Hey guys, I don’t want to do that. Let’s re-examine our options.” You know, AT THE TIME, not after you’ve acted like a pretend gentleman and stepped down and watched your successor struggle because you just can’t quit this place.
And your monologue last night? Talking about how NBC is going to pull the plug on your show and making like you’re sad without bothering to mention that you’ve secured a new job for yourself as the host of The Tonight Show at 11:35? You sir, are disgusting.
Now, rumours are swirling that you’re going to walk away from NBC, too. You’re reportedly furious with the way NBC handled this because it’s making you look like a bad guy.
NEWSFLASH, JAY! YOU ARE THE BAD GUY IN THIS SCENARIO! You could’ve told NBC to go screw like Conan has done. You could’ve said something a LOT earlier. Maybe before you had Conan on as your last guest and wished him well while playing the jolly, friendly everyman. But you probably didn’t have time to consider that, since you were clearly busy secretly scheming to get the Tonight Show back. Gross.
And look, we know you don’t really “get” the Internets, so let us explain it to you this way: virtually everybody online — the coveted 18-35-year-old demographic — HATES YOU. There is no way they are ever going to watch your show. They are on Team Conan. They made icons with Conan’s hair and flashing gifs with your face interspersed with the word “fail.” You are a joke to them. It’s true, you still have the older demo on your side. Sorta. Or maybe you would’ve if you hadn’t just spent the last four months destroying your credibility with NBC affiliates with a primetime experiment. We have a feeling that your ratings are going to drop considerably. We can straight up say that there is nothing on NBC that we have to watch on NBC. We love 30 Rock and Community and Parks & Recreation and The Office. But that’s why God created the Internets. Between Hulu and torrents, we won’t ever have to watch NBC again. And instead of feeling vaguely guilty for downloading episodes of these shows online like we did before because we knew Conan was still plugging away on Late Night, we’ll feel vindicated.
Also, since you ruined everything, it doesn’t seem fair that you should get to walk away from the pile of smoking rubble you created. You wanted to captain this ship and now that it’s going down, you should stand there and go down with it, you fucking hack.
People can go ahead and talk about what a shame it is and how everyone got screwed by NBC. Because it’s certainly true that they have exhibited a stunning lack of intelligence as they lumbered around smashing into formerly great franchises. My God, they’re practically salting the earth so that nothing may grow! But nobody HAD to get screwed by NBC until you waited too late to make your power grab. You humiliated your successor on a national stage by trying to reclaim your old job and for that, you were soundly spanked by your peers.
Congratulations, Jay. This is on YOU. Your machinations have ensured that one of television’s most enduring institutions will become a shell of its former self. So g’head. Host The Tonight Show. We’ll be busy following Conan to wherever he decides to go next.
Mean Girls, OUT.