Just when we thought we couldn’t like Jason Sudeikis anymore – the guy loves wings AND beer – he goes ahead and tops himself. We figured he’d peaked last week with his Buffalo Wild Wings and Natty Light fueled appearance on Conan; how could be possibly endear himself to us anymore than that? But then he flew back east and just flat-out dominated last Friday’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, sprinkling his infectious charm over the whole show, culminating with a spontaneous attack on Higgins (aka Higgbones) while the two sample some gourmet grilled cheese. Just watch and delight.
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Earlier in the show Sudeikis joined Fallon for a round of “Long Pour,” further establishing Sudeikis as today’s foremost beer-drenched comedian. Jason, you like beer, we like beer, what’s say we get together and like beer together?
And the ratings can certainly be counted on to come back down to earth, if not tonight, or the next night, then soon. But even then will Conan still beat, or at least stay on par with Dave and Jay? Maybe, but it’ll be tough. And here’s why: Jon Stewart. Much was made over the fact that last week, for the first time in decades, a show other than The Tonight Show or The Late Show led late night in the 18-49 demo. That The Daily Show airs 30 minutes before those shows didn’t seem to matter greatly to many of the people who thought that Jon Stewart’s ratings victory meant a monumental shift in late night. We don’t quite buy into that hyperbole, especially since those shows are not direct competitors. But The Daily Show and Conan are, not just for the time slot but for the same viewers. What has elevated The Daily Show has been its loyal following of young, active, internet-addicted viewers. The very same slice of the population that helped turn Team Coco into a phenomenon. Conan won the first round last night, but should one bet that he’ll hold onto those viewers? We wouldn’t.
And what did we learn today? That The Daily Show beat Conan in January both in terms of total viewers and in the 18-49 demo. Hate to say we told you so but…oh, wait, no, we’re totally happy to say we told you so. We told you so!
Which doesn’t mean that Conan’s not doing a great job, or that we were rooting for him to fail. It just means that, like we argued regarding Barack Obama, initial reactions can be deceptive, and, more importantly, rabid fan bases, specifically of the internet variety, have a way of quickly quieting down.
…Jimmy Fallon just keeps rolling along, delivering the best, most innovative comedy on the long side of midnight. Adding to their already great pantheon of short videos, like “Late,” “6-bee” and “7th Floor West,” Late Night recently debuted the series “Suckers,” which simultaneously parodies/pays homage to Twilight, True Blood, Broadway and probably two or three other works that we missed (Vampire Diaries, maybe? Help us out).
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According to Bill Carter’s new book, The War for Late Night, when NBCU Chairman Jeff Gaspin phoned the Late Night brain trust – Lorne Michaels, Fallon, producer Michael Shoemaker – to inform them of the possibility of moving their show back 30 minutes to 1am, they acceded, with Shoemaker telling Gaspin “We love what we’re doing. Don’t worry about us.” And that idea, that they love what they’re doing, is so obvious, and is also contagious. Already somewhat left to their own devices at 12:30am, a move to 1am probably wouldn’t impact them that much, as long as they got to keep producing the same slick videos and playing the same silly audience games. Whereas we argued in an earlier post that while Conan is changing the late night game by moving to basic cable, it’s Fallon who’s genuinely doing something different with his hour. And for all the talk of the Team Coco and I’m with Coco web campaigns, it’s Fallon who has truly embraced new media (launching an online version of Late Night before debuting the broadcast show, hosting one of the best blogs on the net, as a couple of examples). As he’s gone on record saying, Fallon doesn’t really care when his show airs, because his audience will find him on their DVRs or online. Of course, if the product isn’t good, no one will watch, even if the show is readily available through several media outlets. Luckily for Jimmy Fallon and Late Night, their product is real good.
So it happened! Conan O’Brien finally returned to TV, this time taking his talents to the basic cable shores of TBS. The anticipation was palpable, and at 11pm EST Monday night we turned our TVs to see the redhead comedian’s triumphant, cathartic, possibly historic, debut.
And then at midnight, after Conan finished jamming with buddy Jack White, he signed off and George Lopez came on, an hour later than usual, but, with Daylight Saving time having just gone into effect, perhaps completely in line with our circadian rhythms.
Sometime around the beginning of this year I pondered the similarities between Conan O’Brien and President Barack Obama (and teased an upcoming blog post on the subject via Twitter). With Conan’s new show premiering on TBS tonight, following the Republican tidal wave that swept into congress last week, and in doing so affixing a bold question mark onto Obama’s presidency, it seems like there’s no better time to finally revisit the parallel. This comparison is perhaps more relevant, and possibly more darkly prescient, than ever.
When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 a collective sigh of relief escaped young voters across the country. Actually, it was less a sigh of relief and more of a giddy shout. Hope had won out. Yes we could. We had a charismatic leader, the sexiest president since JFK, who was certain to reverse the damage done by eight years under George W. Bush’s tyrannical reign. And just like how JFK utilized his good looks and immense charm to capture the nation’s heart in the first televised presidential debate, badly outshining a sweaty, swarthy Richard Nixon, Obama used new media, most notably the internet, in a way no President had before. He was a star for sure, but in a way we had never seen. He galvanized the young, tech savvy populace, the early adopters who proclaimed their support on their Facebook and MySpace pages. MTV had been encouraging late teens and twenty-somethings to Rock the Vote for many years, but in that election we truly had a rock star to endorse. We were fed up with the Bush regime, with Republican rule, and we were energized, we were motivated, and we had Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant, as our shining ray of hope. And in that time it was a symbiotic relationship. Obama inspired the poor, the hungry, the unemployed and recent college graduate masses, and they banded together to have their voices heard, to provide Obama with the spirit and the mandate. He gave us hope, and we gave him our vote.
And then on that Tuesday night in November our prayers were answered. Celebrations erupted on the streets of Williamsburg, citizens went wild in Chicago, and Hawaii cheered their native son. We had won. We had our guy. And he would lead us to the promised land.
Well, now there’s a book (not written by us). Bill Carter, who chronicled the first Tonight Show War in The Late Shift, is set to release The War for Late Night, an in-depth look at last winter’s late night talkie drama, what many of us referred to as the Jaypocalypse. With Conan, beard and all, set to premiere his new show on TBS in just a matter of days, the book should be a fascinating recount of how the late night landscape was perhaps forever changed, and how, in the end, the skirmish might have been the best thing that ever happened to Conan O’Brien.
And since there will inevitably be a movie based on the book, let’s remember the last one:
(Fun Fact: did you know that the actor who played Jay Leno in The Late Shift, Daniel Roebuck, went on to play Dr. Leslie Artz on Lost? It’s true! I know, right?! Oh, and Letterman was played by John Michael Higgins, who is just generally awesome. Crazy!)
The Emmy’s were handed out three nights ago, and in the internet world that’s about the equivalent of a fortnight, and everyone who can say it better than me has already said it better than me. But, just to put it on the permanent record, and to get us ready for the impending fall TV season, we thought we’d follow-up with a few humble thoughts of our own, in concise bullet-point form:
Loved the opening bit, even if it was somewhat of a rehash of 6-Bee‘s glee club rendition of “We’re Not Going to Take It,” a performance that we still giddily cue up on our screen on a regular basis (as well as an audio version on our iPod). But with Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Joel McHale, Jorge Garcia AND Tim Gunn it was like the Ocean’s 11 all-star version of the original Late Night piece, and it truly demanded some freak out control. Our worlds colliding, but in an amazing way.
Speaking of Jon Hamm, now that his comedic genius has finally been exposed to a wide audience (30 Rockis still critically adored but commercially ignored, his appearances in viral videos only legitimately reach a small segment of the online viewing public, and even two turns hosting SNL don’t necessarily make you a household name these days), can we start having him be funny full-time? He’s so gifted, and so natural, it honestly feels like a waste forcing him to be so stoic and dour and cold on Mad Men (and we know we sound like a broken record on this, but we’re going to keep bring it up until it happens. Or until Mad Men becomes a farcical satire. Maybe in season 5). Sure, he’s magnetic, sexy and mysterious on the AMC drama, but it’s when he’s allowed to do comedy that he truly lights up. But after being seen dancing like an idiot on HDTVs all across the country maybe someone will give him a chance to headline a comedy. Perhaps something in the Apatowian genre. I think that’s a hit.
I was planning to write this post a couple weeks ago, before the tornado of Leno-Conan-Local Affiliates-gate threw the entire late night landscape into a tumult (and what of George Lopez?), but this takes on even greater significance now. At this very moment, with the future of NBC’s late night schedule hanging in the balance, possibly the future of television as we know it, possibly the future of the world, someone has to step up and say it:
Jimmy Fallon has been doing a pretty okay job.
And it would be a shame if NBC’s disregard for their local affiliates followed by their overwhelming compassion for their local affiliates affected Fallon’s momentum.
Now Fallon has gone on record as saying he doesn’t mind if he’s shifted back a half hour, since most of his viewers watch the show on DVR or online, and I believe him. He seems to so genuinely enjoy hosting the show that he probably would do it at 1am or 3am or 3pm (of course, it’ll still be taped in the late afternoon so it’s not like it’ll make any real difference for his schedule). But if Jimmy won’t say it, I will. We’ve asserted many times here that Jimmy got off to a rough start. That’s well documented and it’s no secret. And while he’s still a work in progress behind the interview desk, he’s excelling in just about every other area. And, well, that should be acknowledged.