Tag Archives: Jimmy Kimmel

Deja View: Why Seth Meyers Would be the Wrong Choice as ‘Late Night’ Heir

The plot keeps thickening with the NBC late night situation, and it continued today with the buzz  that Lorne Michaels would like to anoint current “Weekend Update” anchor Seth Meyers as successor to Jimmy Fallon on Late Night, just as Meyers followed Fallon behind the Update desk (albeit, with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the interregnum). However, we think, in this case, Lorne might be making a poor decision.

With sources reporting that Jimmy Fallon will take over The Tonight Show in 2014 it’s only natural to start speculating who will replace him at 12:35am. And, similarly, it’s only natural to start speculating who Lorne Michaels will nominate for that position, as the show is produced his Broadway Video and it was he who plucked Conan O’Brien out of relative obscurity to launch the program in 1993 and who rescued Fallon from near-irrelevance to grab the reins in 2009. So whomever the next tenant of Studio 6B is will probably be chosen by Michaels and will likely come out of his comedy stable. However, while Meyers fits that bill, a longtime writer and cast member on SNL, he might be the wrong guy at the wrong time. He’s just too much in the Fallon mold, and the show would be wise to move in another direction.

More: History should repeat itself, but not exactly…

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Watch the Throne: NBC & the Future of ‘The Tonight Show’

Jimmy Fallon Thank You NotesHere we are again, NBC looking ahead to replace Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show with a hipper, younger host, and a hipper, younger brand. This time, in place of the loose-limbed bean pole with the shock of untamable red locks as successor, we have the shaggy-haired giggle monster and impression impresario as Tonight Show usurper. So what makes NBC think that Jimmy Fallon is the right man for the job – only three years after Conan abdicated – and, perhaps more importantly, why now?

We actually take a somewhat different view from many television critics and media pundits, who believe this is history repeating itself, with the buffoons at NBC either incapable or unwilling to learn from their mistakes. Yes, if you look at the raw data, this move perhaps makes even less sense than the promotion of Conan to the Tonight Show desk in the summer of 2009. Leno, after returning to the late night centerpiece in February 2010, has held his own, even gaining viewers while NBC’s ratings have plummeted. Fallon, only four years and nineteen days removed from his maiden voyage on Late Night, is perhaps not quite ready yet to ascend, whether that be because he needs to further polish and refine his skills, or because he has not yet established enough of a viewership to command a promotion to Johnny Carson’s old spot. Is Jimmy Fallon, who just a decade ago was the  goofball on SNL who couldn’t keep a straight face, ready to tuck in the nation’s older viewers and Slow Jam the News them to bed? And what’s to stop Jay Leno from jumping ship to another network and sticking it to NBC, a possibility  was such a concern four years ago that the Peacock gave Jay a 10pm show, an unequivocal unmitigated disaster.

As Bill Carter reports,* this seems to be all but a done deal, with relations between Jay and the network sinking to an all-time low, bitter invective being spewed on each side. Leno, we can assume, is offended by the lack of respect and credit; after all, he’s still winning his slot while the network crumbles, he’s been a good soldier and has gotten nothing but grief for it. But here’s what’s important, and what makes this different from the Conan situation: as Wired argues in their latest issue, the Nielsen Family is dead and the traditional television model is obsolete. Installing Fallon as Tonight Show host – as reports say will happen by the end of 2014 – is not as much about challenging the upstart and Fallon contemporary Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, as it is about trying a new model, attempting to break out of the box. Fallon has built up a rabid fan base with silly sketches and fun games and brilliant taped pieces, all of which have appealed to the web’s viral culture. Certainly, a popular YouTube video – even one as popular as Justin Timberlake delivering an cappella version of “SexyBack” – doesn’t goose ratings, and it doesn’t do much to affect the bottom line. However, it is indicative of Fallon’s place at the vanguard of new media, of new viewing habits, and at the changing of the guard. Will Fallon alienate some of Leno’s longtime loyal viewers, sending them to Letterman or Kimmel or maybe just to bed early? Sure. But does it really matter, in this current television climate? We’re not so sure.

Also, it’s important to remember that NBC is a moribund enterprise right now. And while that may initially lead one to think that they should keep the one thing that seems to be working, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, we think the opposite is true. So much is dysfunctional at NBC right now that it might be worth it to blow the whole thing up. When you’re routinely getting smacked around by the likes of Univision and AMC and USA (NBC’s own less glamorous, but often more successful cable cousin), why not cut off your perfectly fine nose to spite your brutally beaten face? In a television landscape where numbers mean less and less, NBC, more than any other of the big four networks needs to get creative and change the paradigm. Putting Jay on at 10pm four years ago was changing the game the other way, backward thinking in trying to keep old viewers while embracing new, trying to maximize value under the old model. Moving Fallon to the big chair is looking the other way, trying to stay head of the curve. Why be a slave to the old design, why cling to some antiquated rule that The Tonight Show needs to be in Los Angeles and why keep struggling against the Leno albatross? In a television world where late night talk shows are increasingly irrelevant, why not take a shot a true irreverence? Really, what does NBC have to lose?

Some light background reading:

Conan: Barbarian or Adventurer?

In Defense of Jay Leno/How He Might Screw This All Up AKA More Thoughts on Late Shift 2: Dave’s Revenge

The One in Which We Compare Conan O’Brien to Barack Obama

*Really, what does Bill Carter report on other than late night talk show behind-the-scenes machinations? Can we get his job if and when he retires? We don’t even mind signing a contract stipulating that we will inherit his position in five years or else be paid a steep pay or play penalty).

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Filed under Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Count Bleh, Flashback!, Must Flee TV, Other people's stuff, Talkies

In Defense Of: Jay Leno/How He Might Screw This All Up AKA More Thoughts on ‘Late Shift 2: Dave’s Revenge’

Do I want Jay Leno to have a show?  No.  I think his time has come and gone.  When Gallagher talks about late night comedians as the manifestation of mediocrity, Leno is the poster boy (which makes me think, wonder what Gallagher has to say about all of this).  But if Leno is known for anything, it’s being the nice guy, the non-threatening (save for the chin) host.  Yes, perhaps he shouldn’t have taken the Jay Leno Show gig, just moved on to washing his cars and dropping by his Comedy and Magic Club, and let Conan take over The Tonight Show without his predecessor breathing up his neck.  But, in the end, it was NBC who decided five years ago to lock in The Tonight Show transition.  In the last year they look guilty of committing knee jerk reactions, but in this particular case it seems their mistake was planning too far ahead, being too cautious in trying to plan the next phase of The Tonight Show.  Perhaps they were trying to avoid The Late Shift 2, and, instead, directly caused it.  But they didn’t have to try to keep Jay in the fold.  Ever the good NBC soldier, even with a few “good” years left in him, Leno wouldn’t have defected to another network.  But NBC got greedy, tried to have its Conan and eat it too.  Leno thought he was doing the right thing, and in his eyes, as someone who no doubt also idolized Johnny Carson, this was his chance to truly own his program, and move out form Carson’s shadow.  If he knew then what a disaster it would turn out to be, and the repercussions it would have, I don’t think he would have taken the gig.  He didn’t get where he is by ruffling feathers.

Which is why I almost feel bad for the guy as I watch him get bashed by Jimmy Kimmel and especially David Letterman.  Dave is clearly, and with good reason, still bitter over losing to The Tonight Show to Leno, and makes his animosity towards his former and (possibly) future rival abundantly clear, repeatedly referring to him as Jay “Big Jaw” Leno.

So while Letterman’s personal vendetta against Leno is certainly understandable, it doesn’t seem entirely fair to excoriate him the way Letterman does.  Certainly, Letterman, of all people, should understand the mistakes made by, in his words, “the geniuses in programming” (He also takes some unnecessary shots at Carson Daly, but, really, getting referenced by Letterman is the closest Daly is going to come to the 11:35 slot (piling on!)).

Much more: The case for Conan to CBS builds, Letterman as our FDR & why Leno could ruin all of this…

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Conan: Barbarian or Adventurer?

Conan the Barbarian I wasn’t going to write anything about the statement heard ’round the world because a) I posted a late night-related article yeserday and b) I figured I’d leave decoding Conan O’Brien’s missive and surmising his potential options to the real experts.  But after spending most of the afternoon on Twitter reading snap judgments and their linked to in-depth analysis, I decided to put finger to keyboard.

As we all know by now, Conan fired off a carefully worded, thoughtful, fuck you to NBC.  But while it was certainly surprising to read things like “It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule” (this actually seemed a little bit of a low blow.  While NBC might have bungled all of this, it’s not fair to criticize the shows and talent who are working hard to do their best from 8-10pm (mostly just the Thursday night comedies and recently Chuck)), but what struck me the most was how Conan spoke about Johnny Carson, and his longtime ambition to host The Tonight Show.  And this is where it shows how Conan might have been mistaken for quite sometime, and that perhaps this was bound to go off the rails at some point.

Conan (can I call you Conan?) writes that “Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me.”  And much like David Letterman, Conan respected and revered both Carson and the show, which really were one and the same. The Tonight Show might have had a handful of hosts during its run, but really it’s still synonymous with Johnny Carson, and it turns out while The Jay Leno Show just premiered last fall, it’s really been on for the last 18 years.  The Tonight Show is the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno was and is the Jay Leno Show, and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien is, well, Conan.  Had Letterman taken over The Tonight Show like Carson wanted, as Letterman was groomed to do, then perhaps the same Carson spirit might have transferred to Dave and then to Conan.  But, really, the show that Conan wanted to lead into the next decade has already been gone for two.  If he takes a step back and thinks about it now, to follow in Carson’s footsteps might have been to not so literally follow in his footsteps.  Maybe it would be more Carson-like to create his own legacy, not try to extend or recreate an existing one.

So what now?

Read on: Fox? ABC? Or, just maybe, CBS? Plus: Steve Jobs!

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