Absent, or maybe just ignored, among all the words committed to The Tonight Show plan for succession has been a discussion about what will happen to The Late Show with David Letterman and its lead-out The Late Late Show. Like Jay Leno, Dave has been at this game a long, long time. Unlike Jay, Dave seems to not care about ratings (possibly because he knows he’s likely to lose), does not appear to be that concerned with being well-liked (which has worked to his advantage, and has paradoxically made him more revered) and is not in any imminent danger of being forced out by the network brass, basically been given carte blanche by CBS to stay as long as he wants and, essentially, to do what he wants. When one jump-starts a late night franchise from scratch, we guess he’s granted some amount of immunity. But, unlike Jay, Dave doesn’t have a younger, hipper, potential replacement nipping at his heels, which makes the future of The Late Show even murkier.
While Craig Ferguson has built up a small but very loyal, impassioned following, and has received rave reviews for years from critics, we don’t have the sense that he’s long for his job, or at least eying the 11:35pm slot. In that small studio (we’ve been there) in CBS Television City, without a house band or announcer, Ferguson can deliver long, meandering monologues (verging on soliloquies) straight to camera, as if the audience and the viewing public wasn’t there, and engage in extended, intimate irreverent conversations with a diverse pool of guests. The Late Late Show interviews occupy that space between the celebrity shilling meant for the masses that one can observe on most late night talk shows and the quiet, introspective, one-on-one interviews conducted without a studio audience on past programs like Tom Synder’s Late Late Show. Sometimes it feels like The Late Late Show is performed for the studio audience, and then broadcast to millions of homes as an afterthought. Which isn’t to say that Ferguson couldn’t do a more traditional, more accessible late night show if he were bumped up to the main slot, we’re just not sure he wants to. Signed through 2014, when Letterman’s current contract runs through, it feels in some ways like he’s only there as long as Dave is, his relaxed, low-key, mischievous Scottish wit a complement Dave’s acerbic bitterness.
But if not Ferguson, then who?
“Ain’t no shame in holding onto grief . . . as long as you make room for other things too.”
Reginald “Bubbles” Cousins, The Wire
We wanted to keep this bright and sunny and cheerful and light on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and heed the words of Bubbles (Season 5, Episode 9) by making room for Will Ferrell sporting an American Flag Speedo. Unfortunately, we just can’t find that SNL sketch in its entirety online, either because Ferrell reveals too much of his undercarriage to get past the Hulu censors or because this sketch is included on the Best of Will Ferrell and NBC wants to protect its DVD assets. Either way, our attempt to demonstrate some levity on such a somber day was thwarted. So, instead, we will revert back to holding onto the grief and commemorate this day – and the still lingering sadness and pain – with our original choice, Jon Stewart’s personal, emotional, gut-wrenching but still hopeful words to open the first The Daily Show following the tragedy.
So there ain’t no shame in holding onto grief. Just don’t hold onto despair.
This should be required viewing every year for everyone, and just proves even more that we already have our Will McAvoy.
As promised, we’re going to quickly dip our toes into the somewhat toxic pool of The Newsroom analysis. Like with any review or analysis, anything we say is ultimately futile and inconsequential, because, in the end, it’s not going to change the way you feel about the show, and it’s certainly not going to alter Aaron Sorkin’s vision or persuade him to reconsider his writing style. But in the case of The Newsroom, anything we say, any argument we make, feels especially meaningless in the wake of all the criticism and (less so) praise it’s received. But, hell, let’s be a Greater Fool and try anyway.
Let’s just say out of the gate that we like the show, and while that might put us in the minority we stand by our verdict. But what’s interesting or pertinent to us is not so much that we like it – or if it’s “good,” assuming there’s some kind of objective rubric which can calculate a show’s quality (which there’s not) – it’s the question of whether or not the show is worth watching. And we think the answer is: absolutely. Doesn’t that fact that the show seems to be so reviled (or snickered at) in so many corners yet still watched obsessively indicate there’s something of worth there? Certainly, The Newsroom doesn’t garner the same level of propulsive minute-by-minute Twitter reaction on Sunday evenings as Breaking Bad (nor does it come close to the AMC show’s unanimous, breathless praise), but it’s definitely one of the most talked about shows, even if much of that talk comes with head shaking, finger wagging and head scratching. And if the show was bad, unrelentingly terrible, it wouldn’t have lasted, or at least the discussion would have quieted down. We can’t imagine that if Work It had not been canceled after one week the din about its repugnancy would have continued. We would have had our fun and then watched it fade away, nary giving it another thought. But with The Newsroom the debate continued for ten episodes, and seemed to increase as we approached the season finale. Clearly, people were entertained by the show. Which, we certainly concede, isn’t necessarily the same as enjoying the show.
More as the story develops…
Oh, yes, this, just after his first show:
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.
…two clips from MTV’s The Jon Stewart Show:
One of a 4-year-old science expert AND a goateed Stewart…
…and the other of Stewart and a 13-year-old Natalie Portman. Or should we say Natalie Hershlag? Double Jew action for night #2!
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.
And, well, the world had not changed.
Read on: The message or the medium, Andy shines and the Jewish elephant in the room…
Sorry about the title, just took the GREs and I must have factoring on the brain.
Anyway! Happy Festival of Lights! Hope you have your menorah ready to light, latkes ready to burn, dreidel ready to spin, and Hanukkah gelt ready not to eat and eventually just throw away a month from now. It’s the most wonderful time of the (Jewish) year! As such, enjoy this clip of Stephen Colbert listening to the merits of Hanukkah, and, ultimately, deciding it’s not for him:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
For night #1 I received socks, which might sound hackneyed and lame but is actually a gift I look forward to every year. Cause, hey, who can’t use a good pair of socks once a year?
But I received an even better gift later in the night:
Turns out that Community‘s Alison Brie is a member of the tribe! (for those of you who eschew for those puerile 22-minute network comedies you might know her better as Mrs. Pete Campbell on Mad Men) And don’t worry, I cross referenced with IMDB and Wikipedia to make sure Brie, and not just the character, is Jewish. And it turns out that as a child she performed at the Los Feliz Jewish Center, just a hop, skip and a jump down the road from here!
Boy, they didn’t have girls like that at Temple Beth Shalom.