Tag Archives: Olympics

Tonight is Just a State of Mind – On the First Week of Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’

It was just over four years ago that much digital ink was spilled on this blog over the Game of Thrones-like* maneuvering in the kingdom of late night. We talked about the principled, heroic path that Conan O’Brien chose, or, arguably, forged. We also suggested that, perhaps, Jay Leno wasn’t the malevolent Machiavelli we all assumed him to be. We also stressed that David Letterman, his house untouched, remained the King of Late Night, the walls of his castle fortified and impenetrable, and he was likely watching, with glee, as his competitors warred around him.** Like with many blogs and media outlets at the time, the post-11:30pm drama dominated the conversation on this site. And now, nearly half a decade later, Leno has been dethroned*** once again, but this is first we’ve written about it. Why? Because this time Leno was replaced in a bloodless coup, a gracious transfer of power, with the young, affable Jimmy Fallon ascending to The Tonight Show desk in grand, but still humble and respectful fashion. 

In fact, four episodes into Fallon’s Tonight Show and the only real notable shift from Late Night is that the former program has returned to New York, where it began so many years ago. And that geographical stasis might explain why Fallon’s Tonight does not stray very far at all from his Late Night, save for a new, gorgeous coliseum-like theater, more space for the thirty-four members of The Roots and an opening sequence directed by Spike Lee (whatever that entails). Nearly through his first week as the guy, Fallon has already trotted out Late Night favorites like “The Evolution of_____,” the Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet, the #Hashtag sketch, and charades (a segment that, no doubt, inspired NBC to develop my parent’s new favorite show, Celebrity Game Night). What is actually most interesting and telling to us, even if it is a fluke of the schedule, a footnote due to the Olympic programming, is that Fallon’s Tonight Show actually debuted at midnight, a concept that Conan O’Brien found so sacrilege that it became the keystone of his argument for parting ways with NBC.

But with Fallon, so attuned to the world of DVRs and YouTube, time slots are meaningless, just some listing in TV guide, historical minutiae. His show would not be measured by the number of viewers during a certain hour. It wouldn’t even be measured with +7 ratings or YouTube. It would be measured by laughs, it would be judged by the barometer of fun. What Fallon’s Tonight Show has demonstrated thus far, and supported by his temporarily delayed time slot, is that it’s the “Show” part that matters, not the “Tonight” part. If he can make people laugh, especially an A-list celebrity or legendary music group, or Steve Higgins or his own parents, or you at home or your own parents, then he’s happy. Then he’s doing the show that he wants. Unlike Conan, Fallon cedes the floor to his guests. And, unlike Conan, Fallon is willing to cede his time slot to network partners, just happy to be a part of the team. Which, again, is less of a magnanimous, unselfish gesture and more the necessities of prime-time Olympic programming. Still, it feels fitting that even when nice guy Jimmy Fallon got the call to the big show, he was bumped thirty minute to accommodate replays of Ice Dancing. And, we feel safe in saying, he couldn’t be happier about it. 

*Fascinating that four years ago, when we wrote all those posts, we didn’t know that Game of Thrones was a thing that existed. 
**Get it? It’s a whole Game of Thrones motif. 
***Okay, we’ll stop. 
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Filed under Analysis, Count Bleh, Good Humor, Talkies

On the Olympics: Testing Our Medal

We’ve recently returned from a week-long sojourn to a tropical paradise, and thus were unable to commit the 10-12 hours a day we hoped watching the NBC Networks Olympic coverage of events like water polo, handball, indoor volleyball, ping-pong (sorry, table tennis), field hockey and trap shooting.  We were, however, able to catch part of NBC’s prime time telecasts, the carefully cultivated, perfectly orchestrated alchemy of prestigious events of which the Americans just happen to win the majority.  And if you think watching NBC’s tape delay broadcasts here in America is tough, try doing it twenty miles (or was it kilometers?) from Venezuela.

Upset about the admittedly completely unnecessary and pedantic Mary Carillo explains London segments? Fine.  But better than coverage not starting til 9pm EST and then finding the telecast constantly interrupted by an unknown Aruban man in a desolate, sad locker room set, serving as something of a local Bob Costas amid open lockers and prop gym bags.  Even worse is that these interstitials preempted the commercials.  The Olympics is the Super Bowl of commercials.  Normally we’d prefer to fast-forward right through all of them, but if we had our choice of watching a random guy pontificate about Michael Phelps in Papiamento or watching every single McDonald’s commercial, we’d choose the latter.  At least the second option gives us a the chance for a sports celebrity cameo, or a catchy jingle, or, God willing, a new Happy Meal Toy.  Or we could just use that time to visit the bathroom or get a snack, but, instead, while Aruban Bob Costas chats with the small island’s foremost track and field expert, we flip over to Lifetime to see if Forrest Gump is still on, not sure how long this detour from London is going to last (which, we admit, is a very specific experience, so we apologize if this particular situation does not apply to you).

Okay, so we’re exaggerating here.  It really wasn’t that bad.  But neither is watching the main events on tape delay here in the contiguous US of A, despite all the caustic vitriol  spat at NBC over its delayed gratification approach to the games.  What the people who level all the criticism at NBC for withholding the most interesting (to Americans) events til after 8pm (and, really, til 11pm) don’t seem to consider, or put much stock in to, is that most Americans (save for those who are currently employed and spend most of their day watching Razon Ramon documentaries producing high quality journalism and insightful media criticism), aren’t home at 2pm to watch the entirety of the Tween Women’s Uneven Bars final.  That doesn’t mean that NBC couldn’t cling to journalistic integrity, demonstrate a responsibility to delivering unfiltered, untainted Olympics coverage, and air the whole event live.  But then what?  Rebroadcast it again later?  In its entirety?  Or in repeats is it permissible to edit the events down?  And does NBC, even with its seemingly infinite cadre of cable channels, have the airtime to show the same competition twice?  On the other hand, if they air everything in real-time, what does NBC show in prime-time?  Grimm repeats?  Rock Center: Live from Westminster Abbey?  Start the Tonight Show three hours early?  No.  Make no mistake, NBC has not spent billions of dollars securing the rights to the Olympics to present sports in the most comprehensive, informative, honest and fan-friendly way.  They’re in it for the same reason ESPN is (despite what its acronym might imply), to make gobs and boatloads and gobloads of money.  Let’s not forget that.

And let’s not hold that against them.  For NBC, the Olympics is a two-week-long special edition of America’s Got Talent (Phelps, Gabby Douglas, Missy Franklin) and The Biggest Loser (Mckayla Maroney, any country other than the USA).  It’s the marketing push Whitney really needed.  And to suggest that NBC has some responsibility to the American citizen not to present the most popular events in the most melodramatic, heavily-edited, Al Trautwig-hosted, Cinderella-story way is silly, and, really, hypocritical.  Yank all 10pm dramas in favor of Jay Leno, shame on NBC.  Expect NBC not to value Olympic ratings above all else, shame on you.

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Filed under Across the pond, Analysis, Be careful what you wish for, Matt Christopher Books, Must See TV