Tag Archives: TBS

What About Dave? The Forgotten Late Night War

David Letterman BeardAbsent, 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?

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Flashback: What Was That We Said About Conan’s Ratings?

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.

via EW

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

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.

Or would he? And what does all this have to do with Conan O’Brien. Grab a snack and read on.

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Remember Like a Year Ago When All We Did was Write About Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno?

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.

Read an except from The War for Late Night on Vanity Fair

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!)

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