Late night ramblings

Although I’m generally up and about late at night, I don’t watch a lot of late-night talk shows.

The first half of any given Monday’s Tonight Show — Jay Leno’s monologue covering the previous weekend’s events, plus the funniest ten minutes in television, the “Headlines” segment — has usually been plenty for me. I got bored with David Letterman’s show years ago — almost as bored as Dave himself seems to be when I tune him in on occasion — and most of the other offerings in the genre simply don’t interest me.

(Side note: Who in tarnation thought it would be a good idea to give Jimmy Kimmel his own show? That’s gotta be the most painful hour of boob tube this side of Jon & Kate Plus Dates… I mean… Plus Eight.)

I did, however, make it a point to catch Conan O’Brien’s first outing as the new host of Tonight.

Fourteen years ago, I was among the hordes who switched on the first broadcast starring The Guy Who Replaced Letterman. He was awkward, nervous, goofy, and aggressively unfunny.

Guess what? The Guy Who Replaced Leno isn’t much better.

He no longer seems as nervous — although I’m convinced, as someone who studies public speaking and presentation skills, that there’s a part of Conan’s psyche that will never enjoy being on camera — but he’s still awkward, goofy, and unfunny in a way that I find irritating.

Humor, of course, is an entirely subjective affair. I know that tons of folks don’t “get” the films of Mel Brooks or Christopher Guest, which I find hysterical, just as I’m baffled by the people who laugh at Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler.

But I have to admit that the appeal of Conan O’Brien eludes me completely. I don’t understand what the NBC executives who first gave Conan the Late Night job saw in him nearly a decade and a half ago. Nor do I understand why anyone in those same executive offices — I presume, given the nature of the business — that it’s different people by now — thought he would be a better (or more profitable) draw at 11:35 p.m. than Leno.

Which is yet another reason why I’m not a network executive.

To continue the thought, I think putting Leno on in primetime five nights a week, doing essentially the same show he’s done after the local news for the past 14 years, is a ludicrous idea. If the other nets have any programming savvy at all, they’ll bury that show within two seasons. (I’m guessing that NBC will stick with the experiment at least that long.) There’s a reason why no one is already doing a nightly talk-variety show in the core broadcast hours: The audience you need to sell in those hours is not the audience that watches Leno, Letterman, Conan, or Kimmel. (Then again, does anyone really watch Kimmel?)

I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, of course, because Leno seems like a decent guy. I hope his new show succeeds.

If for no other reason, so that I can keep getting my weekly dose of “Headlines” every Monday night.

Explore posts in the same categories: Aimless Riffing, Celebritiana, Teleholics Anonymous, The Swan Tunes In

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