Person of the Month – January 2010

Better late than never, right??

I mentioned in The State of The Manofesto Address awhile back my intention to revive a feature that was a part of the old blog on MySpace in 2008. My intention was to post this over the weekend, but obviously that didn’t happen. I could lie and say I was busy, but that’s simply not the case. At any rate, I find myself with a small burst of creative energy (something I have been lacking the past few weeks) and some free time at the moment, so you’re welcome.

The decision of who would receive January’s honor (which comes with no cash prize but the distinguished privilege of receiving attention from my dozens and dozens of readers) was fairly easy. On January 10 NBC announced the “cancellation” of The Jay Leno Show, which had aired weeknights at 10pm for four months. The plan was to put Leno’s show in a 30 minute format at 11:35pm and push back The Tonight Show, which had been hosted by Conan O’Brien since June, to 12:05am. What NBC did not count on was the defiance of O’Brien, who flat out refused to host The Tonight Show at a time when, as someone amusingly pointed out, it would no longer technically be tonight. Conan showed he had a set the size of basketballs and most definitely made of brass. That kind of strength of character is more than enough to make Conan O’Brien our Person of the Month.

It might behoove us at this point to briefly go back in time, first to 1992 then to 2004. In 1992 Johnny Carson shocked the masses by suddenly retiring from The Tonight Show after 30 years. What should have happened was that David Letterman would become Tonight’s new host and Leno, who had been Carson’s regular guest host for several years, get his own show at 12:30. Instead the geniuses at NBC wrung their hands and let both men twist in the wind before ultimately choosing Leno for the gig, which then lead to Letterman getting ticked off and bolting for his own 11:30 show on CBS. To take over their 12:30 show NBC chose a complete unknown, a writer for The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live who had absolutely no on air experience. That unknown was of course O’Brien. The first few years of his show were, if I am being kind, subpar. But something funny began to happen…literally. By 2004 Conan’s contract was almost up and he was suddenly quite popular and in demand. NBC was desperate to hold on to him, so they brokered a deal in which he would take over The Tonight Show in 2009. Leno, perfecting his nice guy act, went along with that plan. There is really no logical reason.

Now let us flash ahead to last year. Leno was the reigning King of Late Night and the idea of pushing him aside for Conan began to look silly to anyone with a brain. However, the powers-that-be at NBC apparently don’t have much going in the brain department, so they forged ahead. The network geniuses began to formulate a plan for keeping both Jay and Conan. The solution was to give Leno a show at 10pm. Not being a big fan of the normal cops and lawyer shows or hospital dramas typically seen at that hour, I personally liked the idea. Unfortunately the masses disagreed, the ratings tanked, and the show was given the heave ho after 4 months. Meanwhile, Conan’s Tonight Show ratings were also less than stellar. That’s when then aforementioned plan…Jay for a half hour at 11:30, The Tonight Show at midnight…was hatched and subsequently crapped on by Conan.

The fallout from all this has been interesting. Leno is returning to Tonight after The Olympics are over, and Conan was given a boatload of money by NBC to go away. Other late night hosts, most notably Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel, have interjected themselves into the situation and had a ton of fun at NBC and Leno’s expense. Most agree that Leno has shown his true colors, that he is not the innocent nice guy he usually portrays himself to be. Conan, on the other hand, comes out of all this smelling like a rose. He is the scorned victim who did nothing wrong but lost his job anyway. He received millions of dollars to sit on the sidelines for the next several months, and presumably will land firmly on his feet with an 11:30 show on ABC or Fox in September. And he stood up for something bigger than himself. He did what so many people don’t do these days…..he stayed true to his principles and beliefs.

Some may say that Conan was foolish, that he should have accepted the proposed time slot change and kept his mouth shut. Apparently he felt that such a change would be harmful to the success of both his show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Who knows whether that is the case or not?? No one does really. But I respect a man who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. It is certainly a stark contrast to Leno, who now seems like a used car salesman or a televangelist…someone who will do or say anything to get what he wants and fool the masses into thinking he is a much better person than he is in reality, just another disingenuous poser. In the grand scheme of life late night television does not really have any measurable impact on the importance scale, but for all the laughs the situation provided the past several weeks and because he really does seem like the only honorable player in this dramedy, Conan O’Brien is our Person of the Month.

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Person of the Month – January 2010

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