Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Kimmel becomes the second member of the “new guard” to try to crack through the established prime time late night scene. Conan was first and fizzled rather loudly. But I think Kimmel is more accessible than O'Brien. Conan’s tongue is permanently imbedded in his cheek and although I think he’s funny, he comes off more as a spoof of a talk show host rather than an actual talk show host. The audience seems to prefer a real person in that role. Conan is now on TBS where he has kind of disappeared. When was the last time you saw Conan that wasn’t a promo on the baseball playoffs? Team Coco fans may outraged by me for saying that, but the truth is his show has underperformed in the ratings. Doing better than George Lopez is not exactly an achievement.
Still, the impulse to give him THE TONIGHT SHOW was a good one. Younger viewers don’t relate to Jay or Dave. And I don’t think any talk show host is being slighted when a network gives him twenty years on the air for an outrageous salary. Johnny Carson, still the Mozart of talk show hosts, knew when to bow out gracefully. Dave and (especially) Jay will go out kicking and screaming. But make no mistake. They will go out.
Jay has always catered to the lowest common denominator. But for me, Dave has become a real disappointment. Especially considering how phenomenal he used to be. When Dave started he was the hardest working man in show business. He would constantly go out of the studio, do zany bits, and fill his show with goofy characters and features. Granted, a lot of the credit for this inspired lunacy should go to his head writer Merril Markoe, but Dave was game. And his ability to ad lib was crackerjack.
Look at him today. He’s this cranky old guy who plants himself at his desk, rambles on about nothing, clings to old chestnuts like the Top 10, and is so disinterested in the guests he interviews that you can almost see him glancing at travel brochures while they speak. I’ve said this before but audiences respond to comics who have the attitude You and Me vs. the World. But Dave has evolved into Me vs. You.
It’s time for new blood. New schticks. New band leaders. I think Jimmy Kimmel will be a breath of fresh air. And I hope his success will hasten the arrival of other young hosts.
One other point: late night ratings in general are way down from twenty years ago. More competition, more options (THE DAILY SHOW, COLBERT REPORT, MASH reruns), and let’s face it – Generation Any-letter doesn’t have the same viewing habits as their parents. Everyone’s fighting over a much smaller pie now. Good ratings today would get you canceled in the glory years.
So Jimmy, my best wishes for a good long run. And in twenty years people will be writing that you’re old and stale. But so the fuck what?
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM