Thursday, March 28, 2013

My thoughts on Fallon replacing Leno

So Jimmy Fallon is going to succeed Jay Leno and take over THE TONIGHT SHOW. At one time a change in TONIGHT SHOW hosts was a huge deal. Now it’s as major a story as the Houston Astros changing managers.

And yet, it’s the buzz of the TV media. My question is why? This isn’t 1962 or even 1992.

At one time THE TONIGHT SHOW ruled the airwaves. Host Johnny Carson was the undisputed king of late night. Other networks would try to challenge him with competitors like Merv Griffin, Joan Rivers, and Pat Sajak and he would crush them all. NBC made more money on THE TONIGHT SHOW than their primetime lineup… and remember, this is when NBC had shows that people actually watched.

So when Johnny Carson announced he was retiring it sent shock waves throughout the industry. Think: Regis Philbin times a thousand. The battle between David Letterman and Jay Leno for that coveted spot became the stuff of high drama, a page-turner book, and truly cheesy movie-of-the-week.

But twenty years have passed. THE TONIGHT SHOW is no longer invincible. After over three decades of dominance those late night riches were finally up for grabs. Add to that the proliferation of cable channels and suddenly every network joined the gab wars. Magic Johnson. George Lopez. Rush Limbaugh. Stephanie Miller. FrankCaliendo. Arsenio Hall. Chevy Chase for godsakes. And don’t forget NIGHTLINE on ABC and THE DAILY SHOW/COLBERT REPORT on Comedy Central. Not to mention CHEERS reruns.

A few years ago there was that big shakeup when NBC saboteur, Jeff Zucker moved Jay Leno to primetime and promoted Conan O’Brien to TONIGHT SHOW host. Both ends of that genius move blew up spectacularly, and when NBC tried to go back to the way things were it became water cooler fodder for weeks.

And then when it was over, Jay went back to getting his usual numbers, and after much speculation, Conan wound up on TBS and after one week, no one watches.

So here we go again. It’s like who will win SURVIVOR 154? It’s no longer really important… or important at all.

Especially when you think all these late night changes are being made to chase younger viewers and they don’t have the same viewing habits as their parents. People accuse sitcoms of being tired, well how about talk shows? What’s more stale than a guy in a suit delivering a lousy monologue then interviewing Paul Rudd who has a new boxoffice bomb coming out on Friday? The days when THE TONIGHT SHOW was a nighttime ritual are gone. Many viewers the networks want are watching clips of the shows on YouTube. They’re DVRing the shows and skipping right to the Emma Watson interview.

So Jimmy Fallon will take over THE TONIGHT SHOW. And Jimmy Kimmell is on ABC. Sooner or later Dave will give way to Craig Ferguson (unless Julie Chen wants it). And the ratings battle will continue as usual although for smaller numbers.

I feel I should have soap opera organ music under the following questions:

When will NBC make the switch? Where will Jay Leno land? Will Fallon maintain Jay’s numbers? Will THE TONIGHT SHOW move back to New York? Will the audience be confused when there are two hosts named Jimmy? Is Conan even still on the air?

And the big question: Do you really care?

Unless there’s some delicious twist like Jay puts a hit out on Kimmell, Dave becomes an orthodox Jew, or  I wind up replacing Jay with Sasha Grey as my sidekick then my answer is nah.

What’s yours?


LouOCNY said...

how great did it feel to actually make Johnny laugh?

Murray said...

When I came of an age where I could stay up late enough to watch the Tonight Show, it was a dice roll whether the host was Johnny or Bill Cosby or Jay Leno or someone else. This went on for a long, long time. The big announcement of Johnny stepping down triggered no throat-clutching shock. He was just one of the rotating hosts, and not the best one either.

Currently, the only talk show I watch is Craig Ferguson. And that has dropped off significantly as his schticks have evolved in a direction I find tiresome. The others simply don't register on my radar at all.

biff bifferson said...

when i lived in the states (98-2000) it was conan, without fail if i was home. a masturbating bear and a swearing dog was always going to lure this brit. id flip between the other two because the tonight show didnt really do it for me - id generally lean towards letterman but it was often down to what looked interesting at that moment.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Greed killed late night more than any host. TV, cable and broadcast is literally choked with commercials. Who wants to sit through a ten-minute ad blanket for a two minute guest plug? Fast food, cell phones, and Flo competing with the Geico lizard.

Michael Hill said...

This is the way I fell about almost everything written about network television -- the who's in, who's out; what's canceled, what's renewed stories. Who cares? The pie is so diminished that the fact that, say, American Idol is winning the ratings says absolutely nothing about American culture. In pre-cable days, it wouldn't have lasted a month with those numbers. It's probably getting the audience Star Search did. Big deal. Same with late night. Leno has a certain non-threatening comfort factor that a certain number of viewers like before nodding off. But he does not stand astride American culture like Carson did. Just like Brian Williams will never be a Cronkite. Those days are gone -- Oh lost, and by the wind grieved.

Mike Barer said...

I'll be your sidekick, Ken. At scale.

Brett M said...

I watch Fallon/Conan/Kimmel/Ferguson and Letterman when he has a decent guest on.

Fallon has the most modern show, and I actually find it worth watching most of the way through. He has a short monologue which leaves more time for more bits. He has a talented cast too, and I actually find his sidekick funny (unlike Andy Richter). I think he would do a good job taking over from Leno.

Conan's done some decent internet bits (video game reviews), but I generally find his show tired.

With the others I normally skip to the interviews, unless Ferguson has any funny parts with Geoff.

Letterman is pretty tired at this point.

John said...

It's pretty much the same thing as why we care who the king or queen of England are. It's an anachronism, but when you have a culture with way too much free time on its hands, you end up with a pretty health market in people who spent time obsessing about the non-essential trivials.

...though it would be interesting to see Les Moonves announce CBS is replacing Dave with Julie Chen. Or is starting up a 24/7/365 Julie Chen channel (hey, could it really be worse than what Viacom's done with TV Land?)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Aren't they all pretty much losing in terms of relevance to THE DAILY SHOW? A pretty incredible percentage of my US friends, especially younger ones, that's the can't-miss show they watch. The others are either not on their radar or optional.


Anonymous said...

Nothing matters, and what if it did?

But what are people supposed to write and talk about when it comes to TV and entertainment?

biff bifferson said...

i find the daily show a bit pleased with itself. i like it but i feel like i need a wash afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Nothing matters, and what if it did?

What are people supposed to write/talk about when it comes to entertainment?

OrangeTom said...

I have never understood the appeal of Leno. Don't think he is a funny comedian and his version of the Tonight Show makes watching paint dry seem spontaneous and fun. I see the appeal of the other current crop of late night hosts but if I'm up at that hour there are at least five other things I's watch first (sports, music videos, the Hitler channel, competitive cooking shows, weather)

Geoff G said...

Some guy named Mark Evanier pointed out an argument that the change perhaps isn't being done to chase younger viewers but to cut costs.

The Curmudgeon said...

I actually like Leno. I like his monologues. A lot of the skits and bits he puts on these days after the monologue are enjoyable as well. After nearly 20 years he still can't conduct a decent interview, unless it's with a friend and contemporary. He's improved -- but he started off terrible and worked his way up to mediocre on average. OTOH, Carson's best interviews were with his friends and contemporaries, too. I remember one night when he and Bob Newhart tried to out-blink and out low-key each other to the point where I was crying, I was laughing so hard. (Comedy comes from character.)

Fallon has improved. His monologues are still painfully bad but the rest of his show is often tolerable. And at his worst he's better than Conan at his best.

But, you know what? My opinion doesn't count. I'm no longer in the target demographic. Which I gave away the moment I admitted that I'd watched Carson.

Mike said...

Conan is a very profitable show, because of the lower expectations of cable. Just because you don't watch doesn't mean no one else does, though I do not.

I am just as surprised that anyone watches Fallon. Kimmel may very well jump to #1. The only thing that would stop that is if Leno forms a new show at Fox. He simply works harder at his monologue then everyone else.

Eric J said...

I started watching The Tonight Show with Jack Paar so I'm definitely not part of the NBC demographic. If it wasn't for Paar, I would have no idea what Broadway was or know any of its stars. Talk about irrelevance. But MOST of his guests were there to entertain, not to peddle some movie or book. Conversations were spontaneous and sometimes hilarious.

Now? A weekly roundup of bits from all of them on HuffPost is enough. Put them all on one show and post it to youtube.

Howard Hoffman said...

As Colbert called it, "Eleven Dark Thirty."

Chuck Warn said...

I remember the buzz when the Who Do You Trust host was named Tonight Show host and have been a fan of the genre ever since, even attended a few in LA and NY. My take: Fallon is the best performer of the bunch and The Roots gives him great entertainment flexibility. Also, the Lorne factor counts for a lot and SNL is a guest conveyor belt. Kimmel is most like Johnny as a guy's guy fun to hang out with willing to push limits. Leno will get his middle USA numbers on Fox. Ferguson is a Benny Hill for the 21st C and like BH can be genius or really suck. (I dont like Geoff. He's just weird) Letterman is nearly through but fans like me will watch till he signs off. Is Conan still on?

Phillip B said...

Yesterday's piece in the Hollywood Reporter (The War on Jay Leno) seemed to be a fair summary of the situation, and left me very sad.

The news that Jay Leno has come to accept the situation takes any remaining fun out of kicking him when he is down.

The primacy of broadcast TV ended some time ago and this - along with the changes on the Today Show and the reduced status of the network news anchors - are simply logical steps.

None of these guys have had a chance to be remembered as the equal of Johnny Carson - nor will anyone who follows them - because that job simply does not exist anymore. But they will keep trying. I remember the line credited to Teri Garr - "Being on television every night really isn't that strange, but wanting to is.."

Joseph Scarbrough said...

How do we know that once Fallon takes over, then a short time later, he'll get screwed like Conan was, and then Leno will weasel his way back onto the show like last time?

Personally, I always thought giving Jimmy Fallon a talk show was a weird move... to rephrase what Hawkeye once said of the idea of leaving Charles in command while Potter is away, is like, "That's like giving Captain Bligh his own fleet". I'm surprised they didn't have Kristen Wiig replace Bonnie Hunt in the afternoon (though I actually enjoyed Bonnie's show, myself).

I think if anyone deserves to host their own late night talk show, it's Tom Bergeron. He's hosted AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS, DANCING WITH THE (FAKE) STARS, HOLLYWOOD SQUARES, co-hosted a bizarre and obscure morning show on F/X back in the 90s, done a ton of local and regional programs, among other things, not to mention some countdown-thingy recently had him at like number two or three of the top five greatest TV hosts of all time, on the grounds that he's, "Like that crazy uncle that everybody loves"... giving him a talk show seems like a natural fit.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

You're absolutely right:

"...younger viewers...don’t have the same viewing habits as their parents."

The Big Three are drowning because there now are thousands of options...and I still miss Johnny.

BigTed said...

I long ago lost patience with all the late-night talk shows, and ended up DVR-ing them and fast-forwarding to find a guest I liked or anything entertaining (usually Dave's Top 10 list, Fallon's song parodies, Kimmel's pop culture commentary or Craig Ferguson flirting with actresses).

Now that I've given up cable and watch live TV over the airwaves, I've stopped bothering with the late-night shows altogether. If there's something really worth seeing, I may view it online the next day. But all these shows kind of run together in my mind -- the idea that there's still something "special" about "The Tonight Show" is long past.

McAlvie said...

If late night talk shows and sitcoms are both less popular than they used to be, maybe it's for the same reason ... a serious lack of talent. What I've seen in both cases is a tendence to replace talent, that is both on the screen and in the writing, with schtick and potty humor. The idea is, yes, to try and grab those younger veiwers who still think "vagina" is funny. Except they aren't generally the ones watching tv. They don't have the attention span for it.

tb said...

Just show reruns of Johnny Carson

Lorimartian said...

Someone once commented that Leno gave up his comic soul when he took over the Tonight Show. I tend to agree. I like him well enough, but I watch Letterman.

It's true that in the Paar days, guests were there to entertain. There was a wide range of personalities and talents represented and an element of unpredictability and spontaneity that sadly went by the wayside.

I thought Craig Ferguson was a breath of fresh air when he started. There was a period when I wasn't able to watch, and when I returned, he had a weird robot sidekick, the puppets were gone, and there were, and still are, too many references to penises, etc. What happened? Also, I'm surprised CBS has put up with his constant jibes at the network about being cheap despite a new renovated studio (e.g., not being able to afford a band, better lighting, better graphics, etc.). It has to be because as long as Letterman wants Ferguson there, there Ferguson will stay, but Ferguson has gotten lazy, sort of sleazy, and seems unhappy. I do laugh at Secretariat, though, as silly as that seems.

Ferguson is multi-talented. He can sing, play instruments, and portray characters. He should be doing skits and musical numbers. As it stands, his talent is being squandered, but it didn't start out that way.

D. McEwan said...

30 years ago, I knew and respected Jay Leno. Now I neither know him nor respect him. He dumbed his act down to pander to dumber audiences (on the idea that there are more dumb people than smart ones). It worked for his ratings, but it destroyed the quality of the show.

I found Bill Carter's two books on Leno and TONIGHT fascinating, but in the end, I'll just keep on watching Letterman and DVRing Stewart and Colbert. (Actually, I DVR all three, allowing me to fast-forward through interviews that make my skin crawl. I saw at most a minute and a half of Letterman's interview with Donald Trump last night. Life's too short to have Trump on my TV, even if I'm only half listening as I play on the computer.)

CJMiller said...

Ferguson has been such a disappointment lately. He used to be original and entertaining (and he's still the best interviewer in the bunch), but he's taken to wasting the first half of his show.

It's not worth it to sit through the robot jokes for 30 minutes to get to the interesting part.

Anonymous said...

Agree on the sentiments regarding Craig Ferguson, even if I still think he's the most watchable of the network bunch.

I usually only tune in depending on if he has interesting guests, so my sample size may be small, but I noticed that recently he's more prone hamming it up during the interviews, rather than have an actual conversation with the guest. It's just disappointing, especially when you know he's still capable of being both funny and genuine, as he's shown during the shows in Scotland.

Mike said...

I don't know, I find this story interesting for a couple of reasons. For starters, it doesn't feel like it's been that long since Conan was getting Tonight taken away from him. Indeed, it's been about three years. The columnists are all saying Conan must be laughing at all this, but I'm not sure. I wonder if part of him wonders if he should've waited it out. But then, he'd waited so long beforehand, so, probably not.

But a bigger part of this story -- and one that almost no one is writing about -- is Tonight will apparently be moving back to NY once Fallon takes over. Not only is this good from a quality point of view -- I'd have to imagine Roots might bolt if Fallon moved to LA, and not to mention the Lorne Michaels presence would be nonexistent -- the Kenneth the Page-level TV geek in me finds this really cool, since NY is where Tonight called home until the early '70s. It'll be neat, from a trivia point of view, to have it back.

I'm a little concerned Fallon will get pressured, as Conan did before him, to "mainstream" up his show since it'll be moving to 11:35. But hopefully he won't.

chuckcd said...

I think Fallon will do a good job.
He is more like Carson with that boyish charm and little smirk.

His numbers should be better than Leno's

Oliver said...

Ferguson is by far the best of the late night hosts, on broadcast anyway, but I agree that he's stuck in a rut and needs to mix up his schtick a bit. Trying new bits, and tossing out old crutches, would liven the show up, even if it means making it a bit more scripted.

Leno is incredibly stale (and a horrible interviewer), Letterman is completely past it, Kimmel is bland and Fallon isn't funny and sheer enthusiasm doesn't make up for it.

Wayne said...

Jay's ratings are way up after he started jabbing NBC. Typical play-it-safe move. Go after a target everyone can agree on.

Jake Mabe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jake Mabe said...

Ken: Here is a Friday question:

Whenever I hear that a TV series is pulling the "viewers pick the ending" episode, I think to myself: the show must be in trouble. (Plus, I think it's a cheap gimmick.) When the "Hawaii Five-O" reboot did it earlier this season, I thought, "Say aloha!" (I still can't believe CBS picked it up for a fourth season.)

Yesterday, I read an AP story that said USA's "Psych" had viewers choose the ending for its 100th episode. According to the story, ratings are up this year (to date).

What are your thoughts, both on the concept and on this *apparent* anomaly?

Jeffrey Mark said...

It all comes down to talent. Carson was an astute interviewer. He never tried to top his guests - he never interrupted them when they were talking...he was a very good listener, and that counts a lot. But the sheer talent in those Tonight Show golden years...Rickles, Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Sammy, Buddy Hackett, Joey Bishop, Michael Landon and so so many more...they all had this amazing talent that nobody seems to have any longer. It's sad what happened to the Tonight Show. I watched faithfully from '73 right up to Johnny's retirement. He was a real mensch. Not many mensches around these days on TV. We're all the worst for it.

Jake Mabe said...

Carson was the king. Period. Nobody was, is, or ever will be in his league.

He isn't Carson, but I loved Dick Cavett's ABC and PBS shows. Eclectic. Cool. Intelligent. Vidal and Mailer cat fighting. Cheever and Updike waxing poetic for 30 minutes.

I think NBC should just say to hell with it and run a show called "Tonight" with tons of Carson reruns and Jack Paar and Steve Allen thrown in every now and then to make things fun. They have NOWHERE to go but up at this point.

I would call Jay Leno a joke, but that would presume he is funny. He isn't. He is an unworthy successor to The King. Dave should have gotten "Tonight."

That being said, Dave has lost his edge, I haven't watched a late night show regularly since Tom Snyder's run ended on "The Late, Late Show" and I won't be watching Fallon, unless the show moves back to New York, in which case I'll watch the first episode.

Tomas said...

Jay went back to getting his usual numbers

Not really, his current numbers are worse than what Conan got. (And NBC claimed they lost a huuuuge amount of money with Conan's numbers...)

Poppa Wheelie said...

Fallon is Funny and Fresh and deserves the top spot. Leno is old,tired and boring and considering the number of writers he has, not funny. Jay should pack it in. Letterman is just weird and not funny.He is too old and has lost any originality. See ya Dave. Ferguson tries hard and sometimes hits it. But find someone else before giving Dave's spot to Graig. In the long run, he's boring too. Kimmel was good for a short time but he has stagnated and become like a morning show. And what is with Gee-Airmo ? Please! I say give cousin Sal the show and we will all rejoice. Conan who ? With Fallon taking the Tonight show, hopefully very soon, we will all be happy and can get to sleep sooner feeling nourished and satisfied. The others just aren't worth investing my sleep in.

Mark Hellman said...

You're right - late night talk show is like Chicago XXXIX - who really gives a fuck? Until the networks abandon a format that's over 60 years old and comes up with something truly exciting for the 20-something crowd, late night TV will wallow in who-caresland. As a 60-something, I don't what that truly exciting format might be, but it's time for a radical change - comeon, isn't there anyone at the networks who has a clue what young adults want to watch if they're tuned into the tube near midnight? Geez, a frickin; Fillmore-type light show would better than the shit they're running now...

Jake Mabe said...

Frankly, I'm over this catering to the 20-something crowd bullshit.

I'm closer to 40 than 30 now, but it insults the hell out of me.

Several of us would rather see smart, witty, intelligent comedy instead of masturbating bears or whatever the hell that was, an interview with the latest jerk from some so-called reality show or another Kardashian yucking it up with Jay or Dave.

But what do you expect in a world in which people think they're getting news from Colbert and Stewart, and Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell are doing real news in the morning on CBS while "Good Morning America" wins ratings with stories about cars landing on somebody's roof and people actually give a shit about Matt Lauer's future.

Some of us are mad as hell, don't want to take it anymore and are tired of having our intelligence insulted.

Thank god for DVDs and/or Netflix streaming of MASH, MARY TYLER MOORE, DICK VAN DYKE, BOB NEWHART SHOW, and CHEERS, "Charlie Rose," "The Big Bang Theory," PBS, NPR and any Jack Benny, Johnny Carson or Dick Cavett audio or video clip I can find on the internet.

cadavra said...

Since late-night TV is still largely the province of older viewers, this can end only one way: The two Jimmys split the miniscule 18-34 audience, and everyone over 40 migrates back to Dave, making him #1 again. And the chowderheads at NBC willl stare out the window and wonder what went wrong.

Hotcha said...

This sweater.... that's what makes him laugh.

DwWashburn said...

I've always thought that Letterman's staff takes a Mad-Libs approach to humor. It seems like their jokes are composed by drawing phrases out of a hat, whether or not they make any sense when you stick them together.

The problem with Jay can be traced back to his prime time show. He and his staff believed they had to go a different direction from the Tonight Show so they started doing bits after the monologue that were painfully unfunny. When he returned to late night he abandoned the format that made him #1 and instead tried to emulate the prime time show. Result -- he is now unwatchable.

Storm said...

SO glad to read that it's not just me that's gotten annoyed with what's become of Craig's show lately. The night I started watching it regularly happened to be the night he stopped doing the musical intro numbers (Nov.'10: After working hard all week on a Doctor Who theme opening for guest Matt Smith, his director told him at the last second they hadn't gotten around to securing the rights to the bloody song; he was beyond pissed, and has only done it like once since), which I loved and miss so much. I dealt with it because he still did Sid the Rabbit and actual comedy bits, but he's long since abandoned them. I love Geoff and Secritariat, but I don't know... the monologue needs to GO, for one thing; he keeps saying he's fighting Tired Late Night Tropes, but there he is every night, doing a tired monologue (Clinton/sex jokes? What year did I wake up in?) and acting like he doesn't want to be there.

Oh, and he has the same few people on WAY too much (KATHY GRIFFIN PISS OFF), and an endless stream of nameless bimbo actresses on to promote whatever crap they're on, being bewildered and confused by the weird old Scotsman asking unscripted questions. OK, that bit's funny, but the bimbos are tired.

I just want him to answer my Tweetmail: Have you ever had Cockaleekie in Ballylickey? I don't really care, I just want to drive the censor crazy with LEGITIMATE WORDS!

Cheers, thanks a lot,


Pat Reeder said...

You're not going to get any of those "Conan who?" type comments from me, since this is my bailiwick. I've been working nights, writing radio morning show material, for over 20 years. I don't see daytime TV, and very little prime time, but I watch/DVR all the late night talk shows, because I like them, and because I don't want to repeat any jokes they did the night before.

I still like Conan, and it's easy to watch his show since it starts half an hour earlier than the others. His filmed bits are often brilliant, and he has a writer/comic on staff who is hilarious (don't know his name, but he plays the 1940s door-to-door salesman and the 1930s crooning ghost). Plus Triumph still drops in occasionally.

Kimmel has some of the sharpest monologue material, but I often tune out after that's over. Jay obviously works the hardest at his monologue, and his bits after that can be really funny, if they are based on reality and found humor (Headlines, Dealing With The Public, Jaywalking) but not so much if they're scripted. Dave is just going through the motions these days. Craig Ferguson is the only one who makes me laugh out loud every night, although I do miss the puppets. He has a touch of natural-born comic genius about him that doesn't require the writers' help. But he's probably too much of a specialized taste for the 10:30 CST slot.

That brings us to Jimmy Fallon, who is likeable but just not that amusing. He has a few reliable bits that are actually funny, like "Wheel of Carpet Samples," and his song parodies. But he's not quick-witted like Dave, Craig or Jimmy (and not even in the parking lot outside of the same ballpark as Carson). In both his interviews and monologues, he still often comes across like a jittery sixth-grader with stage fright, sweating under the lights in his first long-pants suit. Plus I don't get the Roots worship. Probably my least favorite band in late night. Is it in the SAG contract that every guest has to slobber over them before the interview can start? I just don't see him holding Leno's older audience or bringing that much more of a younger audience to "Tonight" (if he does something worthwhile, they'll catch it on the web.) If Leno does go to Fox against Fallon, "Tonight" is over.

I'm amazed nobody else has noticed this, but Jimmy Fallon is not a "Tonight" show caliber host. TV executives used to have enough sense to know where he belongs, but I guess nobody does at NBC anymore.

Jimmy Fallon is a natural-born daytime host. What he does is identical to what used to be done by guys like Art Linkletter. He can be kind-of humorous, but is no comic genius. He's cute and likable, and bored or frazzled housewives would enjoy spending an hour with him when they can get the kids to shut up for that long. What he enjoys doing most is playing parlor games with celebrities and audience members, and giving everyone a prize, even when they lose. The kind of host Ernie Kovacs once described as running around in a ladies' hat, popping balloons with a flyswatter. He's a slightly more masculine Ellen DeGeneres, or a slightly less masculine Rosie O'Donnell. At 10:30, he'll be a disaster, but at 2 p.m., he could maybe be the next Ellen.

Johnny Walker said...

Wow, you got to meet Johnny! I'd love to know what that was like. A man born to host chat shows, smart, funny, talented, but who was apparently cripplingly shy and never got close to anyone. I really should read DeCordova's book.

I know the TV landscape has changed, but it's very easy to believe that it was Carson who made things such a big deal. Leno isn't anywhere near as loved as he was.

It's actually quite shocking to me that this news is so incredibly dull now. Maybe the Conan fiasco is partially to blame for stealing its thunder.

Quiet Jim said...

Any Sasha Grey reference gets you a 10. Well done. I never watch chat shows but I would dvr that one.

canda said...

Intellectual depth used to mean something late at night, thanks to standards set by Jack Paar, Carson and Dick Cavett. Fallon seems to have very little, and even less than his rivals.

Storm said...

Hey, Johnny W... have YOU ever had Cockaleekie in Ballylickey?


Brian Phillips said...

I'll offer a minor defense of Jay Leno. I've seen his act since the 1970's and I admire his work ethic, however...I didn't find him that funny when he started out and when I saw his name as a guest on David Letterman's show, I cringed, however, when I saw the actual show, Leno was funny to me. It was the most I ever laughed at him.

When he got the job as host of the "Tonight Show", I tuned in again and granted, it is hard to be funny night after night, Leno went back to being not funny to me.

As for the relevance of late night, yes, of course there are wealth of options not afforded the average 1970's TV viewer. Those who have first-hand knowledge of this may tend to be less interested in the splintering and the splinters of late night and the younger will tend to, as Mr. Levine said, not be all that interested.

The upshot is that in the days of the Big Three, a lot of worthwhile people went unnoticed or under-noticed, but the weeding out did produce some quality. Nowadays, there are many more pathways, but that hasn't necessarily upped the quotient of talent, but it does make the hunt a lot more interesting.

Greg Ehrbar said...

In general, many of TV's pillars are showing signs of cracks. It was news when Katie Couric anchored the CBS News, the results were mixed, now no one really talks much about the new guy.

Today is getting attention for backstage drama but not for the show, which is sagging.

As for late night, here's my view for all it's worth:

Jay is a poor little rich man. He's never really been accepted as the new Johnny, his early Tonight Show history was marred by Kushnik Kapers and no matter how he delivers and tries to be a company man, they don't seem to care.

I don't think he's terrible at interviews, depending on the guest. I skip over Jaywalking because too many of the people seem to be acting hopefuls who say dumb things to get on camera and be discovered.

My question for NBC is: what ever happened to the grand celebrationary sendoff? Johnny had a week of clips and tributes, Jay's going out angry.

Surely his departure this could have been managed in a more dignified, positive and ratings-getting way than Jay being treated like any old cog in a corporate wheel that's downsizing.

Fallon has a lot going for him -- impish nonthreatening looks, not-too-edgy, not-too-snarky humor, contemporary pop and rap and an easy, reassuring manner. I only wish he'd been given just a little more time to mature into the role. He tends to loooooove everyone and seems sincere about it, but sometimes the guest just isn't worthy.

The key thing that NBC is counting on with Fallon, beside ratings, is social networking. He has tweeted to fans from day one. The networks aren't sure where the new media is going but they want to be as ready as they can be. That's as big, or bigger, then demographics.

Conan can chug along as long as he wants in his little pond as the biggest fish. When he has a good guest, he does fine, but he's best in some sort of fringe, whether at 12:30 or on cable. He has a great band, though I miss Max.

Letterman still is a master of the craft, but he's not as passionate about pushing the envelope as he used to be. I respect the fact that he doesn't seem to be hiding his opinion about his guests.

His is the only show upon which I would watch an interview with Paris Hilton or a Kardashian because only Letterman can interview on two levels, seemingly deferential, yet letting his audience know just what he and they really think.

Ferguson is the most brilliant of all of them, an incredible mind so dynamic he can hardly get the words out fast enough. He is a curious blend of "vulgar lounge comic" as he puts it, sophisticated and intellectual ("Oh sure, another late night comic talking about Proust and existentialism!")

On the other hand, I love Secretariat and the vocal talents of the robot, but Ferguson sometimes falls into the repetition that affects Letterman. I miss "Murder She Wrote."

Not sure if Ferguson can -- or even wants -- Letterman's spot. He seems destined for other avenues for his talents. And he'd have to tone down the naughtiness.

That leaves the mystery of Jon Stewart. "The Daily Show" lacks some of its punch when there isn't an election, just like Saturday Night Live, but it still scores often. But is Jon Stewart REALLY leaving JUST to direct a film, or also to make some career negotiations?

Gotta wonder. His current show gives him a Peabody winning platform, but a bigger show and bigger audience (perhaps retaining some Daily Show elements) has got to be tempting.

My two cents.

Pamela Jaye said...

I'm already confused by the Jimmys.

My brother - who is 6 years *younger* than I am - got choked up over Johnny retiring. Meanwhile, I never watched late night - or any - talk shows, unless there was a guest I was interested in, and yes, DVR and fast forward.

Noticed a storyline on Duet, years ago, about Letterman vs (Leno?) btw. I'd never seen Letterman, at the time, so I didn't get it at all.

And yup, my brother now watches (worships?) Jon Stewart.

When is Arsenio coming back? People said he never listened to his guests but he did great Scott Bakula interviews. Scott was on in his final week, even with nothing to promote.
Sorry I missed that Newhart thing. Really.

As for talk shows in general, being a big fan of anyone famous leaves you with proof most shows don't last. My tape library shows the littered remains of a couple dozen failed talk shows Scott Bakula and Donny Osmond have appeared on.

Relatedly - I got over Sonny's talk show really fast. I'm a fan but daily? I think I could watch Scott daily but I dropped to only watching Donny when he had family as guests or when he was, himself, the guest.(Or that time he had Scott on (and thy sang together)).

Bergeron - I remember his local 12:30 pm talk show in Boston, People Are Talking. Sometimes normal, sometimes a bit Springer. He once has Salem's official town witch and a Protestant minister. But mostly not Springerish. I hear before he was host, it was referred to as Nuts and Sluts. In any case, I read his book and really loved it. Yet, he's not known for the monologue thing (sorry, I missed Breakfast Time or whatever it was called). He's great with guests though - conscious or not.

Pamela Jaye said...

having Kenneth the Page host The Tonight Show might be fun...

Pamela Jaye said...

Grumpy Cat might make a good host... Your Moment Of Squeee... How is ABC news Instant Index thing doing?
I really do waste more time on YouTube.
Groban sings Kanye's Tweets was really good though.

Barbara C. said...

My favorite "late-night" show is Graham Norton on BBC. I love the style of the show, how the guests are encouraged to interact and play off of each other.

I also love how it is a mix of American and British entertainers. One of the best episodes was when a senior British female comic challenged to tell a story in proper English with using the word "like" in every sentence.

I was only a kid when Carson retired, but I loved him. It was a treat to be able to stay up late and watch Johnny. I never really got into Leno or Letterman or Conan. I don't if every host just got more and more crass, or maybe Johnny was crass, too, and I was too young to understand it at the time.

Geoff Edwards said...

Fallon is not funny. Even if the writing is funny, he can't seem to deliver it...of course there's the writing is rarely funny. NY-NY

Buttermilk Sky said...

If there's no good movie on, I'll watch Letterman because he's going to go Paar-ballistic one of these days and crater CBS. Depending on the guests, of course. Fallon's idiot laugh makes me physically sick. Ferguson could be great but he doesn't care -- with his pantomime horse and toys he's a witless Pee Wee's Playhouse. Is Leno still on the air? I'd gladly trade all of them for Joel McHale.

Michael Hill, excellent Thomas Wolfe reference. Well done.

Dale said...

People still watch TV? I watch Youtube and DVDs.

Brian said...

Jay Leno was a classless jerk when he forced Johnny Carson out by telling NBC he was going to sign with ABC for a competing 11:30 show.... and NBC executives were their usual classless morons, and chose Leno over Carson, who would have liked to retire a year later. Carson took the high road and left. Leno and NBC took the low road and ruined The Tonight Show forever. Leno and NBC are getting everything they deserve. I love it,and I'll bet Johnny Carson is loving it too... :)

cityslkrz said...

No one I know watches Leno. And I haven't heard anyone even discussing this change. No one truly cares.