Friday, January 15, 2010

Leno/Conan Update: "Coco" Takes the Gloves Off

Since my last post, the Leno/Conan saga has become exponentially more fascinating. Now, we know that Leno will be back at 10:35 after the Olympics, and Conan has one foot out the door at NBC. And it's fascinating to see high-profile people take sides in this debacle.

Leno has the backing of the only people who matter: NBC executives. Jeff Zucker, whose reputation is that of an executive who fails upward, won't let go of Leno. Longtime NBC executive Dick Ebersol TRASHED Conan in the New York Times. Never mind that his reasoning was absurd and contradictory; he cited ratings as the reason why he's not sad to see Conan go. But for two years, Leno got crushed by David Letterman. A lucky break got Leno on track (a "hard-hitting" interview with Hugh Grant after he was caught with a hooker).

Now, Jay is quickly becoming reviled. Jimmy Kimmel did an incredible thing this week: he did his ENTIRE Tuesday night show dressed as Leno, and eviscerated him in the process. It was subversive and brilliant. And what does Leno do to respond? He has Kimmel on his show Thursday, where Kimmel eviscerates Leno to his face, and Leno plays dumb. And that's on the same day that Leno signs his brand new deal to take back the 10:35 spot. I watched the replay of the interview, and said out loud "Jay, WHAT ARE YOU DOING???" Bizarre stuff.

Meanwhile, Conan has become the darling of this generation, which I am dubbing "the Twitter generation", and has support he's never seen before. His days are numbered at NBC, and he probably only has six Tonight Shows left before he gets the ax. This may be unprecedented: a guy that knows he's getting dumped by his failing network is absolutely dumping all over it, and people are not only eating it up, but ravenously supporting him. The biggest Must-See show RIGHT NOW is The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. After next Friday, it may be a while before anyone sees him on television. It's not the same as guys who've decided to step down, and wrap up their shows with a long, slow Battan Death March to retirement, a la Johnny Carson. This is 2010, baby. It's going down quick and dirty, and quite literally, ANYTHING can happen on the Tonight Show next week. Those five shows should be packaged and sold as their own DVD Box Set.

Stay tuned. I know I will.

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