Day Fifteen – “The Late Night Wars 2” Continue…

15 01 2010

It seems like by the end of next week, the late night landscape will change once again by trying to recapture what NBC already had at this time last year. After the Olympics, The Jay Leno Show will cease to exist and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno will be reborn. Conan will surely find work in no time, especially with the online presence his show has lately, including a 40% bump in his TV ratings since the drama all started this week. Jimmy Fallon will remain irrelevant and Carson Daly even more so.

Conan, sporting his writer's strike beard, won a few fans with during the strike while Jay lost a bunch by coming back to air.

There are a few interesting things that have come out of this mess:

1. Not Too Many Watch Late Night Late at Night

The day of the DVR/PVR has changed the way we watch television. The ability to record TV isn’t new. I would record TV shows I would otherwise miss on my VHS all the time, but my options were limited. If there were two shows on at the same time, I had a choice to make. Especially if I didn’t have enough tape. I now have a 750 gb hard-drive that will store plenty of late night television for me, automatically, at the touch of a button.

The National Post thinks this is why Conan has failed. I disagree. Conan hasn’t failed, but NBC has with how they handled the situation. Conan made the point in his open-letter that The Tonight Show has a tradition of being on after that nightly news and to change that would be to destroy the franchise. He acknowledged that most viewers will be watching in DVRs in the future, but instead chose to leave the show.

If they had handled their choice to shuffle late-night a little more diplomatically, rather than giving into the pressure of the TCA and having Conan find out the news through the media, they could have kept Conan happy and an audience that would follow his regardless of his time-slot. Instead, they made everyone upset; aside from Jimmy Fallon who is, as he put it, just happy to be employed. This is just another case of NBC folding to pressure and making horrible decisions.

2. Did Conan Fail NBC?

No. The ratings system did. The Nielson system is outdated and is in dire need of an update.  If I watch Conan at 11:35pm, 5:00pm the following day or at all doesn’t make a difference, since I’m not registered under the Nielsen Ratings System. It all depends on the person who is for my demographic and region.

In the USA, only 25,000 homes are Nielson homes. They account for the 114,000,000 homes with TV in the USA today. This doesn’t count the many other outlets to view The Tonight Show, but we’ll stick with TV for this example, since it was the motive behind NBC’s move.

Digital boxes are able to both receive and send signals.  Given the proper co-operation between cable and satellite providers and ratings companies, we could get an accurate measure of what people are watching, when they are watching it and how they watch it. Instead, we have a few lucky decision makers who speak for us.

3. Conan Didn’t Fail, Jay Did

People seem to misunderstand what the controversy is. Conan O’Brien did lose the #1 spot, long-held by Leno, to Letterman, but it’s not his show that had affiliates revolting. The Jay Leno Show was the failure, but the network would have you believe that The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien is the problem.

Their solution is to put Jay back in his old time-slot and hope that everyone comes back to see Jay at 11:35pm. Is it really the time slot that made Jay’s show fail?

I never had anything against Jay Leno, but I would watch The Tonight Show from time to time. For what ever reason, I couldn’t sit through The Jay Leno Show at all. The jokes felt forced, but that didn’t change. The gags were too easy, but that hadn’t changed either.

The only thing I would watch The Tonight Show for was the guests. They seemed to take a backseat to driving electric cars whilst avoiding cardboard cut-outs and The Jay Leno Show was promptly removed from my DVR.

4. Jay Leno is now a villain

By ousting Conan from his promised time, due to Jay’s and NBC’s failed experiment, Jay Leno has brought a ton of contempt among himself. The internet seems particularly one-sided in this debate, as do the other late night hosts. The relevant ones, at least. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 2 will be fighting an uphill battle to convince people that he’s not a bad guy.

In my opinion, having Jimmy Kimmel on his show was a step in the right direction. He was self-aware. He took the criticism and threw a jab in himself with his final question. Some websites would have you believe he was completely slaughtered on his own show, but I think it’s the opposite.

Jimmy seemed to be struggling to make his jokes fit the question. It seemed like an eight year old trying to wrestle his dad to the ground while his dad ignores his attempts completely. See for yourself:

5. The Tonight Show Will Go On and All Will Be Forgotten

Note in the title of this post, there is a “2”.

Jay Leno has seen this before. He’s been the villain and went on to host the #1 show in late night for 17 years. People will get over this ordeal in a few months time. Conan will be back on TV, one way or another. Leno will probably be on top again and NBC will rub it in while you try to watch the latest episode of The Office.

It’s unfortunate that Leno could just walk in and oust someone he passed the torch to, but there’s a reason for that. People like Leno. The internet doesn’t, but the people who still stay up and watch late night do.

To NBC, that’s all that matters. Though this whole ordeal has been interesting, it’ll all be a distant memory by this time next year. NBC has bigger problems to deal with in prime-time. Now that Jay is out of it, they can focus on that.

But, for the record, I’m with Coco.


Day Twelve – Can’t Go Home Again

12 01 2010

What television writers have routed for ever since the show’s inception has finally happened. The Jay Leno Show has been axed. The 10pm hour has proven that it belongs to scripted, adult dramas and has sent Jay Leno running back to the late hours of the night.

Though NBC has a couple of my favourite shows, they need a lot of work before they're back on top.

Everyone wants to focus on the impending scheduling conflicts this will create, and I’m not saying it’s not worth talking about, but what I find just as interesting is the void created in the 10pm hour.

NBC has lost a lot of viewers in the 10pm hour and getting them back will be no easy task. Some have been burned by the move, losing interesting, gritty shows like Southland to the Leno experiment. Others have taken an interest in the CBS prime-time schedule.

More than anything, NBC will have to convince viewers that they still care about scripted drama. This will be hard to do with 2-hour episodes of The Biggest Loser and The Apprentice taking up four of the network’s sparse prime-time hours, but a necessary evil with another unexpected five hours to fill. Will they make the same mistakes and give us another reality show to fill the time?

Summer programming in the winter wouldn’t be the direction I would take, but given that NBC was trying to cut costs before this entire debacle, they’ll be looking for even cheaper ways to bring back eyeballs.

NBC’s decision doesn’t only effect their network, but CityTV in Canada. The show was actually performing quite well in Canada, but now Rogers and CityTV will be forced to come up with a new plan for 10pm. The difference between them and NBC is that they had no say in the matter. NBC axed the show, CityTV has to pick up the pieces.

Right now, the worst thing about NBC is their reputation. The CW has their market cornered, with tween girls eating up Gossip Girl and 90210. As does CBS, with the CSIs and NCIS, and FOX, with House and juggernaut American Idol. The only image NBC has now is one of the loser, forced to sit alone at lunch time as the cool kids court all the high-priced advertising. The Jay Leno Show was one way to shake things up, but it became a step in the wrong direction. Rather than going for quality, they went for lower rent. In the end, it’ll cost them more than they ever could have saved.

What I’d like to see NBC do is find their voice. Do they want to continue with reality-programming like a slightly higher budget MTV? Do they want to focus on adult-drama like AMC or the cable networks? The only thing NBC has going for them now is that everyone’s eyes are on them, waiting to see their next move. They’ll be back for the Olympics, too.

With a nation watching, will they be able to bring everyone back home to the peacock?