Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quick Thoughts on NBC's Late Night Programming

NBC is quickly programming itself into oblivion, and the recent stories about NBC taking The Tonight Show away from Conan O'Brien, or, even worse, giving Jay Leno a half-hour talk-show at 11:30 and Conan a half-hour show starting at midnight.

I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that, if NBC is concerned about losing young, educated, professional viewers to late-night programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, then it should not only be keeping Conan O'Brien on the air at 11:30pm, but it should be doing everything in its power to convince older audiences (and probably southern and midwestern audiences) of why they should be watching Conan O'Brien, instead of the cliche "Jaywalking" clips and corny jokes that Leno has been offering for so many years. Its been done before - Letterman started much like O'Brien, as an edgy, improvization-heavy performer who mocked television's conventions, and who people doubted would ever appeal to anybody beyond college kids and comedy nerds, before becoming the biggest star in broadcast television. The same could happen with O'Brien - I'm not saying that it will, but it could - and its hard to see how anybody else currently on network late night becoming a star on that scale.

Conan is a comedian's comedian, and in a perfect world that would make him popular at 11:30 pm, but if it doesn't, NBC should have the courage of its convictions and seek to build upon its reputation for quality. CBS and FOX already give audiences exactly what they demand to see. It would be nice to see a network support its investment in quality programming, then convince audiences that what they're offering is better.

And, in case you missed it, Conan's monologue jokes (see the two videos here) about his predicament were absolutely hilarious.

ADDED: Conan's written statement to his fans can be read here.


8yearoldsdude said...

as the elections of 2000 and 2004 proved, young educated professionals vastly overestimate their significance on the national stage.

Wade Garrett said...

Totally different thing. First of all, nobody voted in the 2000 election, particularly young people. Old people vote in disproportionately high numbers, and yet they don't watch much late-night tv, and are not a sought-after demographic, because they don't buy anything, so they don't appeal to advertisers.

Young professionals matter quite a bit when it comes to television audiences - The Office and Seinfeld are two recent examples of shows initially criticized as appealing too much to big-city yuppies but which eventually became enormous popular successes.