Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rant #171: Late Night Cat Fight

In one corner, we have Jay Leno, king of late night on NBC. His show was moved to prime time, 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and bombed. NBC wants to move his show back to the usual 11:35 p.m. time spot.

In the other corner, we have Conan O'Brien, who was promised the coveted 11:35 p.m. spot when Leno's show moved to prime time. NBC wants to push him back to after midnight. O'Brien has refused, and may have had his final broadcast on NBC.

NBC is the fourth-place network, and they thought they had nothing to lose by moving the popular Leno, Johnny Carson's successor, to 10 p.m. in a Monday through Friday show. They weren't drawing very good ratings with what they had, and this was cheaper for them, a "more bang for the buck" move that they thought might revolutionize network televison.

All it did was spark a revolt my network affiliates, who said that the Leno show as a lead-in was killing the ratings of their 11 p.m. local newscasts, which are huge moneymakers for local stations.

So what of Leno and O'Brien? Well, Leno is moving back to the coveted 11:35 p.m. spot, that is for sure.

But O'Brien has balked at being pushed back. Perhaps they will buy out his contract, perhaps this is all a ruse for something else. He might even end up on Fox.

And you just know that David Letterman, he of the open zipper, is laughing all the way to the bank.

But the guy who is laughing the hardest isn't even with us anymore.

The true king of late night, Johnny Carson, is laughing in heaven right now. All the fights he had with NBC over The Tonight Show pale in comparison to this latest nonsense, and let's face it, nobody could replace Carson on his perch, anyway.

He was the best that there was, ever.

And although they could occupy his old time spot, Letterman, Leno, and O'Brien really aren't any more than pretenders to the throne. It's what we have now, but nobody, and I mean nobody, understood late night like Johnny Carson, his crew, his writers and his cast.

Right now, NBC is smelling like yesterday's spoiled milk, and Carson is laughing his trademarked laugh, with a cigarette in his mouth and breaking pencils.

Here's to you, Karnack!

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