Conan O'Brien was robbed today. And NBC was the perp.
I am not yet over David Letterman's 1992 snub by NBC. I was a long-time Tonight Show watcher until 1992. Johnny Carson brought amazing timing, panache, and humor to the small screen, along with Ed and Doc. And Tommy.
With my family of origin, I toured Carson's New York Studio at Rockefeller Center in the late 1960s. One had to be eighteen to see the show -- I was thirteen. Jack Benny was a guest that night. Can you imagine the magical by-play between these two comedic giants? (I probably never saw it. I'm sure I wasn't allowed to stay up that late in seventh grade.)
When I had my own first television -- a black and white portable with a huge antenna pointed to Indianapolis -- I became a regular. Carson's bits were and are legend--who can forget Carnac? Aunt Blabby?
I've kept this essay in a mayonnaise jar outside Funk & Wagnalls' porch since noon today.
David Letterman was the natural replacement for Johnny Carson. Letterman is not Carson. He doesn't have Carson's erudite charm. Letterman is edgy and sarcastic (and has become more so with age.) No one could replace Carson. The best NBC could do was to find someone popular with the next generation.
Note to readers: I am not here to debate Letterman's off-screen actions, a whole different essay.
I admit to being a long-time Letterman fan. I particularly liked his zany daytime show with crazies like Mrs. Marv Mendenhall played by the loopy Edie McClurg. (She also played principal Edward Rooney's secretary in Ferris Buehler's Day Off.)
My husband and I attended a live taping of The Late Show with David Letterman in 2004 at the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Will Smith was the only guest and the interplay between Smith and Letterman was hilarious. Yes, the theatre is freezing.
I think Letterman was hosed nearly twenty years ago, and now NBC is flipping the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate to Conan O'Brien. O'Brien is correct to say "No, thanks" and walk away with a big pile of cash from the folks at Thirty Rock.
Why the veneration of Jay Leno? According to news reports, his ratings didn't give local news shows the lead-in they needed to sustain advertisers. Now, I'm sure Jay Leno is a fine comedian, and I know he gave NBC the ratings they needed for nearly twenty years. I'm not a huge Leno fan, and he doesn't appeal to everybody. I tried his 10 p.m. show and the site gags and cheap shots didn't seem to work for me.
Seems mistakes "were made" as our politicians say. Taking Leno out of the 11:35 p.m. slot and moving him to a slot where dramas normally air was a bad idea. So why should Conan O'Brien suffer? Leno needs to gracefully bow out and retire. O'Brien will most likely play on another network and eat Leno's lunch.
Hi Yo. Quoth the Raven.