Conan…how could this happen?

21Jan10

I’ve always enjoyed Conan O’Brien’s brand of quirky, self-deprecating humor, it’s what sets him apart from the other late night hosts. So when I found out five years ago that Jay Leno was going to retire so that Conan could take the reigns of the Tonight Show, the future looked set. Little did I know about the downturn which has become even worse over the past few years. NBC never really shrugged off the loss of ratings pullers like Friends and Frazier. Then there was the baffling decision to put Leno at 10…grrr, it just keeps getting worse.

So it looks like Conan is out on his ass at the Tonight Show, he’s going to have to hand the show back over to Leno after less then a year. O’Brien and Andy Richter made a joke the other night that the show had reached its .6 year anniversary, that’s terrifying. I find it astonishing that even in our hyper-impatient culture a network couldn’t even let one it’s most promising future assets go like that. Yes, Conan’s ratings during the November sweeps were the worst in years, but what do you expect? Leno’s numbers stunk when he first got started on Tonight. Conan almost got canceled one or two times during his first couple of years on Late Night because of terrible numbers, but eventually Conan was able to get a sizable consistent audience at the 12:30 slot. Why couldn’t that work again? Conan promised the potential for a future consistent audience. There was always going to be a slack period.

By the way, I would have to say that Conan has consistently thrived on the Tonight Show. His charming enthusiasm to be hosting the show was surrounded by funny jokes and fun, new bits like “Twitter Tracker”. These past couple of weeks have been among the best ever. There have been multiple guest stars making fun of him, memory segments recalling classic skits from the past nine months, all under a cloud of sarcasm. To quote Conan, “Remember kids, you can be anything you want…just as along as Jay Leno doesn’t want to be it.”

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