Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Thursday, January 14, 2010


-- television -- nbc's late night soap opera gets vicious

The Wrap is tracking the monologues of the late night shows as they all make hay out of skewering NBC for its hamhanded handling of the late night show mess it created.

Monologue Watch: The Late Night Follies (updated) | The Wrap

Tonight's late show monologues are coming in, and once again, the hosts are joking about Late Night Crisis 2010.

We'll update this post with the latest quips as they come in....

It's worth noting that they're a day behind at this point. Last night, Conan got truly vicious and mean about the whole thing in a way that I hadn't thought he had in him, including taking a direct shot at Jay Leno.

Conan Slams NBC — Again — And, This Time, Leno (

by Rachel Sklar | 1:49 am, January 14th, 2010

It's official: Conan's bitter.

Tonight, again, his monologue was laced with jokes sticking it to NBC -- plus the first salvos that seemed intentionally aimed at Jay Leno. Until tonight, Conan's mentions of Leno himself were benign, instead focusing on NBC's plans with respect to both their shows -- which Leno has echoed emphatically on his own show. Tonight, that ended.

Said Conan: "Hosting the Tonight Show has been the fulfilment of a lifelong dream for me. And I just want to say to the kids out there watching: 'You can do anything you want.' Yeah. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too."

Then he imitated Leno, not entirely kindly. It was the first time that Conan had seemed directly bitter toward Leno, or implicated Leno for having any real agency in the matter. Previously, both comedians had characterized the the NBC mess as having been a "solution" devised exclusively by NBC.

Conan also joked about NBC's upcoming coverage of the Winter Olympics, suggestion they'd make changes like "move the Winter Olympics to summer but still call them the Winter Olympics" "reserve the right to cancel ski-jumps mid jump" and this doozy: "Replace the flags on the giant slalom course with breached NBC contracts." Ouch.

Perhaps in a bit of pushback to Leno's frequent comments about how he was #1 when he left the Tonight Show, Conan also offered this one: "Move the bronze up to gold's place, silver stays where it is and add a new medal for fourth place called the NBC." Ouch again....

I have to admit, I hope this is the last time he does something like that. As long as he can direct his shots at NBC, and not Leno, I think he'll get a lot more support. Once he starts going after Jay ... well, honestly, at least in his public persona, Jay is a bit meaner and a bit sharper with the personal attacks, and I kind of don't think Conan can win that way anyway.

Moreover, in order to maintain any sort of respect from its own employees and from the business at large, NBC has to put a stop to this public sniping on its own airwaves, and soon. In any other business, an employee who went after their employer like this would at the least be suspended, if not fired outright. Of course, they're in a difficult position there, as well; Leno's also been sniping at the network, and he's the one they want to keep the most. Differential treatment for substantially the same activity might put NBC in an even more difficult legal position. The one thing they've got to work with is that Conan seems to have now specifically said in public that NBC breached his contract, which is something their lawyers can go after.

On the other hand, there's this interesting aspect: NBC is actually kind of benefiting from the late night follies. Kind of. "The Tonight Show" ratings are up 42% in key demographics this week. You'd think that might be enough of a "win", if that's quite the right word, for NBC to let things continue. However, ratings for the Leno show have dropped 10% during the same time period, which means they're feeding even fewer viewers to the affiliates' late night newscasts, which was the key that set all these dominoes in motion in the first place.(That said, Leno's lead-in was off substantially as well. Sort of points out the benefits of a strong lead-in, doesn't it?)

The whole mess will probably end, or at least disappear from public view, fairly soon. Enhanced ratings for Tonight aside, NBC simply cannot tolerate things going on like this for much longer.

Posted by iain at 11:32 AM in category television