Entertainment behind the scenes
Revenge, as the saying goes, is a dish best served cold.
And Conan O’Brien must surely be licking his lips with glee at winning an Emmy nomination for his short-lived version of “The Tonight Show,” six months after NBC handed the late night talk program back to frenemy Jay Leno.
O’Brien’s nomination in the variety show category even drew an audible gasp from the group of bleary-eyed journalists and publicists gathered at the Television Academy for the dawn announcement on Thursday.
As one mischievous pundit speculated — how will NBC (which is airing the Emmys ceremony in August) handle a possible win by Team Coco and a potentially scathing acceptance speech on live on national TV by O’Brien…(Music please? Fade to commercial break? — Talk about some real drama!)
Such was the glee over the bumper 19 nominations for “Glee”, that overlooked shows and actors barely got the time of day on Thursday. Except for Charlie Sheen, whose absence from the comedy actor nods was widely seen as a reflection on his ongoing court case on charges of pulling a knife on his wife and threatening to have her killed. Not so funny.
Conan O’Brien’s departure from NBC’s was ugly from the start, but now that it’s over, and Jay Leno is about to reclaim “The Tonight Show,” who has come out looking like the bad guy?
This is important because if Leno and O’Brien end up competing against each other in the same time slot (with O’Brien on Fox or another network), how the public views each of them could affect their ratings.
Leno himself has acknowledged he has been getting bad press as a result of the shakeup, with fellow talk show hosts David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Rosie O’Donnell accusing him of pushing out O’Brien.
But judging by a poll of 65,000 respondents at celebrity website PopEater, the controversy doesn’t seem to have hurt Leno that much.
Forty-four percent of respondents said they would watch Leno over O’Brien if the two were to go head-to-head in the 11:35 p.m. time slot, with only 33 percent opting for O’Brien.
Leno enjoys the advantage of having reigned as the top-rated late night talk show host from 1995 until he gave up “The Tonight Show” in May 2009. After he left, David Letterman’s “Late Show” on CBS climbed to the top of the heap.
Can Leno reclaim some of those viewers from Letterman when he returns to “The Tonight Show”? Letterman has launched a nasty campaign against Leno, mocking him every chance he gets on his show.
Meanwhile, Leno has tried to take the high road, calling O’Brien a “great guy” during his show Monday. But of late he has fired back at Letterman during his monologues.
With Letterman “going negative,” and Leno having given what amounted to a speech on Monday with his side of the story, this late night war has turned into something like a political campaign.
For his part, O’Brien has ravaged NBC during his monologues, and he has never returned Leno’s favor by also calling him a “great guy.”
Despite the hipster “I’m with Coco” campaign that has emerged, especially online, in support of O’Brien, his $32.5 million payout may hurt his image.
True, we are in the age of corporate executives getting away with million dollar bonuses after their own failures, and Conan has scored sympathy for securing money for his staff.
But wouldn’t we all like to walk away with say, $30 million, after seven months of poor ratings, weak reviews and (to use one of O’Brien’s jokes) not even a new haircut?
In a PopEater poll, only 28 percent of respondents said they feel sorry for O’Brien now that he has received his huge payout, and 38 percent said they never did.
With none of the talk show hosts seeming to have a monopoly on public sympathy, they may want all want to work harder on their campaign skills, because this new age for the talk show arena looks to be as cut-throat as ever.
(Additional writing by Christine Kearney)
It has become a battle of who can win the most sharp-tongued digs.
Conan O’Brien’s statement released two days ago that he will not be bullied by NBC back into a later timeslot has sparked a competition over which late night host can squeeze in as many quick fire NBC slaps in their opening monologue as possible.
On Wednesday night O’Brien was more combative in his comedic tone than the previous night, in a message directed to “the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life. Unless Jay Leno wants to do it too.”
Conan O'Brien could well be headed to Fox after making it clear to NBC that he will not go graciously into the later night. But a channel-changing question that is making the rounds has more to do with what the drama unfolding between O'Brien and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno says about NBC and its agreed joint venture with Comcast. If nothing else, the lack of replacement programming for the slot Leno is vacating, and the purported profitability NBC still enjoyed by having a cheaper, single-star variety show in a traditionally pricey prime-time slot, raise an obvious question -- why the rush?
John Hudson at the AtlanticWire does a nice job of collecting some thoughts on pressure that was probably building from Comcast, from angry affiliates who wanted Leno and his show's crummy ratings out of that vital pre-news slot, to improving PR.
Conan O’Brien is famous for his geeky pompadour hair style and weird sketches, but on his Monday night debut as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” the comedian looked as if he meant to tone down the more risky elements of his former show (“Late Night”) to win over audiences grown accustomed to watching the affable Jay Leno for 17 years.
The Masturbating Bear and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog were absent from the show, after becoming burned into the memories of anyone who stayed up until 12:30 a.m. to watch O’Brien’s former show “Late Night” on NBC. Those two staples of the old show were true to its style of using cheap costumes and props to play up a double joke, the surface humor of one-liners and the underlying comedy of a major network show relying on cheesy production values.
It’s the end of an era in “beautiful downtown Burbank” this week as Jay Leno takes leave of “The Tonight Show” after 17 years as host — only to return to the same TV studio lot a few months later with another show that sounds a lot like the old one but at 10 pm instead of 11.35 pm.
So the question is not so much how much Leno will be missed, as how many of his fans will follow him to the earlier time slot, and how many new fans who couldn’t manage to keep their eyes open until midnight will now tune in for “The Jay Leno Show” before going to bed in the fall.
(Writing and Reporting Syantani Chatterjee)
Evidently, snot is the new black. Or perhaps that is what Scarlett Johansson thinks. So hurry everyone, get yourself the young actress’ snot on eBay – with free shipping – while the offer lasts until Dec. 22.
And Johansson’s nasal mucus is snot cheap (sorry, we couldn’t resist working in at least one pun). The top bid was up at $2,151 early Thursday.