Entertainment behind the scenes
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.
"Though NBC Universal Chairman Jeff Gaspin said the Comcast deal has nothing to do with the decision, pundits say Gaspin has 'every incentive to show improvement' before his new bosses at Comcast takeover," Hudson says.
NBC said local affiliates had seen a 30 percent drop in audiences for their 11 p.m. news shows because of the weak lead-in from Leno. That would certainly have been alarming to Comcast, which knows a lot more about getting content into people's homes than it does about who is funnier, Conan or Leno.
William Shatner has produced another spoken word gem, this time a poetic reading of Sarah Palin’s resignation speech as governor of Alaska. Shatner was on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” on NBC on Monday night, and he sat down on a stool with a conga drummer and a bass player in the background, injecting dramatic flair into a paragraph from Palin’s speech, which included the words: “It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future.” (Video below)
NBC scored big when “Saturday Night Live” veteran Tina Fey lampooned Palin last year during the presidential campaign, and the network stands to get a lot more clicks on its Web outlet Hulu.com with this latest comedy piece. Now that Palin has quit as governor of Alaska, maybe she can work on her Shatner impression. It’s not that hard to do.
On Conan O’Brien’s second night hosting “The Tonight Show,” his coveted new assignment, received a nod from none other than President Barack Obama, who gave a tongue-in-cheek shout out to the pompadoured comedian.
It came in the form of an ironic answer to a joke question that NBC newsman Brian Williams asked Obama during an interview on the eve of the president’s trip to the Middle East. O’Brien aired the exchange on “The Tonight Show” on Tuesday night, starting with Williams’ question.
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.