Monday, January 18, 2010

Up Late at Night!

During my high school years and for 20 years of home Haunting many nights were spent awake at all hours of the night. In 2003, my fellow Haunter and friend Johnny and I were decorating until 4 a.m. It is no surprise that I was very familiar with all the late night television. Among reruns of old Star Trek episodes, I came across a very talented comedian, named Conan O'Brien. Maybe it was my age and maybe it was the availabilty of programing, but it provide much need comedy relief in often stressful times. I had the chance to see Conan during a visit to the LA market on his Late Night show. I was thrilled that NBC sign a deal for Conan to replace Leno on the prestigious Tonight Show. As usual, Conan did not disappoint even as the show found its footing. Last week, NBC created a Late Night Show Drama by replacing Conan with Leno, after only seven months on the air. The result has been a polarization of the audience, fans and some not so friendly jabs between the hosts and the network executives. NBC's move is an example of how quickly businesses (even show business) are to fix unprofitable ventures and strategies. In the past, it might have been possible for Conan and company to have many years on air perfecting their show. NBC's decisive and seemingly unsympathetic shake up has left Conan with a monetary pay out and many fans out of show. Critics claim that the audience Coco held is just not powerful enough. And what about Leno? Even his move to protect his interests are seen as selfish and arrogant. While Coco (his fan's affectionate nickname, born from his LA show) and company who left a cozy living in New York and move their entire livelihood and family to the West Coast find themselves out of business.
Conan's bold move to refuse a time slot change to 'perserve' the dignity and integrity of the prestigious Tonight Show brand will go down as an honorable move to uphold the legacy that Johnny Carson passed down. Conan has confessed that it was a childhood dream to host the Tonight Show, so protecting it will only fit into his personal need to protect his childhood dream. While Leno's moves (undoubtly to protect himself and NBC from failing sponsorships) will go down in Late Night history as the bad guy... an image his rival, David Letterman always held between their repective battle. Leno's legacy will not carry that everyman's honesty and a career untarish by controversy.
NBC, in a quest for ratings is downsizing creativity and growth. Stifling the 'right thing to do' with the need to make 'a smart business decision'. NBC also lacks a visible face, a spokesperson who can tell the audience why it is a smart move. In the end, NBC will survive, ratings will go back up and people will move on. But I believe in busienss karma. I believe that a company, like a person absorbs all the consequences (both positive and negative) of their actions. The Tonight Show will just not be the same. And when Leno finally retires, the next host will have mostly like have less pressure, as there will be no quick fix next time.
As for Coco, he's a survivior, and undoubtly his talents will be used elsewhere. Letterman will disappear into the background, Jimmy Kimmel will emerge as a stronger host, Leno will settle into a new and less forgiving audience, and Jimmy Fallon, the host who kept out of it, will still be out of it.
For the talented O'Brien cast and crew, I wish them well for their great effort. Maybe they move back to New York, or maybe they stay here in the West Coast. It's a little different, but I've always loved the west and I hope they do to. I've enjoyed the run, when life was tough I could always depend on great end to the night.
By now, you can guess which side I'm on, and prehaps are wondering what does this have to do with buisness? It's simple really, in 1969 NBC cancelled a small television show that many years later grew into a remarkable franchise that changed television and motion picture history. That show was Star Trek. The shortsighted decision brought a huge loss of economic opportunity. Almost 40 years later, NBC must ask itself, "has this strategy worked?", it has produce the same result over and over again. NBC is where it excately put itself in. Growth takes time. Great shows take great time. To pluck a rose before it has bloomed, and blaming the rose will yield a barren garden. Leno had 17 years, Conan 7 months. What culture is the NBC organization growing? And what fruit will that bear? I speculate that many more bitter fruits will be born of this strategy that will stifle creativity and originality. I also speculate that other networks will capitalize on this weakness. This is an example of a worn out business model. An example of what created a recession in America in the first place. What will we learn of it?
Today, on MLK Day, a large demostration is being held at the
Universal lot for Conan and company. In true American spirit the demostation will also raise money for Hatian relief effort. I am unable to attend, but will be there in spirit to support. Of all the drama, jokes, nasty comments and bitterness, Conan's departure will bring much needed help to earthquake victims. A true testiment to the character of Conan, who inspire people not to hate, but to live life to the fullest, while bringing their friends along.
I am with Coco.

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