Conan’s New Day
Although the name of this podcast is Film Method, we recognize the importance of all aspects of the entertainment industry including TV and the Web and it seems appropriate to publish a blog about Conan O’Brien the day after he broke his silence on 60 Minutes. As most of you know from listening to the show, I am a huge Conan O’Brien fan. I’ve been a fan of his comedy for many years now and when he took over The Tonight Show almost a year ago, I was beside myself with excitement and as giddy as a school girl in the springtime. I also believed that it was a new day for late night TV. Traditionally, The Tonight Show was hosted by old white haired men (most funny, one not). When I saw Conan running across the United States, from New York City to Los Angeles, in that landmark television moment just before Andy Richter announced him as the new host of The Tonight Show, it was a watershed moment for my generation and it seemed that The Tonight Show wasn’t just for old people anymore.
Since the day it was announced that NBC wanted Jay Leno to move back to the 11:35 time slot, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting on how it all went so horribly wrong after the new day had just dawned only to be cut short by a meteor that hit the earth sending dirt and ash into the air thus blocking the sun and ending the beautiful new day. When I got over my initial anger and bitterness towards the incredibly short-sighted NBC executives who had, in essence, set Conan up for failure, I began to think of the very antiquated system which dictates who wins and who looses in television: the Nielsen ratings system. I also began to think about the demographic of the average Conan O’Brien viewer and the viewing habits of myself and most of my friends, who rarely schedule our lives around prime time television let alone any sort of late night television. Most of us don’t even own DVRs, which is pretty amazing considering that many of us are fans and regular viewers of popular shows such as Lost, Glee, and The Office. How do we do it? Are we all “taping” our favorite shows on VHS recorders? No. We’re watching our favorite shows online when we want to and not stopping our lives to tune in during the regularly scheduled time slot. Now, I must admit that I am generalizing a bit. Do I really know exactly what the viewing habits are for every single one of my friends? No, I don’t, but I can say that I do have discussions about these things with the friends that I hang out with regularly and they just happen to be in the very sought-after 18-49 age range. Watching online is how most of those friends view their favorite shows.
Interestingly enough, from all of the information I’ve found online about how the ratings are calculated, it doesn’t seem that internet viewing plays into the numbers that networks use to sell space to advertisers. Apparently, although it’s easier to track what people are watching online, it’s not easy to track who is watching it, and there lies the problem. I can only hope that with the myriad of new technology being birthed every day that the ratings system will soon catch up and start including these internet numbers in order to track what we are really watching.
When the news came out that Conan was going to TBS I saw many comments online disparaging his move from network TV to basic cable. My attitude was and still is that Conan should be on television and it doesn’t really matter where as long as the show is available online and is broadcast in the English language. I’ve noticed that many fans on Conan’s Facebook fan page (pop. 994,928) feel the same way. Unfortunately for NBC, they may not realize the gravity of their mistake of throwing Mr. O’Brien under the bus for another few years, when most of Leno’s fan base has moved on to the afterlife. By then, it will be too late, though, as building a successful late night franchise takes many years and NBC will probably be selling Sham-Wows in the current Tonight Show time slot while other progressive-minded networks will be capitalizing on all sorts of crazy new media outlets. Now that the dirt and ash have cleared, I can see that this, Conan O’Brien, is really your new day, and what a glorious day it is.