Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Late Night Shuffle

On vacation last week, I didn't get around to reporting the news that former "SNL" cast member Jimmy Fallon will be replacing Conan O'Brien on NBC's "Late Night" when O'Brien gets the "Tonight Show" gig next year.

My brother and his friends, who follow the late night talk show circuit a lot more than I do, seem to think this will be a disaster of Titanic proportions because none seem to be fans of Fallon. They aren't the only ones that are worried.

One TV critic, Tim Goodman, wrote a column wondering if would-be movie star Fallon would be able to reduce his own ego in favor of his guest's, something that every talk show host needs to do (though somehow Larry King has managed a career for 40 years without being able to do this). Another critic, Alan Sepinwall, seemed to think the opposite, that Fallon wouldn't have enough of a personality to make a go of things.

My thoughts? Let Fallon actually tape a show or two before passing judgment.

Here's the thing. I remember when O'Brien was first named Letterman's replacement. Here was a guy who hadn't appeared regularly in front of a camera or an audience who was taking over for the most popular host on TV at that point. Needless to say, no one thought much of Conan's chances, but a decade-plus later, he seems to have done well enough for himself.

The late night circuit is something of a crapshoot, anyway. I never thought much of Jimmy Kimmel before, but with his recent brilliant Matt Damon-Ben Affleck-Sarah Silverman love triangle videos, he's riding a huge wave of popularity.

On the other hand, Chevy Chase, who had a very successful movie career, may go down as the worst talk show host in history.

Now people are questioning whether Conan, arguably the top host right now not on a show produced by Comedy Central, can take over "The Tonight Show," which skews to an older audience than his. I'm guessing if you ask an NBC exec, they are counting on Conan's appeal among younger viewers to cut into the Comedy Central juggernaut of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."

Meanwhile, people are pointing to Fallon's lackluster movie career and the success of his former SNL partner Tina Fey as to reasons why he will fail. I'll point out that A) few people are as hot as Tina Fey right now, or as funny in general, and B) the six people who watched the movie "Collision Course" probably never imagined that Pat Morita's partner in that flick would be able to successfully replace the legendary Johnny Carson.

Let's see Fallon do his thing, and then pass judgment.

AROUND THE DIAL: It's going to be very difficult for anyone to replace the late Stanley Kamel as a recurring character on "Monk," but the producers have signed the always reliable Hector Elizondo to play Monk's (Tony Shalhoub) new therapist. ... Oscar nominee Amy Ryan will be joining "The Office" as a guest star as Toby's replacement, while Oscar and Emmy nominee Angela Bassett will be joining the cast of "ER" for its final season next year. ...

WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Can we please siphon just one of Thursday's great shows over to Wednesday's? Just one? Seriously, it'd free up my TV watching greatly to spread the wealth.

As it is, "American Idol" (Fox, 9 p.m.) dominates the night following new episodes of "Til Death" and "Back To You" on Fox.

"Criminal Minds" (CBS, 9 p.m.) is new, as is "CSI: NY" at 10 p.m., which squares off with a new episode of "Boston Legal" (ABC, 10 p.m.) "Law & Order" (NBC, 10 p.m.) follows a two-hour "Deal Or No Deal."

The CW is debuting the new reality show "Farmer Wants a Wife" at 9 p.m. I'd watch, but I'm worried my liver will force its way into my neck, cutting the flow of blood off to my brain. Come to think of it, that may be the only way to watch this show.

Finally, the documentary series "Carrier" (PBS, 9 p.m.) continues tonight.

3 comments:

zodin2008 said...

Phillip, you should listen to your brother and his friends. Jimmy fallon is one of the UNFUNNIEST people in America.

He will stink horribly in the Conan spot and when he ultimately sings the ratings into the deepest of dep black holes (while the very funny Conan will lose ratings replacing Leno considering the audience that does go for "The Tonight Show"), NBC will have irrevocably damaged the ONE part of TV where they had the ratings edge to CBS and ABC, late night gab fests.

I realize NBC is at a bit of a cross roads and had to make a choice...Leno or Conan? Leno doesn't want to leave, but is being forced out because Conan will leave if they don't move Leno.

NBC is rolling the dice and picking the younger, edgier comedian. While there's logic to a certain extent, Conan is able to pull in numbers, in line with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or Bill maher - hip, left, edgy and off the cuff. Jay Leno is funny, maybe not edgy, but funny and he pulls in a broad spectrum, a mainstream audience.

While the media may not want to admit this, but the snobby, condascending humor of Letterman, contrary to popular belief, is not popular with everyone, and with Letterman's far left political views so front & center, Leno is able to garner a broader audience on both sides of the aisle. (Leno is a Democrat himself, but is equally friendly and rough on both sides of the aisle, broadening his appeal).

Once Leno is forced out, Conan's ratings will sink well past letterman (who will win based on audience familiarity) and Fallon will be the biggest late night disaster since Chevy. Seriously, mark this date down and remember, Zod predicted this.

As for Kimmel, I don't buy that he's any kind of late night success and you proved the point with your so called compliment. The one FUNNY thing Kimmel has done was a viral video that's far bigger on YouTube than on his show. His show mostly stinks.

His delivery is awkward, his ratings are fledgling, and there doesn't seem to be any indication that the Matt Damon and Ben Affleck videos grew his audience...rather, it impressed the drunk, frat boy crowd he basically appeals to anyway.

If ABC is SMART, they will throw a blank check at Leno and start the "Jay Leno Show" at ABC...guarantee it won't be long before Leno is winning the ratings, once people figure where he moved on the dial. After local news, most regular people want a late night host who can dliver to a broader audience. I can't even sit and listen to Jon Stewart most nights because his extreme politics get me too upset.

As for "Monk", Elizondo is a fine actor; I just wish I still cared about the show. I may watch his first episode, and then likely stop.

I do agree with you Phillip about Tuesdays and Wednesdays - NOTHING. The shows are dead zones void of anything good to watch. When my choices range from "CSI: New York" to "Criminal Minds" to "American idol" and "Back to You", I will likely switch over and watch a few more of my saved "John Adams" episodes.

Thursday, on the other hand, is a goldmine. The best night of the week by a mile.

Phillip Ramati said...

Well, my original point is that Fallon may or may not stink. We might as well wait until he actually has a show before passing judgment.

NBC wants the younger audience that advertisers crave, and they feel they will get that with Conan, who appeals more to that audience than Leno does.

My point with Kimmel was the videos got people to take notice of his show, and since he also appeals to that younger market, this is his chance to build on that.

In the end, though, none of them can really compete with the stuff on Comedy Central.

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