Oprah Encourages Audience to Pity Leno, Not Conan

The media and the public have been going crazy about Jay Leno’s interview with Oprah yesterday. You can find people tweeting about it even today, and the “I’m with Coco” Facebook page has received almost thousands of comments regarding the Oprah show. (Beware: Some of the comments say nasty things about both Jay and Oprah. These people are hardcore.)

As someone who considers herself on Team Conan, I made a point to watch the show yesterday morning. The interview itself was obviously supposed to redeem whatever’s left of Leno’s “everyday nice guy” image, and many writers have been referring to the episode as a means of “damage control” for Jay. For the general public and the media, it didn’t work. People are still siding with Conan. But for Oprah and her stage audience? Well, that’s a different story.

Since Leno came off as aloof, unemotional, and an NBC puppet, the interview was not as enlightening as I had expected it to be. The most dramatic part was probably when Oprah told Jay she thought the jokes at Letterman about his infidelity were “beneath” him, and Leno lied saying he only told one Letterman joke all week. (False. He told more than one.) And the only tough question Oprah really asked was why Leno didn’t just pack up and leave after NBC “fired” (more like pandered to) him twice. Jay responded that he’s just a guy who got fired from his job, and when offered his old job back, he took it.

“And really, who can blame him?” is what we are supposed to think after watching this. But as far as I can tell, the only people who fell into this trap were the people in Oprah’s audience for the after-show debate about the late night controversy. You can watch the whole video on Oprah’s official website.  For Conan fans, it will be truly infuriating to watch.

In a nutshell: The audience has watched the already-taped interview with Leno, and Oprah opens up a floor of discussion that’s supposed to include both arguments in favor of either Conan or Leno. For the next half hour or so, Oprah shoves the Leno bias down her audience’s throats, saying constantly after explaining something, “Do you all understand that? Do you realize that’s what happened here?”

She won’t let up, and then the audience turns out to be almost completely on Leno’s side. In fact, the only people who get applause after their arguments are the ones defending Leno. Oprah repeats her arguments in favor or Leno, and basically ends up regurgitating what Jay already said in the interview.

Highlights of points from both Oprah and her audience are listed below. (The parentheses include my commentary):

  • Jay Leno is just a guy who lost his job.
  • Jay Leno is just a guy who took back his job when it was offered to him.
  • Jay Leno does not consider himself a talk show host; he considers himself a stand-up comedian. (Except he’s not funny, so how do you figure that?)
  • Jay Leno “wasn’t done yet” when NBC told him to pass the torch to Conan.
  • Jay Leno deserves 30 years just like Johnny Carson. (Dear God, help us all.)
  • Jay Leno was No. 1 on the Tonight Show for many years after 17 years.
  • After 7 whole months, Conan was NOT No. 1! What a failure!
  • Conan just couldn’t get the ratings. TV is about the ratings.
  • Leno doesn’t own himself – NBC does.
  • Unlike Leno, Oprah owns herself.
  • “Team Coco” should have watched the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien while it was on the air, instead of just supporting him after he was about to leave. (Okay Oprah, I’ll give you that.)
  • Jay Leno is a nice, funny guy.
  • David Letterman is a bully.
  • No one should feel sorry for Conan – he got 40-something million dollars. (And, as proof that he’s a better person than Leno, shared it with his whole staff.)
  • Many people in the audience really had no clue what happened in the Late Show War except for what they saw in the Oprah interview. (Great. And now you’re getting air time to debate the issue.)
  • Asked multiple times by Oprah: “Raise your hands if you changed your mind after watching this interview.”
  • As far as O is concerned, you damn well should have changed your mind after this interview.
  • NBC handled this whole thing poorly and was unfair to both O’Brien and Leno.

And, my favorite repeated point from Ms. Winfrey:

  • That’s just how TV works. Tough.

What a crock of…Ahem. Sorry, Team Conan coming out. I don’t want to start hating on O, but basically, the degree to how one-sided this whole group discussion was really disgusted me. I wish I had been in that audience, so I could’ve pointed out all the things in defense of Conan that were conveniently left out of the conversation.

Oh, and by the way – Happy Birthday, Oprah.

A Tribute to Conan O’Brien: I Grew Up with ‘Coco’

The now famous image around the internet in support of Conan O'Brien. Author: Mike Mitchell.

With tonight being the last one of the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, I figured it was only appropriate to write a tribute to a man I’ve been watching since the fifth grade. Interestingly enough, Conan’s mix of subtle, clever, and (self-aware) stupid humor entertained me when I was ten and entertains me now at twenty-three.

With the announcement in 2004 that Conan was replacing Leno on the Tonight Show in 2009, it was bittersweet news. It was great that he’d be on the air indefinitely at an earlier time slot with more of a budget and a bigger audience; but it also worried me that Conan might be forced to become vanilla, lame, and not funny. Why? Because with Jay Leno being the host for seventeen years, what else was I to expect?

“Indefinitely” turned into seven months for Conan, while his late night predecessors obviously had several years. This whole drama with NBC, O’Brien, and Leno is certainly not the most important thing going on in the world right now – and Conan makes a point of mentioning this every show while asking his audience to donate to help Haiti. But as far as television goes, it’s a major disappointment.

Conan may be a generational thing. After all, my generation happens to largely prefer O’Brien to Leno, or even Letterman sometimes. In a way we grew up with him. He was able to make us laugh all these years while we were going through puberty, sneakily staying up later than our bedtimes to watch him even though we had to get up for school at 6 in the morning, graduating high school, and throughout our formative college years when we officially became young adults.

Really, it’s no wonder this “Facebook and Twitter” generation has paraded the streets and the internet in defense of Conan O’Brien near the end of his show. So on behalf of all of us, I’d like to say thanks to “Coco” for all the laughs. We sure as hell hope they continue on another network in the near future.

The Downfall of NBC Late Night

When I was a little boy, I remember watching ‘The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson’ and thinking ‘Someday, I’m going to host that show for seven months.’

That’s a joke from Conan O’Brien, the current (but possibly not for much longer) host of The Tonight Show.

As everyone knows by now, NBC decided to make another poor decision for late night when they announced that they wished to move Jay Leno’s horrible new show to the 11:35 pm slot. Thus, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien would be bumped up to 12:05 am. And thus, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon would be bumped up to an even later time. Conan announced in his perfectly clear and honest statement that he did not wish to move The Tonight Show or Late Night up to later time slots.

Part of his statement read:

For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

Here’s what I don’t get: NBC would screw over both of these shows – even the long-standing and respected Tonight Show – just for Jay Leno because his new show is failing miserably? I mean, do we as an audience really need or even want Leno on television anymore? I sure as hell don’t. But NBC can’t let go, and that just may be the downfall of their late show program.

Apparently, Leno is upset too, which came through in his monologue on January 11th. But I can’t really find the sympathy for him. Yes, NBC screwed up big time. But I’m over Leno, and I’m not sure that many other people would miss him once he’s gone.

I’d much prefer that they let Fallon keep his Late Night spot, and more importantly, just give Conan O’Brien a chance to fulfill his long-time dream of being the host of The Tonight Show. He was always a better host and interviewer than Leno, and I think NBC could have found themselves a modern-day Johnny Carson if they had just played their cards right.

Overall? It’s a damn shame. Though we’ll have to wait and see what kind of agreement or settlement O’Brien and the network come to, it’s not lookin’ good for NBC’s late night.