Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

Jeeg and I both have expressed our fondness for Conan O'Brien and on Twitter and The Facebook, I've been dropping hints at my disdain for the recent events brought on by NBC. It's hard to find something new to say about this that hasn't been said. Even as I try to compose this post, I find that I harken back to things I said weeks ago.

I guess what fascinates me the most is the immense following Conan has and the support he's gotten in recent weeks. Especially in contrast to the guy they're replacing him with...the one who had the best ratings in that time slot for 15 years.  First, even though I'm not a Neilsen family, I can't help but feel a bit guilty for not having watched Conan's Tonight Show more. With the grad school and the kids and the [fill in the blank excuse here], I just haven't been able to catch the show as much as I'd like.  I forced myself to stay up and watch the last three episodes live (followed by a ceremonial deprogramming of NBC off of my programmed channels list on early Saturday morning). I can't help but wonder where all these millions of people who were watching Conan the past couple weeks were. Had they been watching earlier, Conan wouldn't be out of a job right now.

What does this say, though? The times they are a-changin' and my generation (Gen X) and the generations that come after mine don't watch appointment television the same way we used to and the way our parents did/do. NBC graduated Roosterhead to the big chair to appeal to us and then have shunned us seven months later.  It's been interesting to read all the theories behind why Conan has gotten such a swell of support. Some have theorized that it's a generational thing, Gen X versuse Boomers.  Maybe there's something to that. It's time for us to have OUR Tonight Show now. (But then we don't watch it.)  Others have theorized the support just comes from a vicarious desire to be able to tell our bosses what we think in much the same way Conan has been able to. That may be it, too.

I see both of those reasonings, but for me, it's something more. Maybe my feelings on the matter can be summed up best in an e-mail I send to the other Nerd Lunchers:
I'll admit that I'm taking this whole Conan thing a bit more personally than I should.  I think every kid has those lofty dreams they want to chase.  I had several.  Write the Superman comics.  Become a Muppeteer.  Host The Tonight Show.  And then reality sets in and it becomes something you stop chasing.  Conan never stopped chasing.  He's me if I didn't stop chasing and actually got the big chair.  So if NBC has indeed told him he's out, NBC has told me that I'm out, too.
 I don't know where Conan will end up. My current guess is that he'll end up somewhere doing something that is similar but never reaches the heights he achieved during Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Or maybe he'll surprise me and do something even better. Whatever he does, I hope he never stops chasing.


Carlin said...

I feel I should mention that the picture I included is my desk at work. I made Conan my desktop background. He's become a symbol for me there. And that's all I'll say.

Jeeg said...

This whole situation has me more fired up than I would expect. Which is strange, because despite really liking Conan and his shtick, late night TV has never been my bag. I think I watched a mere 3 episodes of Conan's Tonight Show run.

After giving it some thought, I think I've been influenced greatly by some of the secondary factors you mentioned, CT.

1) Conan is probably not inviting Vin Diesel over to play Dungeons & Dragons on the weekends, but he's one of the closest things we have to a nerd representative on TV. So Conan being shown the door stirs up all kinds of high school memories of being ostracized or toyed with by the cool kids.

2) I found the scorched earth campaign against NBC, starting with the "People of Earth" letter, to be deeply satisfying. All of us have probably been in situations when we've had to pay the price for poor decisions made by bosses, but Conan had the luxury of doing what most of us cannot, giving the bosses a humorous, verbal middle finger.

Christian said...

I had the privilege of watching a live taping of his Late Night show many years ago. DB Sweeney & Carol Shaya were guests. What does that mean? Nothing, I just like to brag. But my main concern is what Conan is going to do next. I would really be concerned if he tries to do another late night talk show at 11:30 or later. He will have stiff competition with Letterman's audience & the mopes who go back to watching Leno. I love the stuff out of Conan but I'd hate to see him take another kick at the can & get burned again. Here's to hoping that I'm wrong.

Carlin said...

I also attended a live taping of Late Night. May 6, 1998. The guests were Michael J. Fox and Dave Foley. I was inches away from the behemoth known as Conan O'Brien.

I share your concern about Conan's next gig. I'd like to think that if Fox gets him they'll give him enough time to establish himself and really stick by him no matter what the ratings are. But that's not really a great description of Fox's track record, it is?

Christian said...

Inches away! You win. I had to stand in the back for the entire show. BUT! I did get half my face on camera as the credits rolled. My network debut. I wonder if I could find that episode online? That same day I also was at a taping of the Maury Povich show. I don't brag too much about that. Although you do see a lot of me in the background.

Carlin said...

I didn't want to do this, but you've forced my hand with your Maury Povich story.

My attending Late Night with Conan O'Brien was not my first interaction with the NBC Late Night program. In 1992, sometime in November, I had a letter read by David Letterman on his Viewer Mail segment of the program. And not only that, but in a weird fluke, I managed to tape the show in spite of not knowing my letter would be read. It was a surreal experience and I still can't believe it to this day.

Here's the video:
CT as Dave's straight man

Christian said...

Good gravy! You definitely put the t on TRUMP on that one. That is so absolutely awesome I can't even describe it. You had a letter read on Late Night with David Letterman. Man, jealous doesn't even begin to describe. I'd be repeating that story so many times I'm sure I would have been murdered by my friends long ago. Good show! Well back to my meager existence.