Saturday, June 06, 2009

Late night thoughts

This week was an historic one for television here in the States. (That last phrase is a nod to my readers in India, the United Kingdom, and parts unknown.) Allow me to be among the last to share my thoughts on the Tonight Show changeover.

Leno or Letterman. For years, the question has been as essential to any get-to-know-me email questionnaire or Facebook quiz as Coke or Pepsi, paper or plastic, Lauren or Audrina. But like my dad said about my weekly allowance when I turned 35, those days are over, son.

I should preface this by saying that I've always been a Letterman guy. I never watched Leno much, unless someone I wanted to see was on. Unlike my Mom, who always seemed to be able to see every second of both shows even though they're on at exactly the same time. She does the same thing with Good Morning America and that show with Matt Lauer.

Ironically, when Leno announced he would be stepping down--like eight years ago--it caused me to start watching Letterman more often, because I suddenly realized he wouldn't be around forever, either.

Leno's last Tonight Show is one of those events that gives tangible evidence of the passing of time. The end of something that spanned several years of our lifetimes. It's the kind of event you want to experience being surrounded by those who mean the most to you. So naturally, I watched it with the Darryls.

The Jay Walking flashbacks were hilarious and the end was cool. But the entire segment with Conan, I didn't find funny at all. None of us did. We were sitting there waiting to laugh, wanting to laugh, but unable to. It's kinda like that dream where you try to scream but can't.

And I'd like to think that our collective sense of humor encompasses a broad spectrum of comedy, ranging from incredibly childish to somewhat immature. LJ enjoys Wipeout and Chelsea Lately. Wolfgang is a fan of "that's what she said" and jokes found on keychains. While I laugh at The Office, Dumb & Dumber, and people with jet wings on their vehicles.

I missed Conan's first Tonight Show as I was on my way back from Nashville, but I did catch him Tuesday night. Again, I wasn't overly impressed. I'm sure he'll become more comfortable in time, but I'm already back to watching Letterman.

That's the great thing about television. If nothing good is on one channel, you can spend several minutes surfing through tens or hundreds of other channels. Chances are, you'll find nothing on them, either. But at least you've killed a few minutes looking.

It's not exactly going out on a limb to say Conan will probably never become an icon like Carson, or even Letterman. I imagine he'll probably wind up falling somewhere between Arsenio and Chevy Chase in the pages of late night history. Just think if Arsenio was still around, the dog pound last Friday night could have been People Who Couldn't Get In To Leno's Last Tonight Show. *sniff* (OK, it's been fifteen years, Bone. Let it go.)

Earlier this week, I was watching that Alex Trebek show and they had a Conan O'Brien category. On nearly all the questions, the contestants just stood there, mouths agape, not buzzing in. I felt bad for him. Conan, not Alex.

Then I thought, maybe really smart people just go to bed early. Which would help explain why I'm up to 1 AM most weeknights.

"I stay up with the late late show. It's just another way I know, to get through one night a day..."


  1. Hello Bone~ I don't stay up to watch the late shows but, when I have Letterman has gotten under my skin. I think he hurts peoples feelings and thinks that it's funny. Anyway... I would be inclined to change the channel too if I didn't like what was on a channel I was watching. Have a great day.

  2. I'm with you Bone. I would rather watch Letterman than Conan...notice how we use the elder show's last names while with this punk we choose to use his first name instead? He hasn't earned our respect...and from what I have seen of his former show he never will.

    Time to watch Food Network!

  3. I did like Johnny Carson and Saturday night live back in the 70s... I have resisted the urge to write about this-and I will continue to resist! Sorry to hear about the allowance.

  4. One of those smart people who (usually: tonight is an exception) goes to bed before any of the late-night television is on, people here. It's a good way to be. Then things like this just don't bother me.

    Then again, when I hear people discussing who was on what the night before, I sometimes feel a little left out.

    Not enough to make myself stay up though.

  5. PS: I found the part about your Mom managing to see all of both shows hilarious. For some reason it reminded me of all those stories you hear about moms "having eyes in the back of their heads." Maybe she does, and she has TVs on either side of some wall you don't know about so she can watch 'em both at the same time.

    Or maybe this paragraph is just proof of why I need to go to bed at an earlier hour.

  6. You would have watched it with the Daryll's

    The first three paragraphs and the last are hilarious. The rest explain my feelings exactly

    Would I be horrible if I said Leno is phony? His niceness grates. i want my late night host to be acerbic, witty, catch every great and horrible quality in late night guests--Letterman's beyond brilliant. I love the way he becomes like a little kid and cracks up at his own jokes. Sometimes I've seen horrible monologues and top ten lists--but usually....And he respects people who deserve our respect--Sully, Amy Sedaris and many more

    Conan was brought in to capture the "young" audience but even youth appreciates real wit and brilliance

    I'm going back to watch HGTV

  7. I never saw Carson and detested Leno. Well maybe detest is a little harsh. I always watched Letterman, if any of them.

    I pay for premium channels because I do tend to stay up late and I want to catch the movies they play, the ones I've missed( all of them) and the Japanese ones which are always better, not to mention Dexter.

    So, I have a disappearing allowance to look forward to in a decade or so?

  8. Michelle Johnson - Well I think just about any of the late night monologues make fun of someone or other. I never thought of Letterman as mean-spirited, though.

    Renee - "This punk."

    Haha. You cracked me up with that comment. I think you're just a closet Bania fan myself ;)

    Sage - Carson was made for that job, no doubt. He was smooth, not just with the monologue, but with unscripted back-and-forth dialogue.

    I always read that Carson thought Letterman should have been his successor.

    And SNL... the last time it was really watchable for me was back in the Sandler/Ferrell days.

    TC - I think sometimes that's the main reason I watch, just to be able to talk about it the next day with co-workers or friends.

    As to your PS, I don't know how she does it. Especially since she doesn't have DVR and I'm pretty sure still can't work the VCR :)

    Pia - I'm becoming a bit disturbed at how many of life's big moments I'm spending with the Darryls.

    I agree with all you said about Letterman. In addition, I think with the bypass surgery and having a child, it's made him more of a real person. Someone viewers have come to care about.

    I'll be sad when he retires. It'll never be the same.

    Cooper - I don't pay for premium channels (or get them illegally, for that matter). But I do enjoy catching some of the old movies on AMC and TCM. And Mad Men is pretty good. Actually, I meant to include something about Mad Men in the post but it didn't really fit.

    Yes, enjoy it while you can :)

  9. The passage of time. It ruins everything!! I did not want to see Will & Grace go, but it's gone. Desperate Housewives was a dream come true...FIVE years ago; it, too, will eventually be worm food. It irks me to see these great things slowly fade away. I wonder what my mother thinks when she sees a rerun of I Love Lucy or an old Carson skit. Sigh.

  10. "Chances are, you'll find nothing on them, either. But at least you've killed a few minutes looking." AMEN!

    I didn't watch the end, but I wish I would have stayed up. I'm usually in bed before the news. Say what you want!
    But I'm a Letterman girl. I really like Jay, but for some reason I always watch Letterman.

  11. Letterman rules but Carson was the emperor

  12. People still have - and use for recording purposes - VCRs? Wow.


  13. Sean P. Farley - Yes. And along those same lines, I did not want to see Bob Barker leave the Price Is Right, either.

    OK Chick - Glad to hear you're a Letterman girl. I'm kinda the same way. I don't mind Jay. But I've been watching Letterman since his NBC days and haven't looked back.

    noStrokes - In my mind, Letterman inherited the crown when Carson retired.

    TC - Yes, as a matter of fact, we do!

    I mean, they do.

  14. My dislike for Leno goes all the way back to his Doritos commercials. No clue why, but I have never been a fan. Letterman? I like.

  15. Ah, the cat's out of the bag now. YOU still use your VCR to record, huh? What are you... like one of the only five people in America to still do so? ;-)

    (There are days I wish I had one to do that, since I think a DVR is gonna be out of my budget for a lonnnnnnnnnnng time.)

  16. hey bone! how are you?
    I guess I have to disagree with many of your readers. I Love ALL of them!
    even Jay even Conan.. they all make me laugh!! to me.. Jay looks like a hell of a nice guy Just like Carson seemed to be. I love Dave BUT after a while,like your mom!, I flip to see what the other is saying!
    I missed Conans first two shows, but dvr'd the rest of the week and I was truly laughing!! I don't think he will fail, but bring it back to the steve allen style of comedy that it used to have (of course that was BEFORE my time!)
    I so liked that you did a post about this, and I really enjoyed lenos last night with all the staff's kids coming on stage.. conan followed it up by doing a similar bit.. but ALL the kids had red hair and freckles!
    (see ..Isn't that so funny!!)? haha

  17. Kontan - I can only vaguely remember him doing some commercials. Can't remember anything about them though.

    TC - No!

    Not since this season of The Office ended anyway O:)

    Lucy - It's nice to have a couple of choices for late night viewing. Although if a Seinfeld rerun is on anywhere, I'm usually watching that anyway :)

  18. I've been dvr'ing Conan. I'm enjoying it. I've always liked him more than Leno. Letterman irks me. I've never found him funny.

  19. Honestly, it's been years since I watched either of them. Not that I'm not up that late - trust me, I am - but I just am not a late night TV gal. I guess that shows that neither of them really hooks me. (don't tell them I said that...)