In broadcasting you usually don’t know you’re doing your last show! That’s part of the reason it’s every broadcaster’s fantasy to have one chance to go off as a class act (or flaming a-hole) and say all those things you always wanted to say, but couldn’t. Tonight was Conan’s night.
This is a very complex story with heroes and villains.
Briefly, NBC made some serious mistakes and tried to get Conan to share the blame.
Correctly, Conan refused to hold hands with the guy getting electrocuted! That one move of defiance has jumped started whatever Conan will do next.
At the same time Conan’s 11:35 PM show was an unquestioned ratings disaster. His recent actions may have bought him a pass from the public, but the industry knows he underperformed in nearly every possible way.
Was he too hip for Middle America? Maybe. Personally I think the show should have stayed in New York.
In the end NBC looks foolish and vindictive and pays through the nose. If anyone outside the business cared about NBC’s Jeff Zucker they’d wonder how he’s staying employed through all of this? I’m wondering.
Would you still be employed after a decision you personally made proved so costly?
Jay Leno, who also shouldn’t be the villain right now, turns into the poster child for Dear Abby’s¹ famous, “Time wounds all heels.” He is the Hannibal Lechter of late night television!
Jay’s crime was beating out David Letterrman for the Tonight Show and then winning in the ratings even though he is less smart, less talented and certainly less funny than Dave.
He is literally a victim of his own success. I guess that’s sad, though I feel no sympathy.
I’ve had friends who should know tell me Jay isn’t a nice guy. Is that true or just sour grapes? No way to know.
That characterization has gotten a lot a play recently. Jay is injured by it.
So, Conan gets a last show and an “A” list line-up for it. Tom Hanks said, “In our house, you will always be the host of The Tonight Show.” Will Ferrell sang off-key. Neil young sang on-key. Steve Carell gave him his NBC exit interview.
In his valedictorian address Conan said: “I hate cynicism, It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”
Finally, he walks away with a boatload of money.
Money can make life easier, but it is not the key to happiness. Satisfaction comes with accomplishment.
Conan will be back.
¹ – I find no evidence on the Internet she is the originator of that line though I always thought she was. Whatever.