Truth In Advertising: Fail

However (you knew this was coming) there’s a series of ads for an upcoming appearance that’s got me upset/confused.

We’ve been staying at the Mirage. It’s not the newest hotel in Las Vegas, but it’s beautifully maintained and still has a first class feel. We’ve eaten in the restaurants, seen a show and gambled a little. We could not be happier.

However (you knew this was coming) there’s a series of ads for an upcoming appearance that’s got me upset/confused.

Mirage is promoting the “Aces of Comedy.” Jay Leno will be there and solely by virtue of The Tonight Show he qualifies. The second “Ace” is Larry King.

Seriously? Larry King? Ace of Comedy?

Maybe the never watched Larry? Actually, it’s more likely they’ve put him in this category because they have! Sad.

Living The Fantasy: Conan’s Last Tonight Show

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.”

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’s&#185 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.

&#185 – I find no evidence on the Internet she is the originator of that line though I always thought she was. Whatever.

Big Deal In The TV World

Is this the beginning of the end for network TV? Maybe.

I got an email early this evening from Matt Scott, another meteorologist at the TV station.

“look at this! holy cow! – will others follow?”

There was a link to a WHDH news story… or maybe a press release. Can you actually report a news story about yourself?

BOSTON — Starting in September, you will be able to watch 7NEWS at 10 p.m. on 7NBC.

For those of you who have a hard time staying awake, Frances Rivera and Kim Khazei will bring you a full hour of local news an hour earlier, followed by 7NEWS at 11.

It’s what wasn’t said that’s most important. WHDH, Channel 7 in Boston will not be running the new Jay Leno Show at 10:00 PM. This is quite unexpected, especially in Boston, Leno’s hometown! I’m not sure exactly the totality of what it says about the future of local/network television, but I’m sure it says things are going to be very different.

NBC quickly pushed back hard. As reported in Boston.com:

“WHDH’s move is a flagrant violation of the terms of their contract with NBC,” said John Eck, president of NBC TV Network. “If they persist, we will strip WHDH of its NBC affiliation. We have a number of other strong options in the Boston market, including using our existing broadcast license to launch an NBC owned and operated station.”

Maybe they do have options, but none with the incumbent strength of WHDH. Even though WHDH’s ratings are down they still hold a lot of swagger in that market.

Here are some of the variables.

  • From NBC’s standpoint the earlier announcement of Jay Leno’s move to 10:00 PM removed an expensive hour of episodic programming, usually owned by others, for a cheap-to-produce show they own. They were willing to give up ratings with the thought their bottom line wouldn’t suffer… maybe it would even improve.
  • From the local affiliates standpoint Leno brings them reduced revenue and ratings with no reduction in cost. The assumption is the lead-in to their late local news would be lower as well, meaning Leno would cost them money in more than one hour per night.
  • Sunbeam, owners of WHDH, have a rocky history with NBC. They sued and later dropped their suit when NBC took their Miami affiliation away years ago. NBC took the affiliation because they had bought a Sunbeam competitor.

Is this the beginning of the end for network TV? Maybe.

Cable is starting to mount nearly as much first run programming as the traditional nets. The revenue model is different in cable where advertising is augmented by subscriber fees. I have been personally disappointed to see broadcast TV stations start to re-run shows that first appeared on cable.

The idea of distributing programming and bypassing local affiliates has to be enticing to the the traditional networks. They can cut out the middleman and his profit!

What do local broadcasters do? I’m not sure, but it will almost certainly have to include more, and cheaper, local programming.

From a selfish standpoint that’s not too awful for me. I could easily help a local station fill a few hours with a talk show or something else that’s aimed at a specific geographic audience.

Meanwhile I’m sure no one knows what the next step in this intricate chess game will be. Will WHDH relent? Will the networks fall apart? Will a local station admit they need local on-air talent? Who knows?

Leno To 10PM–Very Smart

With this one move NBC guarantees its future going forward. It’s an offensive, defensive and strategic move all at the same time.

“NBC will keep Jay Leno five nights a week, but in prime time, competing not with David Letterman, but with shows like “C.S.I. Miami.” The network will announce Tuesday that Mr. Leno’s new show will appear at 10 o’clock each weeknight in a format similar to “The Tonight Show,” which he has hosted since 1993. – Bill Carter, NY Times

jay-conan.jpgThis is genius. With this one move NBC guarantees its future going forward. It’s an offensive, defensive and strategic move all at the same time.

No secret here–network television (and local television) is in sad shape. Our business model continues to deteriorate in this horrible economic climate and in the face of increased competition from the Internet. NBC and the other networks have to do something to remain viable.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a cost saving move. The Tonight Show, even with an enlarged budget, is light years cheaper to produce than scripted episodic television. I would guess the demographics are comparable, maybe even better than episodic fare.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM lets NBC run a program that it controls 100%. There is no one but Leno to deal with. I’d guess he’s getting a long term commitment.

Moving Jay Leno to 10:00 PM is a defensive move. With Conan O’Brien set to take the 11:35 PM slot there were rumors of Leno jumping to ABC. Obviously, that’s off the table. At this moment, NBC ‘owns’ all the established talk show talent except David Letterman–who has seen much better days.

This is bad news for the Hollywood production community. Five weekly hours of high budget TV will no longer be produced. That will throw a lot of people out-of-work.

How this move do anything but benefit NBC? Even slightly lower ratings than what’s being replaced (if that happens) still has the potential to produce higher net revenue. Whether the affiliates benefit remains to be seen. Over the past decade networks have shown less than unwavering support for their local stations.

Tweeting on Twitter, the Times Brian Stelter says, “Leno at 10 would seem somewhat DVR-proof and Web-proof — a smart move by NBC, right?”

I wonder if he’ll do the show live? He should.

Geeky Me

I have built my last few PCs. I’m about to build my next.

Actually, it’s more of a rebuild, replacing the older guts of one system with new innards. It’s very exciting… it is. Oh c’mon, humor me… please.

I’m not sure she asked in so many words, but Helaine wanted to know why I needed another computer? After all, I have 4 desktop machines and a few laptops. There are more carcasses and parts scattered in the attic and in a cabinet in my office. Most of the working machines are older, discards from friends and family.

The computer that should be my main squeeze has become unusable. It was unstable (hey, who isn’t). As of last night, I can’t even get it to boot. My backup machine isn’t exactly poky, but it’s way behind the times.

OK – There’s really no reason. I can’t say I need a new computer. This is like Jay Leno having a garage full of classic cars and cycles or my daughter’s collection of shoes and bags.

The faster processor will make a significant difference when I work on photos or edit video. Both are tasks I do a lot.

Actually, it’s faster processors – plural. I am buying a new AMD dual core CPU.

If you’re glazing over now, I’m not sure this entry will get any better.

In order to use the CPU, I’ll need a new motherboard. And the new chip and motherboard will need a new cooling system. Computer chips get really hot and if left to their own devices would quickly go poof.

There’s been lots of research reading about various motherboards, CPUs and chipsets. How much memory? What kind of memory? There’s lots to think about.

Here’s the rundown:

Motherboard: 110642 – Asus A8N-VM CSM GeForce 6150 Video/Audio/IEEE1394/Gigabit LAN/USB2

Processor: 120364 – AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Dual-Core 512K cache/core

Heatsink Fan: 130099 – Zalman CNPS7000B-AlCu Silent CPU Cooling

Memory: 140895 – DDR (400) 3200 – 1 GB (2 pcs 512) OCZ Value

Warranty: 800125 – Standard Tech Support, 6 Month

Nero 7 Promotion: 210614 – Nero 7 Ultra Edition Retail Box FREE!

When the box comes, the surgery will take place on the kitchen table. There are no instructions, but putting together computers is relatively simple – really. The whole job shouldn’t take more than a half hour, though it will probably take closer to three hours.

With Microsoft’s new Vista operating system a year away, plus more and more enforcement of digital rights management, this might be the last time I’ll be able to build my own machine and expect it to perform with mainstream applications. That’s sad.

I’ll let you know how the build works out, because surely, though my heart is set on this new system, it will break my heart.

Right Song – Wrong Artist

After everyone left the house I turned the TV on. As it turned out, Jay Leno was on and Smash Mouth was singing.

Let me establish, I’m a fan. I really like Smash Mouth, especially their first hit, All Star.

OK – am I off the hook? Good, because they committed a major sin in my eyes by performing Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

Every year, on his last show before the Christmas break, David Letterman has Darlene Love on and she sings Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Hers is the definitive version. No matter how good Smash Mouth is, they’re not Darlene Love.

Why intrude on this Christmas tradition? There are so many other songs they could have used.

I know this seems petty, but if you watch Letterman when Darlene appears in a few weeks, you’ll understand. She’s that good.

Quick Emmy Observation

I was sitting for a while, watching the Emmys. This show, unfortunately, has less of an appeal to me than it once did. It could be because of how diffuse TV has become.

With 100+ channels, how can any one show be known by all, or even most?

When David Letterman came on to introduce the Johnny Carson retrospective, Helaine turned to ask how Jay Leno must have felt? Good question.

OK, it’s possible to justify this by saying the Emmys are on CBS. Still, it always seems Jay succeeded Johnny but has never really been his successor. Do you know what I’m getting at?

Toward the end of the Tonight Show clips, the famous scene with George Gobel, Bob Hope, Dean Martin and an ascot wearing Johnny Carson came on. It’s the one where Gobel says he feels like life is a tuxedo and he’s a pair of brown shoes.

Whether ad lib or scripted, it’s one of the all time classic talk show lines.

I wondered aloud, how many of those watching knew who these three guys were. Helaine said a lot of them don’t even know who Johnny was.

Not only that, when was the last time a talk show had two “A” list and one “B” list guests out at once (sorry George)? I’ll bet none of them was plugging anything. This was in an era of career enhancement, not product placement.

The class comedian moment of the night was when Jon Stewart’s show won and he came up, saying Letterman was his Carson. Now Jay has a reason to feel bad.

Blogger’s note: A friend, who was actually at the ceremony, told me he watched Jay Leno get up and leave as soon as his category’s winner was announced.

California Here We Come

With snow on the way for tomorrow and chilly temperatures still in the forecast, we are excited about our upcoming vacation to California. We’ll be spending time in Los Angeles and then Palm Springs (someplace we’ve never been).

Many times, I have heard people talk about going on vacation and not wanting to do touristy things. Not us – the tackier and more touristy, the better!

We’ll be going to Universal and walking the beach behind the beautiful homes in Malibu. I’ll take my camera and shoot thousands of shots. We had hoped to see three TV shows but it looks like we’ll be 0 for 3 in that regard.

The OC, which is a show that doesn’t have a studio audience is shooting in Miami. So, no matter how much help I had from highly placed friends, that isn’t happening. Same thing with Jay Leno. Here’s a guy who’s a workaholic… probably does the show 50 weeks a year. Gone. The show will be dark. Bad timing on our part.

We had also hoped for Ellen Degeneres, but again, circumstances got in the way. Actually, Helaine tried months ago, hoping that our out-of-town address would get us in. We never heard from them. Today a well placed friend tried on our behalf, only to be told there were no VIP seats (he requested VIP treatment – not me). Oh well.

We do have reservations for dinner at some ‘happening’ restaurants, and I’ll write more about them while we’re there.

One of the fun things about a California vacation is the chance to see friends who live there and aren’t at close range too often. One of the friends I’ll be seeing is someone I’ve known for nearly 50 years (that was sobering just to write). We’re having lunch our first full day in. The other two have been friends with each other, and me, for nearly 40 years.

My Cousin Michael lives in Southern California with his family and we’re looking forward to spending time with them in Orange County. Stef wants to go to Laguna and other beach communities. Me too. Helaine three.

I would like to live in Los Angeles. I’ve felt that way for a long time. In my business, I’m probably too old… too ‘not hunky.’ I know a lot of people say LA’s phony… and that’s probably true. It also represents the pinnacle in the entertainment industry. For TV, Sinatra would have sung “LA, LA.”

For us, the California lifestyle is very foreign… which makes it fun to play in it for a while. Whether it would lose its luster if I had to deal with it every day is another story.

The trick to California living is realizing it’s not a place to be unless you’re well to do. Southern California is not a good place to be in the middle class – even the upper middle class. Los Angeles is meant to be lived properly with a lot of money. It is definitely a classist society.

For ten days we’ll make believe we belong and hope no one catches on.

Johnny Carson

My friend Farrell just forwarded this to me from Variety:

BREAKING NEWS!

JOHNNY CARSON DIES

Former ‘Tonight Show’ host was 79

Johnny Carson, the “Tonight Show” TV host who served America a smooth nightcap of celebrity banter, droll comedy and heartland charm for 30 years, has died. He was 79. “Mr. Carson passed away peacefully early Sunday morning,” his nephew, Jeff Sotzing, told The Associated Press. “He was surrounded by his family, whose loss will be immeasurable. There will be no memorial service.”

Over the next 24 hours you will learn more about Johnny Carson than you ever knew before. There will be obits and documentaries all over TV and in print. I cannot begin to provide that detail and won’t attempt it. There are a few things I do want to say about Johnny.

I found it interesting that David Letterman, Steve Martin and other people of that ‘stature’ always referred to Johnny Carson as, “Mr. Carson.” In the beginning, I thought it was for effect. I later came to understand it was the best way for them to express their respect.

Without Johnny Carson there would have been no Letterman, Martin, Jay Leno, Joan Rivers or any number of comedians who made their mark on the Tonight Show.

I only saw Johnny perform once. It was in Las Vegas (I think – though it might have been Atlantic City… I’m just not sure). When he walked on stage – the first moment he walked on stage – he was already a hit. I found that remarkable. I have never seen another performer with that kind of presence.

I remember a part of the act where he talked about his childhood in the Midwest. He talked about ‘puberty,’ but pronounced it “poo-berty.” Back then I thought, and I still do now, his pronunciation was to make a point. He was speaking of sexuality and proclaiming innocence at the same time.

When Johnny Carson left the Tonight Show, he never looked back. He became a recluse, at least as far as TV was concerned. He made one or two minor appearances, but was never a headliner or even a performer.

He could have done anything he wanted to do. Any network… any syndicator… any cable outlet would have moved heaven and Earth to get Johnny on for what certainly would have been a major event. He had no desire. He had nothing to prove. I suppose he had everything to lose because major success had already been achieved and was now expected.

I give him credit for resisting the temptation, though I would have preferred he’d done something… just once.

Toward the end of his run on the Tonight Show, Johnny developed a habit that bothered me. The show would end and the band would play as the credits rolled. On set, Johnny would get up and walk off – while the cameras rolled and the audience watched. That was disrespectful to his audience.

It has been said, “The Golden Age is always in the past.” There will never be another Johnny Carson, with a show that so dominated its time period (a time period, at that time, populated by old movies and scratchy prints of re-runs). There will never be another venue so suited to launching careers, and successful in its execution.

It’s sad Johnny without saying goodbye. That is how he wanted it. I’m sure his opinion in this matter was in the minority.

Leno, Conan and the Tonight Show

Forget about the Tonight Show being an NBC tradition. Forget about Johnny and Steve Allen and everyone who has had their career launched there. For a moment, think of the Tonight Show as what it is for NBC, an incredible cash cow.

I have read many estimates of NBC’s profit from the Tonight Show. The prevailing wisdom is somewhere between $75-100,000,000 per year. That’s an unbelievable number, probably the most profitable program NBC runs – possibly more profitable than prime time.

That’s why today’s announcement concerning the Tonight Show is so strange. NBC consistently beats CBS in late night, yet in five years, Conan O’Brien will replace Jay Leno as the Tonight Show’s host.

I can’t think of an announcement NBC could have made that would be more surprising.

It just seems out of character that Jay Leno, a workaholic, devoted to performing, would do this on his own. It’s possible Conan put pressure on NBC – after all the CBS late night show is searching for a host and they don’t want to lose him. But how could NBC ask Jay to go?

None of it makes any sense to me. But now we have five years of hearing the ‘inside story’ and allowing egos to build and possibly boil over.

David Letterman

I’m going to say bad things, so let me start by saying nice things. It’s part of my inherited guilt.

I think David Letterman is the king of talk show hosts. I have been watching him for at least 25 years – maybe more. He has always been on edge, always been witty, always been funny.

Back in Buffalo I kvetched and complained until our program director, Vicki Gregorian, began running his NBC late night show. Did I have anything to do with our finally clearing it? Probably not, but it still felt good and was the right thing to do.

Before I left Buffalo, I threw a party and sent an invitation to Dave. He never answered. I never thought he would, but it was an expression of the depth of my admiration for him.

There have actually been times when I’ve purposely not watched Dave because I felt I was ripping him off. I didn’t do it on purpose, his influence was that strong.

At home, I have the DVR set to record his show every night. I only watch once or twice a week and then I skim. The truth is, Late Night with David Letterman has gotten stale. It hurts me to say that because of all the respect I still have for Dave.

Tonight was a perfect example of what’s gone wrong. Much of the first half of the show was taken up by tired, reused bits like “Will It Float” and “Know Your Current Events.” This is the antithesis of what made Dave what he is – unpredictable, off-the-wall material. This is the guy who jumped into the water wearing a suit of Alka Seltzer, crushed items with a steamroller, and dropped watermelons off a building.

The show can be saved, but someone’s going to have to shock him into it. I don’t know Dave personally, but everything I’ve read says that won’t be easy. It’s time to scrap the repetition and move on.

Who has the guts to tell him?

As it is, a much less astute, less intellectual, but harder working Jay Leno cleans up in the ratings. It just shouldn’t be. Dave has to take a fair share of the blame. Now it’s time to move on and regain what once was.