When the news hit the internet in a tidal wave of TMZ reports and Twitters today, what was an ordinary day in comedy TV land became a mind boggling roller coaster ride of rumors and tales of breath taking network television stupidity. Imagine the gall of taking the career of Conan O'Brien, prepping him for the prime promotion of Tonight Show host for five years, have he and his staff uproot their families and lives from New York to Los Angeles, only to find the new gig to be an experiment that just doesn't work. Then, throw in Jay Leno, who would kindly take back his old job, stand in the midst of this sinking ship, sail through rumors of cancelation, clinging on with various scenarios of 11:35pm start time here, while Conan starts up at 12:05pm there. Meanwhile, the very hilarious Jimmy Fallon, whose show is becoming a blast for the young and farty like me, sort of bangs lightly against the hull of the Titanic known as NBC. Needless to say, despite the bumps, he may be the safest of all.
Bill Carter of NYTimes has posted the latest this evening. There is a possible solution at hand whereby Leno could start after the news at 11:35pm for a 30 minute monologue show, pushing Conan to 12:05pm and Fallon pushed later. Oh God, my head hurts. I just want Johnny Carson to come back to life and kick someone's ass big time.
I interned and ultimately worked at NBC when it was the number one network. Golden Girls, Cosby, Seinfeld, were highly desired shows by local affiliates and O&O's. Brandon Tartikoff, a talented executive who dealt with his own flops from time to time (Hello Larry!), was head of programming and knew how to turn brass into gold. Today, the network is a mess. Patching up the leaky holes in the late night line up is not going to save anyone.
I'm sure there will be more to come in days ahead.