Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Leno vs Conan O'?
If you've read the news daily, you're bound to have read about the NBC nighttime drama surrounding the Leno/O'Brian debacle. It's hardly news, I know, but it's there. We need distractions in order to be able to deal with the really somber news and 'Jay' controversy is certainly better than any and all collective Kardashian nonsense. A lot of people seem to have a lot of opinions on the NBC drama. Mine is mostly informed by my basic entertainment practices. If I had to choose between Jay and Conan, I'd pick Jay. Why? Because I like his unapologetic and genrally hypocrisy-free embracing of mediocrity. That, in and of itself, makes for good comedy. I've always thought that to be his shtick and his best winning quality. Conan, on the other hand, seems to want to exude a kind of elevated elegance that never quite translates to much. I find him generally boring, aesthetically unimpressive, and intellectually as gripping as a Paul Rudd or Oprah. I don't get his appeal. De gustibus non disputandum est seems to go the saying. This is more that that, though.
Jay managed to be successful for a basic reason: he appealed to many and he was darn good when it came to keeping people's interest over time. Whether I was into punk or prog or you name it, I always 'dug' his monologues. Much better than those by Letterman or O'Brian. Maybe Kimmel's joke delivery is a bit better but his show comes at a time I'm told I'm supposed to be in bed so that's a no-go.
O'Brian on the other hand refuses to appeal to more people in an effort to keep this supposed edge that he says he possesses. But where is this edge? In the string dance? Andy's little interjections? The only good thing the new Tonight Show has going is the Max Weinberg music arrangements and that's not saying much about Conan. It says much about Max and the likes of Springsteen but that's another blog.
So, I would say Leno is a better choice than Conan, really. Different people have spoken against Leno and interstingly enough, the reason why they speak against him is because he's simply been too successful and he's been working too long. He should retire now, say they. Am I to understand that the more one works and the more successful one becomes, the more he/she needs to get penalized? Ple- to the -ase!
Leno is not the best comedian out there. Granted, there are many other people who could do a far better job. What he has, though, is a John Carson-esque quality of transcendent mass appeal. And isn't that what the Tonight Show represents? A chance for many to watch something together and be entertained similarly at the end of a hard day?
I don't go out of my way to watch Leno as I don't really care a whole lot for commercial TV. If I am to watch it, I'm bound to watch HBO for the most part, really. But if I had to pick a team, I'd pick Leno. And who am I kidding? The fact that Jay is West-bound has something to do with my choice too. I dig the west and its vibe. Aren't we all entitled to having favorites, after all? And what about sportsmanship? Jay's been able to beat Letterman and Conan and that's worth something. I am not likely to say the following in any other settings, but mass appeal and mediocrity should be embraced in this case. Don't hate, supposed margin-dwellers, study and adapt instead. You might do better that way.