Friday, January 8, 2010

How The Late Night Shenanigans Will Benefit Us All

The proverbial fur is flying all over the internet about NBC's rumored maneuvers and machinations in their Late Night Department. While there is a whole lot of woe-is-me-how-can-you-do-this-to-Conan? (on sites I respect) and a whole lot of woe-is-me-how-can-you-do-this-to-Jay? (on sites I don't), people are missing the point: This gives us the best of all possible worlds.

Those of us who still get their TV from an antennae, anyway. People with cable, satellite and/or DVR could, I'm sure, give a shit.

It seems that consensus is veering towards a schedule placing Leno at 11:35PM, O'Brien at 12:05PM, Jimmy Fallon at 1:05AM (does anybody watch this?) and Carson Daly (Seriously, does anybody watch this? They should dump this douche and move up Poker After Dark so I can watch the grizzled Gabe Kaplan without being late for work) falls off the edge of the world at 2:05AM. This will give NBC a funny-time-to-unfunny-time ratio of 1:5, where it previously had a ratio of 1:4. Seems like they're choking out the funny, huh? Yes, but only if you lost your remote and are too stoned to stand. I've got a plan to get you through the night.

So, you've just finished watching the Simpsons/Family Guy/Seinfeld/Friends rerun at 11 (Which you have, since local news is only good for school-closings and fake-scare stories about sexting with shadowed interviews, and they can't do those every night. Or can they? Tune in at 11!) and you want something funny to keep you going until you can't fend off sleep any longer.

[A quick aside: Why do we do this? Why are we staying up? Obviously, we're not looking out looking to get laid. Nothing awesome is going to happen. We're at home. These shows are all irrelevant and, when at their very best, simply silly. Why don't we just get some rest and do a good job at work? I blame Freddy Krueger. We all thought we were so cool, watching A Nightmare On Elm Street at our friend-with-bad-parents' house, but I think it seriously, subconsciously, fucked an entire generation.]

What is one to do? The Majesky Solution™ assumes that the interviews are normally painfully unfunny, and that if something interesting were to happen during one of them, you, at the very least, will watch it the next day at work. That's where you are right now, right? Follow me:

11:35PM - 12:05AM: The first half-hour of Letterman.

Dave is the current master of the classic monologue. Although he doesn't try to do anything new with it, he does a damn good job with a funhouse version of the Carson routine, the self-mocking acknowledgement of bad jokes. He's slightly abstract and very topical, with good dash of the Dangerfield. His post-monologue skits are often short bursts of ADD oddity (the ongoing Things More Fun Than Reading The Sarah Palin Memoir series) or Kaufman-intoning anti-comedy bits (having some guy pretend to be lost and just wander behind his desk). Of course, it's all capped by the Top Ten List, which might not be funny through-and-through, but #2 probably will be.

Letterman has a good charm with the interviews, but A-listers are generally shitty interviewees (they have demands and dumb stories). No one needs to sit through two stilted segments with Tom Cruise or somebody to get to a great interview with a grandmother from Iowa who bakes pies that look like Richard Nixon. Pick up the clicker.

12:05PM - 12:35AM: The first half-hour of Conan.

My man, Coney Dog, was better in the later slot. Let's face it, his funny faces, weirdo voices and spazz-shtick just don't fly immediately after the stories about horrifying traffic accidents and moms beating their kids. He's not a traditional performer, so he hasn't been able to adapt his sensibilities to a time when people aren't as tired and/or aren't as prolifically stoned. 12:30 was probably too late for a lot of his potential audience, so this will be a boost for him.

After he and Andy do In The Year 3000 and they're done accusing Max of being a sexual deviant, it's interviews time. I say this lovingly, as a big fan: he has never, ever been good at interviewing. Awkward and awful. Back to CBS.

12:35PM - 1:35AM: The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

I cannot express my admiration for Craig Ferguson as a late night personality well enough to reflect how good he is at his job. I simply lack the skill. He is an excellent monologist. Playing with the form, he delivers two. The first being a cold-open, theater of the absurd piece, which may or may not involve hand puppets and walking in and out of frame; the second being a more standard piece, that eschews general shit-talking about celebrities, and functions more as social commentary, always with self-deprecating bits about the show itself.

He is a stellar interviewer. It helps that he usually has B- and C-grade guests, who are naturally more interesting people, but he begins every interview by tearing up his notes and throwing them away. A quick question about their current project flows into organic tangents that wind all over. It's closer to a conversation mixed with improv, and infinitely more insightful than your average-bear interview.

Also, his Aquaman is exquisite.

After that, try to get some sleep. Freddy isn't real and your job performance is suffering.

* * * * * UPDATE - 1/12/10 * * * * *

O'Brien has just released a statement stating that he will not do The Tonight Show following the hollow ghostship of fools, known as The Jay Leno Show, at 12:05. Although this completely destroys my dream situation: Good for him. He should walk far away and continue NBC's public self-embarrassment.

Conan will land on his feet. Don't you worry about him. He wrote The Simpsons' monorail episode, for goodness sakes. He'll be alright.

Dan Majesky is the big boss man of this corner of the internet. He has been devouring popular culture like it's going out of style, and then yelling at people about it, for thirty-one years. Now he's just typing it up and resting his voice.


  1. I am, as many of my peers already know. a huge fan of Mr. Ferguson.
    He is the only late night host with the balls to get completely serious in his monologues, and sometimes, even heartbreaking. http://tinyurl.comc3hmcm , . -Y

  2. Ferguson goes as deep as he goes silly sometimes. Great, great television.