please welcome back to our stage


Tessa and I were talking in the car today about the Jay Leno/late night television kerfuffle of the last year or so, when something super un-profound occurred to me: the experiment had failed. If you recall, the network (NBC) had crunched the numbers and said it was all about “margins” now – they only needed about 15 people to watch the Leno show at 10pm, and they’d still make money. Lots of people considered it a brilliant move.

At the time, none of the personal politics bothered me, even though my humor is much more in line with Conan O’Brien. Neither did I bemoan the fact that slots for five dramas (one for each night of the week previously in the 10pm spot) no longer existed, making our job that much harder. Nope, my concerns were much more precious and farty.

To me, if you get rid of dramas and put a celebrity talk show in its place, you’re beginning a death spiral where there are a hundred talk shows with nobody to talk to. Leno at 10pm replaced the very shows that would have created the stars he wanted to interview. It was like tearing down a Victorian mansion to build a Center for Victorian Mansion Preservation.

Yeah, I know that’s too lofty a pedestal for most television dramas, but the point stands. It reminds me a little of our current digital lives – so many places to connect, so many Facebook messages, so many tweets, so many platforms – yet little original content, causing social media to spend a lot of time talking about itself. It’s not a bad thing from the get-go, but it is unsustainable.

And oddly enough, the Leno experiment actually failed. They might have needed 15 people to watch, and only nine did. That means original storytelling, no matter how bad you might think it is on TV, still won. It’s very rare in capitalism that a huge conglomerate ended up deferring to some bards around a campfire, but that’s essentially what happened. And that’s worth a quiet celebration and another s’more.

0 thoughts on “please welcome back to our stage

  1. Anne

    I am more concerned that so-called “reality television” keeps crowding out real programming. It’s like the Fungus That Would Not Die. Why do people WATCH that crap? “The Bachelor” and its ilk? Help!!!! I used to think pro wrestling was the ultimate farce; now it might as well be Masterpiece Theatre compared to the inanity of reality TV.

  2. LFMD

    Oh Anne, before you bash reality TV, you really should tune into “Real Housewives of NJ.” Best entertainment on TV in my opinion! Plus, there are all sorts of wonderful reality shows on Bravo, TLC, MTV even. It is all I watch.
    Seems to me that Leno and the like are way past their prime. I have to wonder what the age demographic for late night talk shows is. . . . folks in their 50s +?

  3. eric g.

    hurrah. the leno at 10 o’clock experiment stunk like a dead fish from the beginning. as someone who has watched conan since his nervous and painfully awkward first days on NBC, i was glad to see jay fail. but talk about failing upward. but i am glad to see the 10 o’clock spot returned to dramas. i love the 10 o’clock drama genre, and i hope this spectacular failure of the talk show in prime time will dissuade the networks from further fucking with this timeslot.

  4. Salem's Little Sister

    As usual, I’m with LFMD on this one. Boston Med has been a great watch this summer and my husband who hates reality tv evens likes it.

  5. kate

    LFMD – can we, like, hang out and watch television together? I have very few people with whom I can watch and talk about the drama of reality TV. Do you ever watch Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC? Please say yes, and then please invite me over.

  6. LFMD

    Kate – if you are ever in Millersville, Maryland, you have an open invitation to stop by, kick back, and enjoy. My 11 year old daughter and I LOVE Toddlers and Tiaras!!!! We watch every episode and laugh, laugh, laugh. Who will win the Ultimate Grand Supreme? Whose spray tan looks good? Will the pageant be total Glitz? We even have acquired some signature pageant moves that we spontaneously break into around the house (to my husband’s great confusion).
    Anne – give these shows a try:
    Real Housewives of NJ: “Don’t you shush me!” “Don’t call me Honey!” Women chasing each other through NJ banquet halls in high heels and fur coats, pulling each other’s extensions. Priceless!
    Pit Boss: former convict simultaneously runs a Hollywood talent agency for little people and rescues pit bulls. I KNOW you will love this one! Shorty will win your heart for sure!
    MTV’s Teen Mom: best pre-marital sex cautionary tale out there.
    Ghost Hunters: muscle-bound stud from Vegas hunts down ghosts. SCARY STUFF.
    I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant: not one of my favorites, but I can’t turn it off.
    Hoarders: again, I can’t turn this off, either. And I noticed that there is a new show called “Animal Hoarders” – will probably be disturbing, but I have not yet watched it.
    Bear Grylls: beautiful man, exciting adventures.
    Clean House: Neicy Nash is awesome!
    Rachel Zoe Project: I die!
    Interesting that all of my favorite reality shows are on cable networks. I am not a big fan of the Main Network shows. . . .

  7. LFMD

    Correction: Zak Bagans is on Ghost Adventures, not Ghost Hunters. Great show. Can you handle the lockdown??

  8. chm

    Also: Calling pro wresting a farce like that’s a bad thing kinda misses the point. Which is that it’s a farce.

  9. tregen

    Seriously? Who cares what is on TV at 10:00 o’clock at night. Disconnect the cable folks. Spend the money to pay down debt, or to donate… $150/month x 12 months = $1800/yr down the toilet. Spend the time getting to know each other or reconnecting with each other. Play a card game, break out the dominoes. Have sex if he/she is willing. TV is an addiction.

  10. Salem's Little Sister

    tregen- My husband is usually still at work at 10:00 PM and the kiddo is in bed. Reading is reserved for after 11.

  11. Anne

    Oops, LFMD, you caught me! I do watch “Pit Boss” occasionally and love it. Ditto “House Hunters” and a few other real-estate shows. It’s the contrived, set-up situations I don’t enjoy… the bachelor and bachelorette shows, “the Hills” or whatever that thing is/was, all the shows that create drama out of nothing.

  12. Bob

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought Leno failed not because he wasn’t bringing in enough money, but because he was providing a lousy lead-in for 11 PM local TV news shows. I think the network execs would have been content to let Leno keep going if not for the pressure from the affiliates, who wanted something with a lot more pull in the 10 PM slot.

  13. jje

    I can’t help it – I enjoy “reality” tv, too! I watch very few dramas (Greys, Brothers & Sisters, and Desperate Housewives, Mad Men) – most bore me to tears. Don’t watch any talk shows, though I will admit to stopping to watching Chelsea Lately if I catch the beginning of the show.
    Love the Real Housewives (can’t wait for DC) because it’s trashtastically awesome – same for Bachelor, Big Brother and Top Model. Project Runway, Top Chef, Survivor, Design Star, and American Idol are fascinating to me.
    And you’d have to pry my cold dead eyeballs off SYTYCD.
    I watch when I can via DVR, usually while folding mountains of laundry at night. It’s multitasking. ;-)
    Everybody has a vice, right? I suppose this is mine. Whatever.

  14. Salem's Little Sister

    jje- I had to officially quit Big Brother last night. I just don’t like any of them and that red head has the most annoying accent I’ve ever heard.

  15. jje

    But she’s a chemist, SLS! LOL! Yeah, it’s truly terrible, but mindless entertainment while I’m folding laundry. ;-)

  16. Kjf

    LFMD and Kate – if you like toddlers and tiaras you MUST find the documentary called Living Dolls. It is amazing. AMAZING.

  17. Susan

    What tregan said! I have a 2 and 6 year old ( boys). I seriously have NO time for tv. I am amazed when my friends talk about these shows…when do they find the time?? After my kids finally shut their eyes at night my husband and I head to the screened porch with some wine and adult conversation. Sometimes we play scrabble too. That’s my reality :)

  18. Salem

    Is reality TV a ladies game? I was glued to a few episodes of the first season “Surreal Life” (Tammy Faye Baker, Vanilla Ice..) and a few episodes of the first season “Apprentice”, but I just don’t digg’em.

  19. Sulsan

    Susan, Don’t forget, especially in this economy, a lot of families rarely have both parents in the same room at the same time. When one parent is with the children, the other is at work. After bed time, that leaves one very alone parent/spouse. It sucks, but it’s reality for millions of families. If I had to guess, some reality tv, sometimes, is a surrogate for adults who are craving wine on the porch and adult conversation.


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