Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Unsinkable Late Night Talk Show

Jack Paar, Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, David Letterman
Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon

In the last 56 years nearly everything has morphed, if not radically changed. That is, everything except the late night talk show.

Talk show mainstays from 1954 to 2010: The suit, the monologue, the sidekick, the desk, the mug, the couch, the band, and the schticky host comedy bits.

I've tuned in to see Conan's return and have been flipping around other channels to see what I've been missing and my take is, not much. I'm shocked that in half a century, the only change in late night is in essence, more edgy or sophomoric content. It's a 56 year old predictable template:

  • Cue theme song with sidekick voice over.
  • Host comes center stage to CRAZY studio audience applause.
  • Host does "humorous" monologue on current events.
  • Meet my band leader while I sit behind a large desk w/a large mic on it.
  • Comedy shenanigans at desk with/without sidekick.
  • Cut to commercial
  • Bring out first guest.
  • Yet another comedy bit.
  • Bring out second guest.
  • Don't miss tomorrow when we'll do the same thing with different guests!
Yes, some hosts do it better or funnier than others, but it's time for something new. Nah...lets go for an even century!

On the other hand, there are definitely some creative network shows out there that are offering fresh takes on television programming; they just aren't on late night.

It seemed pretty lame the way Coco was treated by NBC/Leno. And it's nice that he got a new show on TBS. Nothing against Conan--I like him, just would have been nicer had he returned with something truly new.