For anyone who hasn’t caught the news over the last week, this is what is going down on NBC late-night TV.  This past June, Conan O’Brien replaced Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, which airs at 11:35 pm ET on NBC.  However, since Conan has taken over, the ratings have slipped drastically.  My reasoning is that Conan’s sense of humor is far wackier and out-there than that of Jay Leno, and a lot of people who were watching Leno at that 11:35-12:35 time slot have simply either started going to bed early or turned to another channel.  So, now this is happening.  This is reported in Conan’s own words from a press statement he gave earlier today.

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me.  For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky.  That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009.  Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me.  I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the
future.  It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance.  After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35.  For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news.  I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider
to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.  The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show.  Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot.

That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it.  My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show.  But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.  Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter.  But with the Tonight Show, I
believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next.  My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.

Yours,
Conan

As someone who has been a long-time fan of Conan O’Brien, I must say that it’s a shame to see that he will no longer be hosting what seemed like has been five minutes of the Tonight Show, although I respect the decision he’s making.  Let’s hope whatever happens after this, we’ll see lots more of Conan.  Here he is pictured with an ape.

In my last post, in which I summarized my 25 favorite albums of 2009, I mentioned that over the next “few” posts I’d be discussing some of my other favorite things of the year.  I’ve decided to shave that few down to just one post.  Enjoy!

BEST FILM OF THE YEAR

“Inglorious Basterds” (Directed by: Quentin Tarantino)

I have to admit that I didn’t really get out to see a lot of new films in 2009, but out of my few ventures to the cinema, Inglorious Basterds was the one I enjoyed most.  A fictional WWII-based story, Inglorious Basterds consists of two storylines: one follows a group of Jewish American soldiers that ambush, kill, and de-skull Nazi soldiers, while the other follows a Jewish French girl who has now taken on a new, non-Jewish identity after her family is killed by Nazis.  Both storylines slowly interlock as the film goes forward, resulting in an incredible climax.  There are things that Tarantino does in the film that make it very much his own, such as his classic use of “chapters” to separate parts of the story.  However, with that exception, it doesn’t really resemble any of his past films.  One of the things that has always made his films stand out is the dialogue, which Tarantino has a gift for writing.  Large chunks of Inglorious Basterds are in French and German, and it’s interesting to see how he has allowed his skill of writing dialogue to be placed within another environment.  The cast is impeccable, especially the roles Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz, who are both extremely entertaining throughout the film.

BEST FILM I SAW THIS YEAR THAT DIDN’T COME OUT THIS YEAR

“The Sugarland Express” (Directed by: Steven Spielberg)

Released in 1974, this is Steven Spielberg’s first feature-length film.  It shows that even then he was a strong filmmaker.  It stars a young Goldie Hawn and William Atherton as two parents on the run from the cops.  Lou Jean Poplin (Hawn) breaks her husband Clovis (Atherton) out of prison in order to save their son, who is currently in care of a child-care center, soon to be put into the custody of Lou Jeans’s mother.  This is obviously not something these two parents want, and they go as far as taking a Sugarland, Texas state trooper hostage during the journey/chase from the prison in order to get to their child.  The Sugarland Express had my full and undivided attention for its entirety and was by far the best film I saw all year that didn’t come out this year.

BEST CONCERT I ATTENDED

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, (Manchester, Tennessee – June 10-14)

One of the greatest things that has happened in the US over the last 10 years has been the arrival of annual music and art festivals, such as Coachella, Sasquatch!, and Bonnaroo.  In 1999, the experience of the disastrous third Woodstock festival showed that America wasn’t doing it right.  What began to happen then was something modeled on what had been happening in Europe for over a decade.  Throughout the 1990s, three-day festivals including live music, art, onsite camping and food such as Glastonbury and Reading in England, and Les Eurokeenes in France were very common.  These sorts of festivals didn’t begin to appear in the US until the beginning of this past decade. I myself have been to three of them: two Coachellas, one in 2004 and the other in 2007, and this past year’s Bonnaroo.

It was a hell of a time.  Keep checking back to this blog, as I intend to post full documents on each of my festival journeys, but for now, here is a list of the top 5 acts I saw at Bonnaroo this past year:

1-DIRTY PROJECTORS

2-BAND OF HORSES

3-BEASTIE BOYS

4-THE DECEMBERISTS

5-ELVIS COSTELLO

BEST TV SERIES

Dexter

After a shaky third season, the fourth season of Dexter regains the title of my current favorite television show.  John Lithgow is the guest star, playing the Trinity killer, a fellow serial killer.  It was a phenomenal season, perhaps the best so far.  The way the season ends is also perfect because it leaves open a crazy plot for the fifth season, which is not something that has happened on the show before.  On all the previous seasons, the storyline which ran throughout would end completely at the end of that particular season.  There would be references to past seasons, but within new storylines.  This will be one that continues into the fifth season, and frankly, I can’t wait.

BEST BOOK I READ THIS YEAR

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” (Mark Haddon)

This is not only the best novel that I read all year, but one of the best I’ve ever read.  The way this book is written in endlessly fascinating and totally original.  It tells the story of Christopher Boone, an 11-year old boy with perceived Asperger’s or Autism, who finds a neighborhood dog murdered.  Christopher decides to try and find out who killed the dog, which sets forth a quite a story, one that I would recommend to anyone.

BEST THING I DID ALL YEAR

Kicked the butts!  No more smoking for me!

WORST THING I DID ALL YEAR

Lost 19 pounds, then put 10 pounds back on again.  On a related note, quitting smoking can lead to weight gain.  Word of advice: don’t try and quit smoking and lose weight at the same time.

2009 CELEBRITY DEATH WHICH I FOUND MOST SIGNIFICANT

There really seemed to be a lot more famous people dying in 2009 than usual.  Although there was much fanfare made about the death of Michael Jackson, bless his first two albums, on August 26 we lost one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, Ellie Greenwich.  In the 1960s, Greenwich wrote and co-wrote songs such as “Be My Baby”, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, “Leader of the Pack”, “Then He Kissed Me”, and “River Deep Mountain High”.  Now, I realize that some of you may not know these songs by title, but unless you have never turned on a radio your whole life, you have heard at least two of them.  These songs, along with many others she wrote, pretty much set the benchmark for most of what came after them in pop music, and are more or less some of the best pop songs ever written.  Although her prominence as a songwriter faded towards the end of the 60s, as most bands and artists were starting to write their own material, the contribution she made to music cannot be overlooked.  RIP Ellie.