Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TV's Talk Wars

Why is everone getting so excited about the American Talk Show wars?
Maybe it's because we've never had a wholely successful Canadian TV Talk Show of our own.
There are so many missing parts of Canadan TV from a lack of soap operas to a lack of successful talk shows.
The result is we've become pseudo-American viewers, fixating on the great Conan versus Leno confontation.
Everywhere I go I'm being asked the same questions. So here are my answers.
Q: How could NBC do this to Conan?
A: How could the network not do it, you mean. In his seven months as new host of the venerable Tonight franchise he managed to lose 50 per cent of the audience as the show started losing money for the first time.
It's true Conan supporters can point to the poor lead ins from both Leno at 10 and the local newscasts at 11 as the reasons.
But I was frankly not taken with the new, unimproved Conan. And I really like the guy.
When he started out on late nights I was about the first TV critic to interview him and praise him. But he seemed strangely subdued almost intimidated in his newest gig.
Q: Why did Leno sock it to Conan?
A: He did nothing of the sort. Six years ago Conan pressured NBC to name him the next Tonight show host and left Leno to hang around for five years, surely a fate akin to being on Death Row.
Leno was never less than gracious to Conan. But Leno always argued moving his show to 10 p.m. up against the huge ratings successes on ABC and CBS might not work. And it didn't
When NBC affiliates hollered they were losing viewers at 11 from such a weak Leno lead in NBC panicked and pulled the plug.
NBC solution? Leno at 11:35, Conan at 12:05 still as The Tonight Show.
Q: So why did Conan quit?
A: His ego was bruised. His contract gives him up to $40 million in one of the biggest network buyouts of all time. Leno then was ready to seize power when Conan said he'd walk. It's all NBC's fault, not really Len's. What was he supposed to do? e could have walked away with the same soret of settlement Conan got. But he chose to stay.
Conan will surely resurface after September on Fox. And I think Leno will get back much of his old 11:35 viewers who much preferred him to CBS's Letterman in recent years.
But I still can't understand why Canadians are getting so riled up.
I never heard more than a peep when CBC axed Peter Gzowski from his late night berth way back in 1978. And what about when Global TV quickly dumped Mike Bullard?
Quick! Name me one Canadian TV Talk show you watch every day. See what I mean! Gotcha!


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