NBC and Jimmy Fallon Need a Late Night Time Machine

Jimmy FallonThe late night ratings wars have never been funny. From David Letterman and Jay Leno to Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon, the bitter rivalries and backdoor deals only remind the public of how desperate the television industry is for viewers.

So when news broke that NBC tapped Jimmy Fallon to replace Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show and move the storied franchise back to its original home, New York City, the public collectively sighed and vowed to remind itself to set its DVR or check out Hulu at work. Clearly NBC is seeking the next Johnny Carson to revive television ratings (which is kinda like the music industry seeking the next Michael Bolton or Kenny G to revive CD sales).

News flash: The Roots are a great house band and all, but the public has moved on.

Any media offering that is associated with a static time window is asking the public to do something we don’t appreciate: to set our schedules according to their schedule. We may still wake up in the morning and sleep at night, but the public is increasingly asymmetrical when it comes to media consumption. We’ll all agree to watch the Super Bowl together on a designated day and time, but meeting at the same time every night is a promise we can’t even make to our spouses.

Those days are over. So it would behoove late night television executives to realize that their future lies in programming that can be funny at 8:15am while being viewed on a 4-inch screen. And for hosts like Jimmy Fallon, the challenge is being funny when people are drinking coffee and heading to work instead of drinking wine and forgetting about it.

One final piece of advice for Fallon: please learn to stop laughing at your own jokes! You’ve been in this business for how long?