This week’s New York magazine takes on the future of NBC in prime-time and late-night as Kurt Andersen interviews Jeff Zucker about his tenure at NBC from his success at “Today” to the crushing blow of the May upfronts (and the middling shows he’s launched in between). I am inclined to agree with Zucker on the fact that predicting sitcom success is not easy; let me remind you that “According To Jim” just started its fifth season, marked a milestone hundredth episode in May and is the top-rated show on Tuesday nights. Still, I’m not either of NBC chairman Bob Wright or GE CEO Jeff Immelt. If I were, you’d all be enjoying a taut, compelling drama about blogging, hand-coded for heightened suspense.*
Meanwhile, Vanessa Grigoriadis’ excellent, joke-strewn profile of Conan O’Brien reminded me that I missed his brand of smart, goofy humor; in my switch over to the Jon Stewart beat I’ve stopped surfing late-night TV (I DVR it). Grigoriadis wisely steps back from trying to be cute or clever herself and instead just lets O’Brien’s humor flow. It’s a delight to read much in the way that he’s a delight to watch. I did find the most interesting part of the article to be a throwaway bit at the end:
Jeff Ross, O’Brien’s calm and debonair executive producer, also has a button he can push to make the door slam automatically, but today the door is open. He’s in there watching golf on the big-screen TV, a grid of index cards of the guests the other late-night shows have booked for the week pinned to a wall (The Daily Show is noticeably absent — “below the radar” is the way Ross puts it).
Now I know that Comedy Central isn’t like NBC, but 1.4 million viewers for smart comedy still adds up (as do the accolades and the magazine covers). It’s an interesting comment because it sends a message about who Conan’s audience is or is being targeted as, and suggests that their pendulum is definitely swinging in the Leno direction. Anyhow. I still love Conan, and loved when he broadcast from Toronto. Though for the record the stuff Triumph pulled with Quebeckers was actually pretty dicey, national-unity wise. See, Jon Stewart? Puppets are POWERFUL.
*I’m not that boring. I think you’d all enjoy my version of “Dancing Wth The Sklars.” You haven’t seen a rhumba ’til you’ve seen it performed by my Uncle Benjy.
**Not really the title.