Jeff Takes On…Late Night Talk Show Set-Up

11 01 2010

Please note: I started writing this post a LONG time ago, but then all these changes (Jimmy Fallon arriving, Conan O’Brien moving, Jay Leno coming back, “The Magic Hour” got cancelled (not really but you get the idea) kept causing me to stop, and give the late night shows another chance.

See this is what the networks are the best at: distracting you just enough to give the late night shows that one more chance.  Every time Jimmy Fallon opens the show with a complete flop of a monologue, every time Letterman’s guest looks like they might fall asleep in the chair, every time Jay Leno appears on the screen, I tell myself I’m never going to watch Late Night TV again.  But the late night slots are the last stand for the broadcast networks.  It’s the last place where we, as viewers, have historically had few other good options.  Go to bed, or watch a Late Night TV show, basically those were always the options.

Well networks, your time has come.

With the proliferation of new options that viewers can control (think DVR and Hulu), the Late Show viewership is diving.  And now, shifting around which talking head is where won’t bring the ratings back.  In order to save this time slot, a few things have got to change for good:

1. Late Show as a “Real” Window into Hollywood

No more of this movie hyping!  People are sick of being advertised to through these segments.  Conan had always been best at this: actually funny content just for content’s sake.  Bring your guest’s on merely to be your guests, not because they have a big movie or made-for-tv drama to plug.  You have to go back to what your “customers” want: they are looking for entertainment, humor, and a connection with big stars.  This is why there are no Late Night shows based in Chicago.  The viewers no longer have to watch your segment with Will Farrell to know that Land of the Lost is coming out.  We already watched the trailer, read the pre-release buzz, and maybe watched a leaked version, long before you get Mr. Farrell into the seat on Late Night TV.  This set-up is old and boring.  I want celebs who are excited to be there, or at least desperately need to be there.  If Leno doesn’t inspire the stars in that way, then get rid of him.  Or get rid of the boring celebs, take your pick.

People still desperately want to see into Hollywood.  With all the paparazzi and celeb-commentary websites out there, the Late Night shows could become a spot where celebrities can actually control the information about them that goes to the viewer.  They can come out, talk candidly about their life, and maybe mention some of the projects they are working on.  If they want to participate in some fun stuff on the show, all the better.  But when the viewer knows this is just another advertisement for a new movie, they are tuning out!

2. Change the Guests Altogether

That’s right, I’m saying ditch some of these guests.  It’s the abundance of the guests that helps us tune out in the first place.  There’s no easy way to tell who is on what show when…so if I miss it, I’m not too bummed out.  There’s only one reason I will tune in, guaranteed, to a Late Night show – if a band I like is playing.  If I hear someone good is playing Conan’s show, I’m watching the end of it.  Heck, sometimes I tune in to Jimmy Fallon’s show just to catch the Roots, who are easily the best house band of this generation.

So to get me back as a viewer, how about you make some of these small bands and comedians the guests?  We hear enough about the big stars through the tabloids and entertainment-based cable channels.  Let’s give these crazy musicians and mangy comedians a shot at the limelight!  At the very least, it’s perfect for unintentional comedy.  And maybe there will be some flops, and awkward moments, but you know what? It’s better than the canned performances I see now.  If you gave an up-and-comer (think Galifinakis a few years ago) a serious time commitment, he could make a Leno episode the best of the year.  It’s after midnight! Loosen up with your guests and let’s see what happens.

3. Tighten Up the Monologues

Listen writers, not to put any pressure on you, but some people who work all day tune in to your show as a humorous look at current events.  Clearly they don’t know about DVR and The Today Show, but that’s a different story.  If you can’t be funny with the monologue, then cut it short, plain and simple.  Fill it with something else.  To just keep running these tired jokes out there…Fallon looks like he might die from awkwardness sooner or later.

4. Create more “Youtube” moments

true story: my family and I watched Jimmy Fallon and the Muppets sing “12 Days of Christmas” while opening presents this year.  That was great delivery and perfect length, and actually entertaining.  Aim to craft these segments, so that people can actually say, “Hey, did you see Leno last night?  They did this hilarious skit and you can watch it online…” Instead, if I ask what happened on Leno, a co-worker might say, “um well, the usual, you know.” No incentive to tune in there.

I’ve purposely not provided any number or viewer analysis with this post for a reason.  The Late Night set-up is stale, and has been stale long before the viewers started leaving in droves.  And I don’t know if you can get them back, so I’m not going to make viewer projections.  But if you make these changes, you would at least have a chance of convincing some of us to watch again.  Give us good, original content that separates your show from the others.  If that is tough to do with 3 late night shows…then just go to one! Just get us good TV and the people will watch!  After all, we don’t have many other options (ha).

Any other suggestions?  Hit up the comments.

-jv

Advertisements

Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: