Saturday, January 23, 2010

A man with nothing to lose, Coco

Tonight, like I suspect a significant amount of other people, I watched the last episode of the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. Conan wrangled Steve Carrell, Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell, and Neil Young on the show tonight - a true all-star guest line-up to get that last curtain call with.

Even though Conan may not have had the viewership and hit the ratings sweet spot for the last seven months, I think the outporing of support for his cause since the announcement is amazing. And I believe it shows how Americans feel about this economic crisis' impact on jobs. People feel double crossed - NBC vetted Conan from an SNL writer in the '80s through the late, late spot finally awarding him the coveted Tonight Show - and they can directly empathize with his situation. Conan gave NBC his all, but has been shown the door in favor of Leno, who had stepped aside and "retired" (which burns especially for younger viewers who think he is only a yuck-yuck comic --> which is pandering to old viewers whose advertisers are more lucrative). People perceived the system's rules, played by them, and developed their skills for their employer only to feel wronged by being downsized in one of the massive layoffs of the past two years.

I don't get political very often, but:
I think this empathy is just a symptom of a much larger condition. If anything, it shows that the populist sentiments from last year's tea parties hasn't abated. And I think it is just the beginning of a much larger movement. This country hasn't had unemployment like this in a long time and I fear that unemployment's nastier side-effects may appear: mass demonstrations or worse, crime. You can take it home to the bank that the Democrats will feel it too after Election Day in November. I think they will probably lose even a simple majority in the Senate.

In full fairness, I've always liked Conan more. His bits were original and he wasn't afraid to take chances. I've always viewed Leno exactly the opposite - corny and repetitive. But when it comes down to the business, NBC's president Zucker made his decision - and Leno got the call back. I wish Conan the best. And personally, I hope he takes up a new role doing his own show or teaming up with a group of people on Adult Swim.
And disclosure: Long GE