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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shifting thoughts on working late

Hey Blognation, how have you been?

Been awhile since any of us have made time for this blog – I don’t need to tell you how busy the holiday season is, what with the shopping and the eating and the more eating – but things are beginning to calm down. (In other words, I’m on a diet, and with less time spent eating, there’s more time for other things.)

The goings-on over at NBC in the late-night division seemed like a good jumping-back-in point. Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or some other heavy thing that blocks you from the news – you’ve heard there’s trouble for the Peacock network in terms of late-night programming.

Basically, Jay Leno at 10 p.m. hasn’t worked – at least not for the local affiliates. In other words, the fact that “The Jay Leno Show” isn’t a ratings bonanza isn’t a huge problem for the network – the cost of producing the show is relatively low, so the ratings don’t have to be huge for NBC to make money – but it is for the local affiliates, such as Cleveland’s WKYC-TV 3. These channels make money on their 11 p.m. newscasts, so a weak lead-in five nights a week is no laughing matter.

And, while also not a disaster, “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien” hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, either. Moving from 12:30 a.m., where O’Brien used to reside on NBC, to 11:30 p.m. is tougher than it sounds. The show needs to maintain the traits that made it a hit while also making it appeal to a broader audience. (There may be only one person who could give O’Brien solid advice, but the fact that CBS’ David Letterman competes with him at 11:30 probably nixes that idea.)

NBC’s recent decision, as you’ve likely heard, is to kick Leno out of prime time, move him back to 11:35 p.m., for a half hour. If the other parties agree, O’Brien’s “Tonight” would follow at 12:05 a.m., with “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” stopping by your television an hour later. (You’ll have to let me know how that goes; I probably won’t be awake.)

People wonder, is Conan furious? He should jump to Fox, folks say.

Maybe … but I’m not so sure. Fox already has expressed interest in O’Brien doing an hour-long show at 11 p.m., where he could become the next Arsenio Hall! (Is that, um, a good thing?) If being moved back 30 minutes is the ultimate insult, maybe he should jump ship. On the other hand, there’s still some prestige left in the “Tonight” name, and if O’Brien is having trouble working at 11:35 ….. why would he play better on another network at 11?

If you ask me, the plan makes sense and is worth trying for NBC. I don't find Leno -- surely a good guy who'd be great to have a beer with -- that funny at 10 or 11:30, but many folks did enjoy him at that later hour. You can't blame NBC for trying to get the most out of its talent.

What I don't like about the plan: I'm going to have a real problem with the idea of show called "Tonight" starting the next day.

A couple of late-night hosts with no dog in the race have weighed in on the whole deal. Check out ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel cutting up (and scarfing down) the late-night-TV pie here, and Letterman giving his opinion here. (Watching the Letterman clip is worth it if only for the Leno impression.)

I’d like to write further, but all this talk of pie has made me realized it’s past my lunchtime. Hmmm, this diet could be in danger.

-- Mark Meszoros

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