Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conan, and Generation X, Got Screwed

NBC is run, evidently, but a bunch of douchebags.

When Conan O'Brien first came on the air back in the early 90's, I wasn't much of a fan. He was always set up to appeal to the late night college crowd, and I was a part of that crowd during his early days, yet I didn't really appreciate his humor.

Over the years, however, he's come to grow on me and I was glad to see him move into the Tonight Show spot (not that I watch the show much, but it was nice knowing he was there if I wanted to tune in).

I never really understood why NBC wanted to get rid of Leno and give the Tonight Show to Conan, but it didn't really bother me that much - I assumed Leno was ready to move on. It's only in recent days that I've learned that Leno never wanted to leave in the first place. NBC just wanted to keep Conan and they thought the only way they could do that would be to give him the Tonight Show.

When I heard that Leno was going to do a 10 pm show, I thought what probably most other people thought - that it would be a flop. Not because Leno isn't funny, but simply because that sort of show at 10 pm is just too unusual for mainstream pop culture to embrace.

But to turn around and give the Tonight Show back to Leno and more or less leave Conan holding his's a total WTF moment. A prime example, I suppose, of very poor leadership on the part of NBC.

I'm glad Conan is bilking NBC for nearly 50 million dollars. That's the price they deserve to pay for being so stupid. And not only is Conan walking away with more money than he could ever spend, but he'll also get another show on another network and probably be quite successful. So good for him. Boo for NBC.

I don't know if Leno deserves to be viewed as the bad guy in all this, but the whole situation has definitely put a bad taste in my mouth towards him - and I've always been a Leno fan. It seems to me that the decent thing would have been to simply admit that his 10 pm show failed and move on. Go to another network. Open a comedy club. Start a sitcom. Whatever. But to go back and take his old show back from the person it had been rightfully given to? That's just crappy. I kind of hope his ratings stay in the toilet.

My sister pointed out that this is a prime example of the continued antagonism between the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Leno is definitely a Boomer (born in 1950), and Conan (born in 1963) is from the earliest days of Gen X. And while Leno has always been geared toward that older, Booomer crowd, Conan has definitely always been geared toward the Gen X crowd.

In society, Gen X is characterized by constantly living in the shadows of their Baby Boomer forebears. The Boomers just won't go away, and Gen X is finding itself squeezed out of prominence by the Millennials (or Generation Y). So Gen X is stuck in limbo. It can't compete with the Boomers before it, or the Millennials after it.

You see this illustrated in so many things in society. Consider "Prince Charles Syndrome" (another example given to me by my sister). Queen Elizabeth represents the Boomers (she's not a Boomer, of course, but she came to the throne in the middle of the Boomer era of the early 50's), and Prince Charles represents Gen X (again, he's not a Gen Xer himself, but he represents them in this analogy). The old bitty won't die, so he's left holding his bag for all these years, waiting to become king. But now it's been so long that his son, William (who represents the Millennials in this analogy), is starting to overtake him in prominence and there is talk that William might as well just succeed Elizabeth, because Charles is so irrelevant now.

Or consider the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. If you know anything about the HOF in recent years, you'll know that there has been a distinct stigma in the last decade against players from the 1980's and early 1990's. They aren't "historical" enough to be talked about in the same sentence with Ruth, Gehrig, and Mays, and they seem to pale in comparison to the steroid-fueled players of the 2000's. So again you have the Boomers represented by the "old time greats," and you have the Millennials represented by modern players who have become machines on the field, and squeezed out in the middle, holding their bags, are the players from the Gen X era - the 1980's and early 1990's.

I don't know about you, but as a Gen Xer, I'm getting tired of holding my bag.


Anonymous said...

Braaaaaaaaaaaavo!!!! And thanks for writing my blog post for me better than I would have done. :)

I did not blame Leno at the outset, but I sure think he's a total douche now. The 10 pm show was always a really crappy idea. It was never going to work, AND in the process it pushed out five hours of creative, scripted television that could have been airing instead of the Leno dreck. But, bad idea or not, when it flopped and the network started hawing and humming about pushing The Tonight Show back and putting Jay at 11:30, I thought it was another lame ass idea, but I didn't necessarily think it was Leno's fault. (Even though he is a totally lame comedian who doesn't make me laugh at all.)

But when Conan stepped up and said that the whole thing was ridiculous and that he wasn't going to go along with it, that changed the game. And when Leno agreed to take the show back, then he became culpable. He should have said, "Hey, it didn't work out. I'm a gazillionaire and can do anything," and cut his losses.

But no. He became a douche the minute he went along with taking the show back.

I hope Conan get's a fat deal from Fox and goes head to head with Jay and beats the shit out of him in the ratings. I hope The Tonight Show is a complete flop from here on out.

But I'm outnumbered by all those Boomers who will tune in and feel all comforted by a familiar face, so Gen X will probably lose this round too.

Scott said...

Indeed. And it's worth noting for all my readers (ha!) that my Baby Boomer father's response to this post was that my generational argument was "wrong on multiple levels."

Thanks for illustrating my point perfectly, BK :)