Returned to the Overthinking It podcast this week, talking about the two-year anniversary of the site, Conan O’Brien’s tumultuous departure from The Tonight Show and the SAG awards.
I highly recommend downloading the podcast. But, if you can’t, my thoughts on late night: I feel nothing so much as a profound pity for Conan O’Brien, who’s put in twenty years climbing to the top of a pyramid that is just now being buried by sand. Late night talk shows have never been less essential. They’re a dying venue in a dying medium. From a strict economic perspective, their current function is to produce Hulu clips at tremendous expense. Show of hands: how many of you followed the Leno-v-Conan feud of the past few weeks by staying up until 12:35 EST to watch every minute of both shows (plus Letterman and Kimmel’s commentary)? and how many of you followed it by watching video clips on entertainment blogs the morning after? and how many of you haven’t followed it at all?
One of my fellow podcasters suggested that Conan ought to be hired by Google, as a flagship presence for a new Google entertainment portal. I don’t know if that idea would work; the idea of Google producing its own entertainment content (a la Yahoo!, or Howard Stern with Sirius) makes as much sense as Google providing their own webmail, or GPS software, or cell phones. But it’s a crazy century so far. And my point remains: the late night talk show is not a dying creature; it’s a dead one. We’re witnessing the throes. The sanctity with which Conan spoke of The Tonight Show, and how terrible it would be to move it past 11:35 PM, sounded like a eulogy to me.