I don't know if NBC's decision to air the Jay Leno show killed prime time television as we know it, or if it was nothing more than the nail in the cofI don't know if NBC's decision to air the Jay Leno show killed prime time television as we know it, or if it was nothing more than the nail in the coffin. Still, this sordid tale of the second battle over the Tonight Show—as always Jay Leno comes out on top—proves that Conan O'Brien was victim of little more than bad timing.
In retrospect, he inherited a show doomed to fail. NBC executives wrongly believed that he could continue the era of late night profitability that Leno extended into the '90s. Nobody realized at the time that his perpetual leads over Letterman were hiding the slow erosion of the format, the network system, and television as we've known it for more than 50 years.
Conan wanted so badly to host the Tonight Show that he gave it up, citing a disinterest in tarnishing its legacy by moving to 12:05. He may have been right to stand his ground, though oddly for the opposite reasons he believed—reasons that, as others like Jerry Seinfeld were quick to point out, there wasn't much legacy to protect.
Now, just three short years after Conan's short-lived run as the 4th host of the Tonight Show, Jay Leno will finally (I think?) be stepping down, to be replaced by Jimmy Fallon. He's the right choice, not just for these times, but for whoever is left watching.
I know I'm one of those devoted viewers, though after reading this book, it's now more clear than ever that I'm nothing like the average late night viewer. I care about the musical guests, for one. I don't care much for the monologue, for two. Most glaringly, I record these things to watch later, and have been doing so for decades.
Apparently that makes me an anomaly. So does the fact that I watch more than one of these shows with regularity. So does the fact that I will change the channel between whatever's on during primetime, the news, and late night. All the talk about lead-ins and the like left me baffled, especially in the age of the DVR.
Are these network suits really that dumb? Or maybe they're smart and it's the audience that's stupid. Either way, how hard is it to change the channel, people? How difficult is it to watch what we want? Obviously people are starting to grasp that, and the TV landscape is changing as a result. In the end, that's what this book seemed to me to be truly about; not so much the war for late night and Jay Leno's re-ascendancy to the throne, but the death of a medium, and the people caught in the middle....more
Kind of a slog, especially near the end of this 700+ page opus. The book spent an awful lot of time on the business end of things, which I guess has tKind of a slog, especially near the end of this 700+ page opus. The book spent an awful lot of time on the business end of things, which I guess has to be your position when your narration constantly refers to the steps toward ESPN's world dominance. The narration was distracting at times, actually, and did little to help the choppy nature of some sections of the book. Such is life with an oral history, but all things considered, I'm glad I read this. And I'm glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it....more
This book just dominated my life for three days. It's about music and television, to be sure. Yet it's also about technology, the inevitable march ofThis book just dominated my life for three days. It's about music and television, to be sure. Yet it's also about technology, the inevitable march of progress, and the endless cycle of change.
Each generation is always reacting to the one that came before it, and for better or for worse, MTV has been at the epicenter of youth culture since 1982. It almost happened by accident, and then it didn't. Yet here we are.
Any complaints I have with the oral history format are minimal. There are countless quips and insights in this book that make me smile, laugh, or go straight to YouTube. Even more importantly, I learned things along the way. Like the fact that anyone who complains about MTV simply reveals its greatest assets: it's not for you—it's for the ones in your rearview mirror.
And that's how we should see it. As a mirror of our instant past....more
An engrossing read from start to finish, Browne expertly synthesizes a year in music history—and American history—through the eyes of three devolvingAn engrossing read from start to finish, Browne expertly synthesizes a year in music history—and American history—through the eyes of three devolving bands and one emerging solo artist. I've been really getting into this era and these musicians in the past couple years, but even if I hadn't, I would dive in right after reading this book. Bouncing between stories and progressing chronologically throughout the first year of a new decade, Browne finds connections in both obvious—and, to me at least—hidden places. Best of all, the book sets into context the music and the musicians that have since become legend. The end result is a story that feels as present and immediate as today's headlines....more