Internet Killed the Late Night Talk Show Star

Alex Ross author of The Rest is Noise and New York Times music critic writes on a recent his The Rest Is Noise Blog New York Times article on late night TV:

“….[T]he median age of [Jay Leno’s] viewers has crept up to 55.6 from 46.6. Mr. Letterman’s audience is slightly younger, at 54.7.” The latest findings by the League of American Orchestras, drawing on their own studies as well as the most recent NEA study of arts participation, indicate that the median age for the classical audience is forty-nine. In fact, that’s younger than the median age of the entire prime-time television public.

Yup, so classical music is younger and hipper than late night TV. The demographic that fondly refers to themselves as “baby boomers” and likes to think of themselves as revolutionary likes late night TV more than classical music.

Now most would think of classical music as stuffy olde-tyme stuff, but even the so-called “revolutionary” baby boomers would have no time for the likes of Iannis Xenakis, Charles Ives, or even 19th century composer Gustav Mahler— or even hell let’s bring Johann Sebastian Bach. No, that shit is too goddamned weird– “I’m a counterculture baby boomer open to everything– except, for well, almost everything.”

Late night talk shows on the other hand provide a pasteurized, puritan, and safe view of what “rebel” means. It’s okay to make jokes about politicians and celebrities. Those programs provide hand-holding for what it means to be funny and new– but you know not too funny or new.

Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Conan O’Brien were the popes deciding what banter is funny and different but yet not too funny and different was okay around the water cooler.

For all the talk of “counterculture” and “revolution” the baby boomers are a conservative lot preferring sanctioned music over contemporary classical that was too damed weird and humor wasn’t conformist. Granted, there were many comedians like Bill Hicks and George Carlin that were not water cooler safe– but the baby boomers preferred the late night talk shows. Some how because they preferred the safe, curated form of humor everyone else is supposed to think that’s a cultural touchstone.

Bill Hicks on Leno

Now at 55+, the audience cannot even stay up late enough for Jay Leno to tell us all about a movie we have been marketed to death by. The same audience may not be able to go to Probably Bad News but they’ll do their best to not doze off during Jay Leno’s “headlines.” They essentially crave curated humor, thatt’s okay to laugh at.

Perhaps when NBC shuffled Conan O’Brien from 12:30am to 11:30pm and installed Jay Leno at 10:00pm killed the whole “tradition” of late night TV. Or more appropriately, Jay Leno struck the last nail in its coffin while demanding a paycheck to fund buying more fucking cars since making millions per year and doing fucking Dorritos commercials just are not enough.

O’Brien seemed liked an intelligent man who enjoyed telling pop culture jokes and referenced things I had seen on the Internet several days ago. I did not find his show very amusing personally as he covered a swath of pop culture I simply do not care about or find interesting in any way. Though O’Brien seemed better at the job and far more clever, Leno won. Leno was somehow more docile and willing to shill shitty movies/TV shows and their celebrities. The ratings were safe since he was a hit before– and well better be safe than sorry NBC thought.

I don’t know if the United States is such a young country that we have to consider everything an institution longer than 5 years but some things need to die– or are just a bad idea. Despite NBC’s last-year-1+1=2-logic Leno’s ratings are lower than O’Brien’s were according to Nielsen’s second quarter ratings. NBC took an oozie to late night TV in an attempt to resurrect it.

All they proved trying to get back ratings is the same thing the talk show host’s staff found can be found on the Internet 24/7 and usually better.

On YouTube or blogs or the World Wide fucking Web are tons of people hawking shitty movies, have weird ass skills, and dumb ass headlines. We don’t need some fucks to have their staff find them and then parade them on stage at a specific time.

If you have a need for mindless programming, may I introduce you to 4chan?

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