I did something yesterday that I haven't done in five or six years, something I'm not proud of: I watched Oprah. I have nothing against Oprah, I've just had enough. That happens sometimes with people. You get a big dose of them for awhile and then you just don't want them anymore. Like Halloween candy. You gorge yourself on it, vomit, and then can't look at candy for quite some time. Oprah's like candy vomit to me.
But yesterday she had on Jay Leno, a person I also don't watch on the television. I thought, this is the perfect storm of two humans I don't care at all about talking about an issue (Conan, the Tonight Show, NBC, backstabbing) that became a train wreck. I have been watching the train wreck. How could I not? It played out in slo-motion, crashing over the course of weeks from the time Leno's 10pm show got axed by NBC, to NBC making every single disastrous decision on how to make the train wreck worse (set it on fire! plunge it down a ravine! fill it with red-headed orphans who want more pudding!).
As someone who follows pop culture solely because I love the diversion from reality, the Conan-Leno (and by extension, Letterman, Ferguson, and Kimmel) power struggle/feud/fight over The Tonight Show desk was completely unprecedented. Even when Leno stole the show from Letterman back in the early 90s, the viewing public was only aware of some behind the scenes deal making and back stabbing. We weren't privy to the actual demonic butterflies conjured by Leno to beat their wings into plough shares, that Leno then forged into daggers to slay his enemies. Then, a lot was left up to speculation.
But, NOW, everything has played out right before our very eyes. And Oprah wants in on all of the attention. So, she went on Leno's set out in LA, and interviewed him. Leno looked like a man defeated. His eyes were puffy and saggy, his mouth downturned, even when he attempted to make one of his patently unfunny quips, he couldn't muster a smirk. Is it because in this battle the public, and a lot of celebrities, have chosen sides? And they chose team Conan? Oprah was really at a lose as to why a majority of respondents on her website (94%) were backing Conan. Doesn't America love the safe, unfunny humor dished up by Leno? His softball style of interviewing guests? Has America grown weary of bland pablum and want some hot sauce tossed on their pablum?
Despite Oprah, and Leno, claiming that the American public just doesn't understand how television works, the bigger issue that these two don't understand is that the viewing public needs to have a certain perception about the people were tuning in to watch. One thing is trust. Trust isn't everything, but it is something. Which means that we demand a honest quality. Take Ellen Degeneres for example. Her talk show is wildly popular across all demographics, young, old, gay, straight, republican, democrat, independent, religious, nonreligious...people like her, and trust her. You know why? Because she's honest about who she is. At this point in Leno's career he no longer comes off as the semi-funny (I'm being kind) doofy class clown you went to school with. His likability has been pummeled, and he comes off as a meglomaniacal bully. Oprah, giving another, more watched, pulpit for him to whine and bully from makes her come off as a detattatched from reality uber rich...fool, I guess, is the word I'm looking for.
Anyway, that's my take on the whole debacle. I don't expect Leno to be #1 again on The Tonight Show, and I hope that Conan gets another gig. As for me, I watch Letterman. Sure, he's an asshat, but he's never tried to hide that from us, has he?