From the Field

I’m with Coco

I'm with Coco

Conan O’Brien: comic genius.

So much has transpired! I have left the country and returned. I have read books and watched movies and tasted foods. I have started the year of 2010, now twenty or more days passed, with the greatest of cheer and simplest of joys. But not all is well with the world. An earthquake devastated Haiti some thousands of miles away, and the world sent their doctors and money and rations to repair the people and places that were left. The bells are tolling, counting the dead.

Here, on America’s shores, a different bell tolls. It is the death knell of traditional television, and its deep metal tone echoed out across the country last night when Conan O’Brien stepped down from his Tonight Show slot. For whom does this bell toll? For the broadcasters that cannot adapt to a world of entertainment consumers that time-shift their interests. It tolls for the men who rely on Neilsen and the antiquated ratings system that they read like tea leaves. It tolls for the old guard, the ones who didn’t get it right, the ones who cast Conan out and into the shadows in the face of a popular uprising.

From those shadows shall emerge a man supported by the young and savvy. They will lift him on their shoulders with cries of “Coco! Coco!”, and this writhing sea of faithful will carry him on to his next venture, his next comedic palace and pulpit. They will cheer for him and rejoice in the pact made between this man and his followers, the pact that says, “Together, we will have fun.” Somewhere, someone smarter than NBC will discover the right way to monetize the passion for this man in a world of increasingly fragmented interest and attention.

The culture is changing, the bell is tolling, traditional television is dying, but Conan will be just fine. There are just too many, like myself, who love him and will carry him on into the great unknown expanse of entertainment’s future.

“Coco! Coco! Coco! Coco! Coco!…”

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  1. Ben
    1.26.10

    Ben

    Saw this tweet recently: “Why does it seem wrong that Conan is being paid $33mm NOT to work while a million Haitians are homeless?” In other news Rev. Jim Wallis is on the Daily Show talking about what *good* could be done with the billions of dollars banks are paying out in bonuses. While I understand and to some extent enjoy these media shenanigans, I can’t help but feel like they distract from the real issues at hand. Thousands of people up in arms that a show might go off the air, that one man might be paid gobs of money to lose his job when more than 1 in 10 are out of work with no pay and entire nations are suffering in poverty. Maybe this distraction is what we need to keep us sane in a world where the good of humanity seems to be losing ground.

  2. Chris
    1.26.10

    Chris

    You make good points, hippie.

    And I agree that there are plenty of things wrong with highlighting an entertainment contract feud in the midst of international crisis. These are our priorities, alas. I mentioned Haiti in the beginning to provide a little world context and contrast, but I realize there’s a measure of callousness involved in using the same metaphor to describe our own entertainment media troubles. But here we are, it’s 2010, and Conan O’Brien’s ouster has become a rather personal event for many of those 1 in 10 that have found themselves on the receiving end of the corporate boot. Michael Ian Black wrote a surprisingly insightful post about this phenomenon, and a great follow-up for all the flack he received from fans who thought he was taking a swipe at Conan. There’s a tangible sense of unfairness about it all, and a pathetic helplessness to fight the corporate powers-that-be, who fulfilled a man’s dream of hosting a television show, only to snatch it back from his capable hands seven months later.

    Objectively speaking, Conan’s exit is a hardly a blip in time. He’s a rich man who just got a bit richer, and he’ll certainly be back to entertain folks in some bigger and better way. But a promise was broken and a dream destroyed, and it was an incredibly public affair. It’s nothing against the backdrop of utter destruction and despair that has engulfed Haiti, but here in America, killing Conan’s dream is just another frustrating reminder for some that, as you put it, “the good of humanity seems to be losing ground.”

  3. Ben
    1.27.10

    Ben

    well put, you callous asshole.

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