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January 15, 2010

Late Shift 2: Electric Boogaloo

In the New York Times today, Bill Carter finds NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol clearly on Team Jay, saying,
"What this is really all about is an astounding failure by Conan." Executive Leaps to Leno’s Defense.

But how much of Conan's woes at the Tonight Show are caused by the creative failure of the Jay Leno Show at 10 PM?

Tucked away in this story from Joe Adalian at The Wrap is the one fact that I've been looking for, that Conan's Tonight Show is actually outperforming Leno's Tonight Show, when you account for the massive fall-off of lead-in: Ebersol: Conan 'Chicken-Hearted, Gutless' | The Wrap: "O'Brien's down from the Leno era in the adults 18-49, losing Leno's 15 percent advantage over Letterman. But local news numbers have dropped between 20 and 30 percent since Leno shifted to 10, which means O'Brien is actually not dropping as much as his lead-in."

Even though Leno hosted the Tonight Show on a low-rated network last year, NBC's slightly more creatively interesting 2008-09 schedule provided a much stronger lead-in to the late local news and The Tonight Show than the 5 night per week black hole of suck that is the Jay Leno Show.

But why do we care so much about The Tonight Show?

Firstly, it is the most established late night show and during the Carson era, it was the only late night talk show that mattered. Viewers have a relationship as much with the tradition and establishment of a show. Millions of Americans find something comforting about routine and being able to watch The Tonight Show while settling in to sleep. And given Leno's popularity, we can only assume that for many people funny isn't a necessary component of a comedy show.

Secondly, even though NBC is by far the least popular network of the four, it may still be the one with which television viewers have the most personal connection. NBC has a much more specific nexus with its location at 30 Rockefeller Center. Because The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Channel 4 News, Saturday Night Live, Late Night and (fictionally) 30 Rock are all based there, there's a feeling that NBC is an actual location with physical place and staff that all works together rather than a bunch of shows that happen to occupy the same frequency allocation on a transmitter. Secondly, more of its shows are long-running brands that have maintained the same core identity for so long that they have become institutions. Meet The Press is the longest running television show in worldwide broadcasting history, having been on the air continually since 1947. The Today Show has been on since 1952. The Tonight Show has aired continually since 1954. Saturday Night Live has aired since 1975 and Late Night since 1982. Only in two areas (evening news on CBS) and newsmagazine (60 Minutes)) do any of its competitors have longer running institutions than NBC.

Conan put his talk show up for sale on Craigslist.

What happened the last time NBC threatened to replace a Tonight Show host with another host from its network? In 1992, Bill Carter reported for the New York Times, Jay Leno Criticizes NBC On 'Tonight' Cliffhanger. We all know how that turned out.

It seems that Jimmy Kimmel is not a Leno fan. He did his Tuesday night show as Leno and then went direct as a guest on Leno's show:

Myles McNutt, Cultural Learnings, Betrayal at NBC, Colon, What REALLY happened with my Late Night Show, Question Mark, by Conan O’Brien

Anne Helen Petersen, celebrity gossip, academic style, Team Conan: Nice Guys Finish First. Okay, well, kinda.

Lawrence Ebert, IP Biz, "The Tonight Show" controversy: do trademarks have a temporal dimension?. I'd say that since it has always aired after the late local news, The Tonight Show has come to mean NBC's leadoff flagship and least-late of its late night shows.

James Poniewozik, Time Tuned In, Jay Leno: Seabiscuit or War Admiral

Julian Casablancas at Terminal 5 - January 14th, 2010

"I'll be honest, I was a bit nervous before playing this show," said Julian Casablancas from the stage Thursday at Terminal 5 before thanking the packed house again for the warm reception. Artists gain and lose popularity fast in music, so it may not have been too crazy for him to think people might not care about him or his old band The Strokes that much anymore. But an excited Terminal 5 audience dispelled any doubt. Perhaps music tastes can change, but New Yorker's always welcome back one of their own.

Doors opened at 8 PM and by 9 PM opener Tanlines was keeping the growing crowd well entertained, mostly with their intense on-stage gyrations. Tweaking computers and keyboards they presented an aggressive dance sound. In contrast, Telepathe, who followed, emitted an intense racket that sounded like a wash of sound rather than finely crafted music. The duo's similar sounding voices and monotonous songs barely excited the crowd, and a few of their offerrings ended with just a spattering of applause. The group looked a little dejected as they left the stage, but after 35 minutes of without much musical or visual excitement (they barely tried to engage the crowd), it was hard to feel guilty about the audience's poor reaction.

The reaction was much different when the lights went down for the headliner. With his backing band hitting the stage first, Julian Casablancas strolled out in a slim black leather outfit to the jubilation of everyone in Terminal 5. Although it's only been a few years since The Strokes played New York, the excitement of the moment was palpable, as was the moment when he began singing in his distinctive croon.

The band started off with "Ludlow Street," one of the album's slower tracks, and though it lacked some of the old world instrumentation of the recorded version, it came across well, as did the next song, the more up-tempo "River of Brakelights." Casablancas took the chance to talk to the crowd a bit, spouting out a stream of expletive-laden thanks-yous to everyone for the warm reception. The casual banter would continue throughout the night, and flew off into such side roads as Casablanca's admiration of Alicia Key's contribution to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" (he would later sing a snippet of it as a ten-second final song of the night, backed only by drums).

Launching into single "11th Dimension," the band was fully warmed up and the crowd was soon bopping up and down. Every once in a while throughout the night (in "River of Brakelights" and Left and Right in the Dark," for example), the band hit a chugging groove and Casablancas voice hit that sweet spot towards the higher, more desperate part of his range. The effect recalled what was so great about the Strokes, and the crowd reacted as you would have expected (see the video below). But the other sounds Casablancas has explored proved popular as well. The crowd sang along with "Out of the Blue" and "Left and Right in the Dark." Casablancas and company played a new, untitled song which felt energetic and a lot more raw than the album material.

Reports from L.A. told of an elaborate stage show, but there were no visuals or fancy costumes at this gig, just the band and Casablancas with minimal lighting effects. Still, the crowd ate it up, especially in the encore when Casablancas and his keyboard player came out to play a stripped-down "I'll Do Anything Once," a Strokes b-side (which he announced as a cover). A bigger surprise was the inclusion of the Kings of Leon song "Velvet Snow," though admittedly it was one of the weaker songs of the night. Still, the singer seems happy to playing live in NY again, whether this solo tour is a diversion before a Strokes reunion or a long term gig.

January 19, 2010

Heavy Indicia

Igot invited to see a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theater last night. And aside from Dave being more engaged and energized by another situation involving the Tonight Show and Jay Leno over at NBC, this was incredibly worthwhile to attend, because The Heavy were the musical guest and rocked the house. As soon as the show wrapped, I was looking for their tour schedule to see if they were playing a full set later. Unfortunately, the Late Show wrapped up their US tour.

How often does Dave ask the musical guest to keep playing the song for another go round with the CBS Orchestra then vamping on the riff after the band finishes?

According to the Late Show website, it was "unprecedented." They also have the full and complete encore performance

But sometimes when a band is just setting up, you get a feeling that you're going to like them. If they've set up a four piece Gretsch drum set, Rickenbacker bass, Telecaster guitar through a Fender amp, baritone sax, tenor sax and trumpet, you get a sense of the sound they're going to have. Combine with a British flag and before the band is even on stage, that's a pretty solid indicator of the kind of sound they're going to have. Borrow the Dap Kings horn section and execute well and there you go: a recipe for awesome.

The Heavy [theheavy.co.uk]

WXPN: The Heavy, Recorded Live In Concert (Jan. 15, 2010)

NPR: The Heavy: Dirty Basement Soul "Like the early White Stripes, The Heavy sometimes threatens to cross the line between reviving and archiving. Also like the early White Stripes, it's good enough to get away with a lot, and smart enough to take full advantage."

The House That Dirt Built: Vinyl CD MP3

About January 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Buzz Rant & Rave in January 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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