Long before my existence, legends like Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and David Letterman were the kings of weeknight programing. Every night they’d come out with the same formula. An occasional cold opening, followed by a monologue, main comedy piece, an interview, and then a second comedy piece or interview. For a long time this worked, and it’s hard to think of something that could do as well at this nightly time slot. But just like Babe Ruth, I’m here to call my shot. Within 10 years we will be done with the nightly programing and will only be seeing tonight shows to the likes of Samantha Bee and John Oliver. It seems like only a few years ago every night I’d watch either Conan or Letterman depending on the guest and sometimes both if I felt the need to record one, but the golden age of the talk show is over. The end of this era can be blamed on Youtube, Netflix, and an inability to evolve.
When my young eyes still found themselves glued to the TV whenever I saw, Conan and Letterman, then Leno and Letterman, because Conan got his show cucked by Leno, and THEN back to Letterman and Conan because Conan got his own show on TBS. I didn’t have access to a computer all the time and in consequence Youtube. Now there is no need to watch these shows in real-time. The reason to watch these shows were always the main comedy piece. When Kimmel does the halloween pranks, or Conan visits some place (see link at the bottom), I know I’m going to see it on Youtube. This saves me all the time watching the commercials and a five minute monologue that’s going to only be funny for a fifth of it.
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or one of the million illegal streaming places are the next culprits in the death of late night talk shows. TV has really hit its stride, people no longer have to watch boring melodramatic television shows on big networks. We have countless shows at our disposal with no commercials and access to binge it so we’re not waiting a week. There are so many good shows that I don’t have time to watch Jimmy Fallon laugh for 45 minutes and tell jokes for the other 15. In tandem with youtube the death of late night television is inevitable.
My final complaint is the general structure and writing. The popularity of these shows are really hurt by the interviews in my opinion. The 15 minute block of easy, boring questions like “So did I hear correctly your dog skunked?”, are killing the whole show for me. I’m not a big celebrity guy so that may be the reason, but I’ve never had a friend say “Lets watch Colbert tonight heard he has Tom Hanks on!” so I’m guessing it’s not just me. I want more Kimmel and Conan bits, (which may be happening for the latter since he was rumored to be moving to once a week), that really bring out the true comic in these hosts. We are also in a society that, if it’s not “Hot Takes Only” or somewhat polarizing it’s going to go unnoticed. Colbert has done a good job at this but not to the likes of Samantha Bee or John Oliver. John Oliver has become much watch TV Sunday nights, and it’s undoubtably because he doesn’t do a network television show. I feel bad but it’s the truth, these current late night hosts are in a slot that will never be changed because of it’s tradition and wont be too polarizing because they are on major networks and don’t want to stir the pot. Sad!
So late night television you’ve been warned, television is in a major evolutionary period.
Adapt or die.