Monday, January 11, 2010

Television Rant: Australian Idle and the US Late Night Paradox

Lots of big upheaval in television this week from both here and in America.

With both these stories it's almost a case of - duh!

Here in Australia, the long running and once unassailable Idol franchise has gasped its last, after suffering several years of middling ratings (hovering under the 1 million mark for most of last season which is painfully low compared to the 3 million viewer highs of its first two seasons) and a public indifferent to the "talent" (singles from the last few idol winners have been fizzers on the ARIA charts) the show was producing.

Officially the show is on hiatus and will not be making an appearance in 2010, unnofficially Ten would be unhappy with being Seven and Nine's bitch and would want to use their Commonwealth Games launch pad late in the year to launch something good with half a chance of success.

I could say something nice about Idol - but I won't because its been obvious since the end of the second season - when the winner was the unremarkable Casey Donovan and "Dicko" (who's real name incredibly escapes me) prepared to jump ship for the millions that Seven was offering - that the show's mechanism for discovering talent was faulty (thousands of teenage girls with mobile phones are not the best judge of bankable pop talent) and the judges don't care all that much so why should the rest of us!

The addition the following season of the polarising Kyle Sandilands only served to further alienate people over the age of 25 and the long trudge downhill began.

Really I'm not sure why Ten didn't realise this years ago - I only hope they saw the writing on the year last year and starting coming up with some sort of alternative that might actually draw some viewers.

In the US the NBC network is crumbling under the weight of bad, bad decisions. Back in 2004 (correct me if I'm wrong) the network struck a deal to have Jay Leno "retire" from the Tonight Show so the up and coming Conan O'Brien could take over the show in 2009. This was done to Conan at NBC stopping him from jumping ship to either ABC or Fox who were (at the time) looking to get into the late night Television war.

Cut to 2009 and indeed Leno did "retire" from the Tonight Show, only to return in a new primetime clone of his Late Night show. The thing about US television is - they have very clear demarcation for different types of shows - and the idea of a Celebrity Talk Show in primetime is very wrong to the yanks, as is the idea of a Prime Time network show taking up 5 nights a week.

Leno debuted in the 10pm slot in NBC back in September (and has been airing 7.30pm weeknights on the Comedy Channel and various times on 7TWO since his debut) the show is mostly the same as the Tonight Show and there in lies the problem, the show, not bringing anything new to the table, pulled late night audience figures in a 10pm slot

BTW 10pm may sound pretty late in the context of Australian TV but this late hour has been the home to a lot of mega-hits over the years from Hill Street Blues, LA Law, ER, Law & Order, SVU, CSI Miami, The Practice, Northern Exposure to name a few.

The lower audiences not only meant a lower lead in for local newscasts at 11pm (the networks don't program the 11 - 11.35 time period handing this time over to local stations whose late night news casts are traditionally big money spinners) but because viewers have already watched Leno's monologue, they didn't feel the need to stick around for Conan's - leading to Conan taking a beating in the ratings from the philandering David Letterman!

Now only 4 months into this experiment, NBC has waived the white flag and is moving the "retired" Leno back to 11.35pm with Conan starting after Midnight (making him head to head with Jimmy Fallon (whose very funny ABC show can also be seen on the Comedy Channel) and the second half of Letterman.

This is a total embarrasment for everyone involved. NBC had the stones to force Leno's retirement - they should've stood by their original decision instead of creating the farce that has ensued - if Leno had jumped to ABC or Fox (very likely) he may have succeeded or flopped, but it would have been a better situation than what we've witnessed.

Now in all likelyhood NBC could lose Conan (who Fox has expressed interest in) which would be an even bigger disaster than losing Leno.

As for Leno - a lot of this came about because he agreed to "retire" in the first place (when he certainly didn't need to) partly because he wanted to avoid the acrimonius situation that played out between he, Letterman and Carson in 1992, ironically in trying to avoid that situation he has unwittingly created a situation that is much worse because its threatening to bring down the NBC network. It's like some weird time travel paradox!

No comments:

Post a Comment