"The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show."
- Conan O’Brien - January 12, 2010
The nation is in crisis. I’m not talking about the tanking economy, the two ongoing wars and the current intelligence failures. They are no doubt important. But what is far more important is the terrifying uncertainty surrounding late night television in America.
Yes, Conan has a point. After all, if a show starts at five minutes after midnight, it can’t rightly be called the Tonight Show. It could be called Late Night or the Late Show or even the Late Late Show but it’s definitely no longer Tonight.
It could be called the Today Show but that would threaten almost the entirety of NBC’s morning schedule. It might be dubbed the Tomorrow Show although I believe that used to be Tom Snyder’s venue.
It could be called the Not Tonight Show since, as previously noted, it is no longer Tonight. Perhaps it could even be called the Yesterday Show since although it is now Today, the show really wants to be on Last Night which, in fact, was Yesterday.
But Yesterday suggests a non-nighttime event, something that happens during the day. To be more accurate, it would be better to coin a new name. It’s not tonight but it would like to be tonight. It’s the Yesternight Show.
As you can see, it’s not easy being a TV executive. It requires the wisdom of Saul, the patience of Job and the intelligence of the average television viewer. Difficult decisions are constantly facing these folks and they must walk a fine line in their attempts to retain as much top talent as they can.
Speaking of the wisdom of Saul, perhaps there is a simple solution to this national tragedy-in-the-making. Like Saul’s suggestion to the two women fighting over the baby, I submit that the NBC execs simply split the difference.
Jay Leno would start at 11:35 P. M. as proposed and, instead of a half hour show, he would present a fifteen minute monologue. Then Conan would come on at 11:50 P. M. thereby preserving the "tonightness" of the Tonight Show.
Once Conan’s one-hour show wrapped up at 12:50 A. M., Jay would return to finish up his designated half hour with a second fifteen-minute segment. At that point, I suspect that it wouldn’t really matter what time Jimmy Fallon came on.
"Crazy?" you might say. Crazy, yes. Crazy like a FOX.