Conan vs. Jay Mirroring Our Recession Rage?

Categories: Watching TV

Written By

January 19th, 2010

New York Magazine proposes that kerfuffle over The Tonight Show is the perfect allegory for the great recession:

What's strange is not that Kimmel was blasting Leno. Rather, it's that his attack — two millionaires going at each other — sounded like a battle cry in a populist revolt. "We live in a society today that loves a soap opera," NBC chief Jeff Zucker told the Times, trying to shrug off his current troubles, but he's exactly wrong. This is no Tigergate, which we follow out of prurient interest. This has evolved into a national passion play about greed, betrayal, stupidity, incompetence, and corporate cluelessness. In other words, the late night fiasco has become the perfect allegory for the Great Recession. No wonder people from hosts to fans sound like they're taking to the barricades.

It's a very intriguing proposition, even if it is wrong,

There is no doubt some stupidity and cluelessness was involved, but although it might not be as prurient as Tiger-gate, it is unquestionably about the drama! The drama of competition.

In sports, this sort of drama plays out all the time. Two or more people competing for their dream job with only one person emerging the victor.

Jay Leno channeling Bernie Maddoff? Please! Jay Leno is channeling Brett Favre! "Hey, I'm great at what I do, and not only do you not want to kiss my butt, you don't want me in The Job at all? Whoa!"

The drama with the Tonight Show is that it wound up going even a step further. Imagine if Green Bay announced in a couple of weeks that they were getting rid of Aaron Rodgers and bringing back Brett Favre. That's not going to happen, for a lot of reasons, but if it did happen, we'd be hearing about it regularly for months on sports talk.

It did happen with the Tonight Show and the drama is gripping.

Relatively few are fortunate to dream up their "dream job" to begin with. Fewer still actually achieve it, and fewer still have it yanked away from them. Nobody wants to lose their dream job. Not Brett Favre. Not Conan O'Brien and not Jay Leno either.

There is drama in the competition itself. And sure, this competition played out against a backdrop of some very bad (going back to at least 2004) bets NBC made, but that just added to the drama. You wind up with the drama of business, the human drama of competition, and the human drama of the agony of defeat in Conan's case.

It all adds up to a lot of drama and prurient or otherwise, we love our drama.

 
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