Late Night with... Who Cares?

Where were you during the Late Night Wars? There was a time not that many years ago when watching David Letterman or Jay Leno defined your pop culture affiliation. Was the crusty Letterman and his ubiquitous Top 10 list a must-see or did you line up behind the genial Leno?

This was of great cultural import in the months and years that followed Leno inheriting Johnny Carson’s desk at the helm of The Tonight Show, a year before Letterman bolted for CBS and The Late Show. The ratings battle that followed was breathlessly reported and analyzed and people choose their camps - you couldn’t be in both. His slot at Late Night was given to Conan O’Brien, a then unknown writer and producer for The Simpsons.

Flash forward to today and the only late night hosts anyone talks about anymore are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The Late Night Wars are over, and the satirists won. But with O’Brien hosting the Emmy’s last night it got me wondering if there may be another storm brewing over The Tonight Show. In 2004, Leno announced he would retire in 2009 and make room for O’Brien, who NBC had named his heir apparent. There was talk that Leno was pushed out early to keep O’Brien from leaving to another network’s 11:30 slot, like the Letterman debacle.

Can you say seller’s remorse? Leno isn’t saying anything, but as his early retirement approaches there are rumours he isn’t quite ready to leave. He didn’t appear at the annual TV critic’s tour this summer, which just added to the speculation. Is it really a job worth battling over anymore? The audience is diluted, celebs can promote their latest projects almost anywhere and there are, quite frankly, better things to watch during that time slot. If a monologue is told in an empty theatre, does anybody care?


  1. All I know is Conan is usually miffed after the Emmys because the Daily Show wins instead of his program in those categories.

    It has been speculated that 2008 could be the year that Jon Stewart returns to CBS... to take over in the 11:30 slot. I remember his previous stint at that network. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  2. I would hate to see Stewart return to a traditional talk show format and hope that he doesn't cave when they drive the dump truck load of money up to his house.

  3. I've never watched those late night shows. When I was younger and I caught glimpses with friends, I was always sitting there, wondering how they could find this funny. It just wasn't my kind of humor. Glad to see others who think those shows were as lame as I thought. Hope Stewart doesn't switch, that would not be good.

  4. I'm pretty sure Leno isn't dead, because he would have at least gotten some media coverage if he was.

  5. Well, he is dead on the inside at the very least.