Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The fo' 'ho'-men of NBC's apocalypse

The sharp analytical minds of Conan O'Brien's writing staff at The Tonight Show may have come up with the best explanation yet of the fine mess NBC has gotten itself into.

Think of the network's suits as favoring something a little "louder" than Brooks Brothers or Armani. Add a little extra bling to go with the Rolexes. Throw in some oversized chapeaus.

And don't forget the fur coats and Cadillacs in this action-packed milieu where "management" sweet talks the fresh talent, the veteran talent is expected to produce, many Benjamins change hands, and everybody will get screwed sooner or later.

WELL, everybody will get screwed until Pam Grier shows up -- in a clever "Conan O'Brien" disguise, no less -- to whoop some serious pimp-daddy ass and try to rescue the desperate old ho who's seen better days and will do anything to avoid being dumped at the Bide-a-Wee Courts with a cap in the . . . assets.

The New York Times picks up the plot line in this peacock-network remake of Foxy Brown:

Less than a week after NBC told him it intended to move his “Tonight Show” to a new time, 12:05 a.m., Mr. O’Brien said he would not agree to what he considered a demotion for the institution of “The Tonight Show” — and his own career — by going along with the network’s plan to push him back a half-hour to make room for his most recent predecessor, Jay Leno.

Mr. O’Brien’s statement Tuesday said that he so respected the institution of “The Tonight Show” that he could not participate in what “I honestly believe is its destruction.”

Pointedly, Mr. O’Brien did not resign or indicate he would not show up for work. But an executive at the network who declined to be identified because of continuing negotiations said that Mr. O’Brien would leave once a financial settlement was reached.

By Hollywood standards, Mr. O’Brien’s letter was an extraordinary gesture — releasing a statement to make public his anger at the company paying him tens of millions of dollars before he even reached a settlement.

The closest episode in history may be when Jack Paar walked off the set of “The Tonight Show” in a huff over corporate censorship.

Mr. Paar returned to the show within a month in 1960, but few are predicting a reconciliation between Mr. O’Brien and the network.

NBC executives continued Tuesday to work toward a financial settlement, though some indicated increasing impatience with Mr. O’Brien’s effort to blame the network for the three-car pile-up in late night.

The host, who saw his brief run as host of “Tonight” cut short when NBC decided to restore Mr. Leno to the 11:35 p.m. time period, has been increasingly upset about how he believes he was treated by NBC’s management.

A representative of the host said Tuesday that Mr. O’Brien finally reached the point on Monday where he “sat up all night drafting the statement.”


“You have to wonder if Jay is damaged goods after all this,” said one former longtime network programmer who did not want to be identified criticizing the network. “But if they give him ‘The Tonight Show’ back, maybe it ends up all right after a while. But it just seems so unfair to Conan.”

The release of Mr. O’Brien’s statement complicated an already messy legal and programming situation. NBC executives have quietly complained for at least a month that Mr. O’Brien himself was responsible for declining ratings on the show because he had not broadened his appeal from his days hosting NBC’s 12:35 a.m. show, “Late Night.”
FOXY . . . er, "Conan" don't take no stuff off no two-bit pimp daddies. She done got the evidence, the vice squad is about to bust down the door, and the jig is just about up for the Peacock Ring's late-night racket.

But alas, Foxy's bravery won't, we suspect, save Old Ho from TV decrepitude -- or from Jeff "Zucky Bear" Zucker, who runs the "enterprise." Last we saw, a salmon-colored Caddy was pulling up to the Bide-a-Wee Courts.

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