Late Night Talk Show Debacle

Something a little lighthearted for today - the late night talk show debacle.

The big entertainment news these days is Leno vs. Conan and who should rule "The Tonight Show." Given the other issues of huge importance across the globe, it might seem ridiculous that I choose to spend time blogging about this. But here I go.

There is a big uproar from people across the country about Conan O'Brien being kicked to the curb by NBC after only seven months on the infamous "Tonight Show". Though I've seen thousands of people of all ages support Conan, the majority of the die-hard fans appear to be my age - the Generation-X folks. These are people born in the 60's & 70's after the baby boomers, and Conan is a big part of that generation. My generation.

So why is my generation so upset? Why am I so upset? Well, I took some time during my long commutes to/from work and came to the following conclusion. I'm not just upset because one of the funniest people of my generation is being taken off the air. I'm upset because what is happening to Conan is very much representative of a Gen-Xers life.

Gen-Xers are shoved between baby boomers & Generation-Y, or the "Next Generation" as they call themselves. Do you notice something here? You have baby boomers who are so vast in numbers they control most of the world, and then Gen-Y calls themselves the next generation. Where do Gen-X folks fall, besides into the position of the forgotten middle child?

Conan is the middle child here; he represents Generation X. My generation grew up with him as he worked as a writer on "The Simpson's" and "Saturday Night Live", only to take the world by surprise and secure himself as host of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." He was smart, clever, and had a unique sense of humor that my generation understood. He took comedy to a new level that was above the standard microphone comics who could do nothing but one-liners. It was intelligent comedy.

Leno is the baby boomer whose power overwhelms the other generations due to their numbers. His humor fit in with that generation, and he sat in "The Tonight Show" chair for 17 years. His first few years were rough, but then he had great success. But when Conan started getting other offers from various networks NBC executives decided that they needed to keep him. After all, Conan was the future, right? So somehow a deal was worked out and Leno was to retire in 2009, handing the reins over to Conan. Seems fair, right? After all, Conan had paid his dues, put in his time, and the next logical career move was to take over for Leno when he left.

NBC starts panicking about their all-important baby boomer, and they decide he still has a lot of life left in him. Leno agrees and they come up with an idea to put him on TV for an hour every night at 10pm. Leno does his thing until 11pm, then local news, and then Conan comes on at 11:35pm. NBC execs thought it was brilliant, though I could never say the same.

So finally Jay moves aside and Conan gets the promotion he rightfully deserves. All of the sacrifices and time spent waiting had paid off. Or had they? Leno flops. Local news flops. Conan flops. It's a domino effect, and before you know it NBC is scrambling to recreate what it once had. And to them, it means putting an experienced baby boomer in the captain's chair again at "The Tonight Show."

So Leno eagerly takes advantage of the situation and says "You know, I didn't want to leave the Tonight Show after all. Do you mind waiting indefinitely some more until I decide I am done with this job? You know, when I'm 70+ years old? Because there is no reason for me to leave if I'm still popular."

NBC tries to move Leno into "The Tonight Show" time slot but lets Conan keep the show name. They think Conan will just accept it, because he should just be grateful to have a job. So Conan does the right thing and says "No, I'm better than that, the show deserves more respect than that so fine, have your show back and I'll take my chances." Though it has yet to be announced, I can say that this is likely Conan's last week on "The Tonight Show" and Jay Leno will be returning to host until he either keels over on stage or becomes unable to perform. When he's done 10+ years from now, I guarantee you the person to replace him will be a Gen-Yer because, after all, they are the next generation.

Is this the end of Conan's career? I bet everything I own when I say "no." He'll go on to something that's hopefully bigger and better, and hopefully to a network that cares more about him and my generation than NBC.

So again, I pose the question - why do I care? Because what happened to Conan is what is happening to a lot of us. My generation is stuck waiting around in mid-level jobs for the baby boomers to retire...except they aren't retiring. They are living longer and keeping their better paying, more satisfying jobs longer. They tease us with retirement dates that never come. They even "retire", but still manage to keep their jobs after they retire. And when they finally do move on, it's Generation Y that's looked at as their replacement because they are, after all, the next generation. You can get them cheaper, they are more tech savvy than any other generation, and they usually have a higher level of education (though I would argue that getting a degree is easier today than it was even 10 years ago).

Conan not getting a real chance and getting booted by a guy that was to exit the stage is just another example of Generation X getting passed over. We are not seen as a generation that brings any value or strength in numbers. We are officially the middle, red-headed stepchild that is caught between two larger generations and completely ignored. But in this rare moment my generation is being heard. Stories are everywhere about the rallies, petitions and Facebook movements to support Conan and his staff. Though I'm stuck in Cleveland, I've done my part by sending off emails, joining Facebook groups such as "I'm with CoCo", and answering poll after poll in support of my guy. I will stick by Conan and whatever network is smart enough to bring him and his staff onboard; NBC can fall off a cliff as far as I'm concerned, and that's hard to say because I had a tendency to like a few of their shows. But as a network they have made it clear they don't care about my generation, so I don't care about them. My generation is sticking together on this one; we are looking out for each other, and I don't expect that to change.

My generation isn't going to keep Conan on "The Tonight Show." What it will do - at least I hope it will do - is wake us all up from our slumber and realize that even though we may be smaller in numbers, we do have a voice. We do have value. We do matter to this country, even if people completely are oblivious to it.

Conan taking a stand and refusing to compromise is something all of us should take note of. Yes, he's an entertainer making millions, but in the end he is a representation of what is going on across America. So while it may seem like a shallow movement to be a part of when you first look at it, after a lot of consideration it is more meaningful than what initially meets the eye. It's a reflection of our society, and it's woken my generation from a mind-numbing slumber while we wait for our turn in line. Maybe we should all take a cue from Conan and stop waiting; it's time we make our own opportunities instead of waiting for them to be eventually handed down.

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