So maybe I feel like writing again. We’ll see. In the meantime here’s a small trifle of no particular importance…
I like talk shows. I know, not exactly a big deal, but I always have. When I was still in middle school I started sneaking my little black and white tv under the covers to watch Carson every night. In Junior High I discovered Tom Snyder and the Tomorrow Show and never got a full nights sleep again. I rarely missed Mike Douglas or Dick Cavett when they were in their heyday. Star Trek and Dr Who did nothing for me but Buddy Hackett on the Tonight Show was destination television.
I truly loved Carson and still think he might have been the best but I was also a huge Letterman fan. Sure, his bits were kind of hit or miss but his ability to show a low level of contempt for his guests and his own genre while still honoring that genre were, in my opinion, genius. I miss them both. I also really miss Craig Ferguson. I literally saw every one of the shows over his last 5 or 6 years. Punk rock sensibilities used to deconstruct an old form and all done with a wink and a grin. On any given night you might get a deep discussion of Jungian collective unconscious or 20 fart jokes. Brilliant.
I never cared much for Leno. Decent comedian with poor interviewing skills. I think perhaps he needed to be liked too much to do anything really interesting but I’d still watch if Dave was in reruns. Conan is okay, just not to my taste. Harvard frat boy humor, even done well, doesn’t bring me back night after night. I never cared for John Stewart. Showing idiots on Fox News while making faces isn’t very entertaining and even when I agreed with him he still came off as both smug and preachy. Especially at the end he became essentially Rachel Maddow in the Borscht Belt.
So where does that leave me now? Jimmy Fallon has the best band and his musical guests and numbers are great but his constant fawning over talentless guests is sickening. He’s truly embraced the format and a lot of his shows seem somehow dated and almost quaint. James Corden has been really disappointing and Seth Meyers bores me to death. I never watch either of them. I had high hopes for Stephen Colbert but his first week of shows were pretty bad. He can’t seem to decide what he wants his show to do, mock the genre or make sweet love to it. And stop jumping up and down. I’m kind of drifting into being a regular Kimmel viewer, not because I’m a big fan but because he seems to be the heir to the Paar/Carson/ Letterman line. We’ll see.
I think over all there’s a subtle and profound change in the late night talk show world. Hosting one of these shows used to be the sign of a stalled career. Paar loathed the job. Carson and Letterman failed at acting and stand up and both saw their shows as a necessary compromise. Ferguson talked a lot about how he hated the gig, partially as shtick but also in truth. It gave all of them a little edge and a lot of humility. Today’s current crop of hosts wanted to do this. Talk show host was the goal, not an accident. I think perhaps we’re the poorer for it.
Probably none of this matters. It’s not rocket science or saving the whales. No one else is going to get too excited. But I suppose if people can lose sleep over who plays the next Dr, or which Star Trek captain is best, or whatever they’ve done to fuck up the Star Wars movies now, than I guess I can give way too much thought to talk shows. At least they won’t turn into shitty movies or cartoons. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios, Viva la Revolucion and good night.