Sunday, January 31, 2010



Godfather's Pizza's heartwarming tribute to the recently-closed KFC franchise next door.

Reading/Watching/Etc.: Late Night Fiasco Edition.


The Late Shift: Letterman, Leno, & the Network Battle for the Night by Bill Carter.
Holy crap, this is fascinating. 300+ pages about blow-by-blow backroom (and frequently backhanded) network TV negotiations shouldn't be this gripping to a layperson like me, but I'm finding it hard to put down. I'm just sorry I didn't read it before the latest dust-up happened--there are parts of this book where you could substitute Conan's name for Letterman's (or, at times, Leno's), and it would've been like looking into a crystal ball. I'm a little over halfway through, and so far it's confirmed most of my gut feelings about the main players; Letterman is insecure and caustic but he's also the more talented of the two, while Leno's more robotic, far less imaginative and ultimately not very ambitious. Ambitious enough to hang onto the Tonight Show, yes, but not ambitious enough to do anything really groundbreaking with it. He's very much a comedy-by-numbers sort of comedian that appeals to people who don't want to be challenged, and he knows how to kiss ass. That's why he hangs on. I hope Carter follows this up with a sequel--the reporting in this book is so thorough and even-handed, I would love to see the Leno/Conan debacle dissected just as thoroughly.


Yeah, I don't say that too often. Oprah doesn't do it for me. Her work ethic and philanthropic works are admirable, but I've always been creeped-out by her studio audiences and their bug-eyed devotion to their overlord. Jay Leno: The Tonight Show Fiasco aired last week, but I missed it since I was at work. I watched some clips online, and proceeded to watch the 39-minute post-show discussion posted on her website. Oprah didn't really give it away during her Leno interview, but once she got to the post-show (which is web-exclusive), it was obvious that she's on Team Jay. And so was most of her studio audience. Because gee golly, guess what the median age in that room was? I'd safely say it drifted somewhere north of the 18-35 demographic. Go figure. I felt like Oprah's interview with Leno wasn't terrible, even if it didn't really tell us anything we didn't already know; but this post-show thing was kind of one-sided and it seemed like any time a younger person spoke up in support of Conan, Oprah was really quick to shoot them down (or to let one of her 50+ lapdogs do it for her).

"Team Leno, Revealed" on Gawker soothed the burn a bit, at least.

Legally blind.

Legally blind.

I think it might be time for a new pair of slippers.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm (still) with Coco.

I'm with Coco!!

You know, as stupid as it sounds, I took last week's Leno/Conan debacle personally. I threw myself into following that mess with the fervor of a Packers fan waiting for the Vikings to lose in overtime. Some people love a football team; some love American Idol. I love all that showbiz comedian crap.

I started watching Letterman when I was about five years old. Not on a nightly basis or anything like that--see, I was an insomniac when I was a little kid, and after consulting lots of parenting books from the library and finding none of their suggestions worked, my mom eventually gave up, parked me on the couch with a warm glass of milk, and let me watch Johnny Carson & David Letterman do their stuff (until I'd zonk out and she'd carry me back to bed). I think most of the jokes on Johnny's show flew straight over my head--when I laughed at Carnac the Magnificent, I was probably laughing at his hat more than anything that came out of his mouth. But, his stuff made an impression on me. I vividly remember the Monkey Cam, and the remote-controlled car with the Pope hat on top, and Elevator Races, and of course Larry "Bud" Melman and a bunch of other stuff you can read about on Wikipedia. That's not to say Letterman's comedy wasn't as brainy as Carson's--but it was definitely more physical, and more weird, and maybe that made it a little more accessible for a kid like me. I certainly wasn't in his target demographic, but Letterman's show was like a piece of low-hanging forbidden fruit; I loved it, even if I didn't quite know exactly what I was tasting.

When the Leno/Letterman feud erupted in the early 90s, I was on Team Dave by default. I was too young to really understand the complexities of what was happening, other than that it seemed like my idol was getting screwed over. And when Letterman moved to CBS, so did my family's late-night viewing allegiances.

Except...well, then came Conan. And this time, I was at the right age at the right time to get in on the ground floor. I was fourteen when Conan premiered, and it was like discovering Letterman all over again. Conan's show, by virtue of being on later and him being brand-new, got to be weirder than Dave's new spot on CBS, and I loved it. (And later, when Craig Ferguson took over for Craig Kilborn on the Late Late Show, I felt the same way about him. Kilborn never did it for me.) Conan was, in many ways, "my" late-night guy. He was awkward and goofy and had to prove himself all the time, and what teenager can't relate to that?

When Leno "retired" to 9:00 last year, I was pumped for Conan to take over the Tonight Show. Leno's always been the dullest of the late-night hosts--Letterman can go on like a broken record sometimes, but he still shakes things up and tries something weird from time to time ("Will It Float?")...and when he's pissed-off about something, he's hilarious. Leno's never done that; his late-night schtick has always struck me as lazy, relying too much on easy marks like newspaper typos and celebrity gossip (dude's still telling Clinton jokes, for god's sake!), and not taking any risks. Where's the imagination? Leno's like the blandest of white fills you up, but it doesn't stay with you. Give me something with a little grit. And a little whimsy.

Conan was change we could believe in.

But alas; NBC, in their infinite stupidity, was more interested in keeping an aging demographic happy (sorry, Boomers) than with developing decent shows to air at 9:00, or with keeping any finger on the pulse of their 18-35 year-old audience. No one my age (that I know) watches Leno. No one. Lots of my friends watch The Daily Show & The Colbert Report, which undoubtedly nipped at Conan's Tonight Show numbers, but no one I know was clamoring for more goddamned Jaywalking.

Watching Leno come back to the Tonight Show is like watching Wall Street deadbeats get multi-million dollar bonuses for nearly destroying the U.S. financial system. Failures aren't supposed to be rewarded; more maddeningly, failures aren't supposed to get promotions.

But you know, if there was a silver lining to all this, it was watching pretty much every comedian in the country join in the backlash. And I think it's pretty telling that all the other late-night hosts were able to step up their game in the last two weeks, while Leno's ratings were flat as a pancake.

Conan will find a new home, and while he may have lost this battle, I think he's ultimately going to win the war. Just like I think Letterman did.

Leno's core audience will probably follow him back to the Tonight Show, but how long will he hang onto that slot before he either craps out or gets forced out? Clock's ticking, Jay. You aren't getting any younger, and neither are your fans...I doubt you're inspiring many five year-old insomniacs, at any rate.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Possible causes for the horrible smell wafting up from the basement at work:

1. A wading pool full of raw sewage.

2. An army of cats has taken over the sub-basement and are developing a crap-based chemical weapon.

3. Somehow the sun-baked dumpster located behind the Best Western I worked at in the summer of '98 got rolled down there.

4. My landlady's dog has come back to haunt me.

5. Jay Leno.

6. The slowly-rotting hopes & dreams of the Democrats that used to rent that space.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Is this for real?

Because I think I kind of love it.

Police blotter.

Sunday, 12:19 P.M.: Request for officer to check overheated vacuum cleaner.

Monday, 1:15 A.M.: Report of woman at tavern being "man-handled," with caller noting that "the lady in the red pants is nice." Update: Female removed from premises.

Tuesday, 9:25 A.M.: Report of man sitting on curb, advised that it was not a safe place to sit but refusing to move.

Tuesday, 4:34 P.M.: Report of theft of outhouse door.

Wednesday, 12:11 A.M.: Report of woman "wrestling" with male in a black truck. Caller offered a good description of suspect. When asked where the male went, she said, "I don’t know. I got in my car and f------ left."

Friday, 5:54 A.M.: Report of male at restaurant opening his jacket and showing a gun to people at table. Update: Subject had no gun, was showing his bite mark.

Saturday, 12:08 P.M.: Report of windows in house busted out with an ax by caller’s daughter.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

If it's rattling, that means it's about to attack, right?

I picked up an apple at the grocery store this morning, and once I got back to the quiet of my office, I noticed it rattled. Audibly. Like a fruity little maraca.

Never had one do that before.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new.

Out with the old...

Today, my Alfred Hitchcock key chain went into retirement. He had a good run: I can remember him dangling off the ignition when I was driving the hand-me-down Oldsmobile my last year of high school (1996), and he's been a faithful companion ever since. Many keys have come & gone, but ol' Alfred's outlasted almost all of them:

Keys to the Oldsmobile, keys to my 1st dorm room, keys to my 2nd dorm room, keys to my on-campus apartment, keys to Bessy the Lumina, keys to the house I lived in my last year of college...keys to Emily & Kevin's house (where I lived for a month after I arrived in Helena), keys to my apartment on Hoback, keys to the Office of Public Instruction, keys to DPHHS, keys to my apartment on Davis, keys to the Lewis & Clark fundraising campaign's office, keys to the city/county health department building...keys to my parents' house, keys to my brother's house, keys to where I work now.

Here's hoping the new guy works out.

...and in with the new.