Craig Ferguson Gloats a Bit -

Craig Ferguson Gloats a Bit


Jay Leno and especially Conan O’Brien aren’t enjoying the NBC late-night situation. (If O’Brien accepts the move to 12:05 — and he may decide he doesn’t have a choice — it will seem like a sucker’s move, given that Leno’s move to 11:35 is so clearly a stalking-horse for giving him the whole hour again. Once the new arrangement is in place, all the network has to do is expand Leno’s show to an hour, and bam, the pre-2004 status quo is restored. Keeping with Jeff Zucker’s mission to make everything exactly as it was in 2003.) But you know who’s enjoying it a bit? Their competitors on other networks. Particularly low-rated guys like Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel, who never do great but keep on hanging in there, and can get a little schadenfreude in noting that they have more job security than higher-rated dudes like Leno and Conan.

Update: As noted in comments, Ferguson’s show has been beating Fallon (making it a major beneficiary of the NBC shakeup, even before this happened) and even beat O’Brien sometimes toward the end of O’Brien’s previous show.

Here’s Craig Ferguson’s pardonable snicker:

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The big lesson from the Leno-at-10 fiasco is that  a broadcast network cannot get away with making life miserable for its affiliates. Remember, NBC forced this down the affiliates’ collective throat, pressuring one affiliate in particular that didn’t want to take Leno. The network thought it had quelled the rebellion, but it hadn’t, and the collective pressure from the affiliates ruined a plan that otherwise was going more or less as intended. Leno’s ratings were more or less what NBC and its advertisers expected. But it was killing the local news.

And that brings us to the other lesson, which is that the late-night format doesn’t work in prime time, and that’s because in prime time, you have to care how the episode ends. Prime time television is built to keep you watching until the end, so that you will still be around to watch whatever comes afterward. Even a prime time show with no story, like a variety show, will be structured and paced in an aggressive way, to encourage you to wonder what’s coming next.

Late-night TV, on the other hand, is not really built to keep us watching, because it would be pointless: most of us are going to tune out at different times, depending mostly on when we’re going to sleep and when we have to get up in the morning. The late night format, then, makes every segment a sort of freestanding little show within a show; it doesn’t have the relentless feeling of one segment leading to another that a prime time show has to have. It’s a format where momentum is not important, because it’s not competing with other things we could be doing (the only thing to do at that hour is watch another late-night show). Its main objective is to keep us awake, but we always feel like we can tune out at any time and not miss a whole lot.

You see how this applies to Leno. There was no momentum to the show, no drive to the next segment and certainly no pressure to keep on watching until the end. It was also a bad show, of course, but even a better show of that kind would have trouble making it in prime time. It just doesn’t make us feel like we’ll miss the Greatest Thing Ever if we stop watching.

So, that said, here’s Kimmel (with a very special guest) on the situation, with a — quite literal — pie chart to explain everything:

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Craig Ferguson Gloats a Bit

  1. I have been touting Kimmel for years. He has the best monologue, though it doesn't fit the traditional definition of one, the best comedy bits, and he has a talent for finding regular people who are unintintionally hilarious.

    If you didn't see his interview with the two guys who got thrown out of a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant for eating too much, you should try to find it.

  2. Check your facts: Ferguson has been number one in his slot for some time now, beating NBC/Fallon hyandily.

  3. Oh, you added what I was going to mention since I read this a few hours ago, that Ferguson actually was quite competitive with O'Brien before he got the big show. Ah well, I'll still comment.

    I feel bad for Conan, even though I don't watch his show (Colbert and Letterman are literally the only tv shows I watch, and he's up against them). I was a huge fan of his during the first season of 1993-1994 (people who say he was terrible in the beginning weren't watching; it was quite possibly the funniest thing on the air at the time that wasn't The Simpsons), but even then it seemed like he was always getting dumped on by NBC, and the great Later replaced Bob Costas with the awful Greg Kinnear, and all you ever heard was that he was being groomed to replace Conan. I have no idea how he's put up with a network that has no faith in him for 16+ years.

  4. Ferguson is no. one, any trime slot. Nobody does it better!

    • Agreed. Ferguson's surreal approach to interviewing has a way of cutting through the canned stories and letting you see the actual person that is the actor — having fun.

  5. Craig Ferguson beats the whole group – he is witty, articulate, intelligent and oh yes, did I mention, sexy as all get out. Go Craig.

  6. Thanks for linking us to "Craig's pardonable snicker". Reminded me of why I consider him the best and why I tape every show and watch it during prime time – as opposed to "tuning out because I have to go to sleep or get up in the morning" – the "pointless" theory you point out in your ridiculous article. Further, I am of the opinion that Craig has scruples that would prevent him from "enjoying" (your word) the late-night situation. He's merely doing what Jay and Conan themselves are doing – having a little fun with it. Lay off. This "low-rated guy" (again, your term), is considered the best by many – see James Free above. With so much to say about this truly-sad situation, I find it appalling that you thought it necessary to attack someone other than NBC – especially when your target became Craig Ferguson.

  7. Hey, let’s give credit where credit is due and stop blaming everybody else. Given the success of shows like American Idol, Jay had a chance to — and everybody expected him to — do something fresh. Even NBC touted the move as bringing something new to prime time. He needed to reinvent himself. Unfortunately, Jay wouldn’t know fresh if it was stamped on his forehead. So he just brought his same old tired Tonight Show act. That’s why his new show failed. He has nobody else to blame but his own lack of imagination.

  8. I haven't watch late night for years but when I do get a chance between my business, children and housework I have to say I love your show and try my darn best to stay up to watch. I do not agree that Craig is low rate. His show is FUN to watch!


  10. Ferguson is the ONLY ONE TO WATCH. Most every media critic chose him as the best of the lot. He's the brightest, funniest, and most inventive of the lot. Craig is the only one who's actually trying to change up the tired format. What other TV host would dare celebrate their 1,000 episode by not appearing as himself but as a puppet!

    The one down side of his show is that he's so damn good that I have to watch the entire thing instead of like other shows where I just watch a particular interview. If you haven't checked out his show…give it a look. If you like brainy mixed with bawdy…then you won't be disappointed.

  11. Ferguson is the only late night television show anchor I actually enjoy to be honest. Yes I enjoyed one episode of Conan's show way back when but that's just he was doing something funky with his hair. I had never seen that before. Now Craig Ferguson is just genious. He puts the "fun in funny". I think the company should consider some serious changes in the near future. I'm fine with Craig being in his current timeslot but hey it would be nice to see him a little earlier. I don't care though I'll record his show or watch it if I'm up late that's fine by me. Craig is #1 in my eyes.