Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's a 2am Post about Baby Boomers, Leno & the Next MA Senator

Usually I go through multiple rounds of self-editing when I write and review a blog post. It is one of those nights...check that, mornings (2:35 am) and for some reason I cannot get to sleep. Strange.

However, for some reason I cannot get three seemingly disparate thoughts out of my head:

  1. The late night wars between Leno vs. Conan;
  2. The loss of Kennedy's seat to Scott Brown (R); and
  3. PBS calling their new target demographic "Boomer+" (40-64).
Perhaps expressing the subliminal connection of the three things will allow me to release myself to the sweet embrace of sleep. OK, here it goes.

How Leno was ever the number one late night show when he hosted The Tonight Show is a mystery to me. His 'comedy styling' is dreadful, incipient, and just plain boring. I hated it, especially after watching the tail end of Carson's career who at least had style with a biting wit. As for Leno, his popularity could be explained by the fact that he consistently delivered up bland entertainment food that the self-satisfied lapped up with abandon because it make the 11:00 news seem like a distant memory. (Told you this was an unedited 2 am post.) And who was this audience? Baby-boomers.

We are not talking about the people who used to the be the folks who loved Cream, freedom of (their) expression and fighting "the man". Nor are we talking about the sensitive, low rent politically-engaged 30Somethings (circa 1987). Nor, God-bless them, the Boomers today who read the NYTimes and Economist for substance, but get their media gawking via The Daily Show.

No, we are talking the about people who we could say are either a) the folks that get up everyday and make this country work; our accountants, teachers, bus drivers, mid-level managers and stock brokers; or b) folks so overwhelmed and confused by demographic change, political turmoil and financial insecurity that they turn to the first source that either soothes their worries or validates them behind a screaming commentator or headline.

Or, in other words, the folks that voted for Scott Brown for Senator.

That's right, the Leno audience. (There, I can now blame Jay Leno for the lost of the filibuster-proof majority in the Senate -brilliant!...OK, OK is having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate might not be the BEST thing for our Democracy... a bit of morning logic starting to seep in....so let's just move on right now!)

The NBC boys got into trouble with their affiliates and who is the first person they are going to screw? Conan O'Brien, one of the triumvirate Generation X comedy leads, along with Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Stewart. (Strangely enough, Jimmy Fallon is actually a Gen-Xer too, but with the haircut and the cute name ending with 'y' I have to throw him back to the 20-somethings.)

Fine, O'Brien was not pulling the ratings as Leno did in the same spot, but that is really not the point. Conan's comedy and sense of the world is so vastly different than Leno's. And the folks that get Conan are the Gen-Xers and below...the smallest generation in many years. Who also happen to be the snarkiest too, and that is why these guys are funny. And being snarky means you actually have to think...you think the snarky, pop-culture reference come easy?!?

So, what does this have to do with PBS's "Explorer" archetype? (And for the record, professionally, I think this works pretty darn good...again, its a now 3 am post so cut me a break.)

I don't want to be lumped into the Boomer+ generation; my idea of engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking content is NOT the same as the true Boomers; plus the snark level is turned way down low...this stuff need to go to 11. (Did you get the reference? If not you are not Gen X...Spinal Tap for God's sakes!)

What I want, as Jimmy Kimmel said it so eloquently on Leno's own program (take that!): "all you have to do is take care of cars, we have lives to lead here. You have like 800 million dollars, please leave our shows alone." Or perhaps in the case of the Explorer archetype: "please sir, can I have at least one show?"

1 comment:

Lisa Delaney said...

Ok, so I read this when I was supposed to be working yesterday ... I think this it's time to stop assuming that our identity, our likes and dislikes, our behaviors are defined by the era in which we are born. There is so much more flow between generations now that categorizing people by an accident of birth such as age is an oversimplification. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I'm in denial that I will turn 50 this year--and I am also a Conan fan. But I don't think so. I see the flow in yoga classes, on the hiking trails in the park, at Whole Foods and Trader Joes', at "green" gatherings. I saw them ... aging hippies and millenials alike ... getting excited about Obama, about growth and change. I know that as people who speak to audiences, and therefore seek ways of defining them, we have to generalize to a certain extent. But I think we need to create categories that go beyond age to truly understand the way people behave, their interests and passions. As for Coco--I'll follow him wherever he goes, as long as I can stay awake late enough!