Why I'm not watching Conan tonight
I won't be watching you on TBS tonight. I'm sorry. It's not that I don't love you (I do) or that TBS isn't a super-station (it says so in the name!). But I have to decline owing to a subsequent engagement. (Don't think about that too long.)
I'm not doing this on principle. In fact, that's sort of the point. It's not that you aren't a classic! You are. But Mark Twain was right when he called a classic a "book men praise and don't read."
You're a classic for the Internet age -- a TV showman we praise and don't watch.
You're the Support for Iran's Green Revolution of TV personalities. If this makes you feel any better, we did the same thing to Haiti. That was the bizarre thing about the outpouring of support for you -- how much it paralleled what we do when Real Things occur overseas in countries whose names we can't pronounce. "I would mail them aid packages," we explain, "but I can't remember how many contiguous consonants there are, so I'm attending this concert instead."
Surely we'll be able to translate our vast outpouring of Team Coco enthusiasm -- the marches, the t-shirts, the banners, the art, the avatar twibbons,* the twitter followers -- into enough energy to move us to the couch in front of the television tonight?
Don't hold your breath.
There's a song in the musical "[title of show]" that states, "I'd rather be nine people's favorite thing than a hundred people's ninth favorite thing."
That's your problem, Conan. Sure, we're on Team Coco -- well, of course we are. Who are our other options? Jay Leno? That guy with the giant chin that our grandparents love because "he has a nice humor"? Letterman? I thought he was recusing himself.
Saying Conan is our favorite late-night host is like saying that he's our favorite member of the Andrews Sisters, or our favorite form of colonoscopy tube.** It's nice that we have a preference, but, really, when will this matter? Conan is the late-night host for people who, well, don't really like late-night television.
StuffWhitePeopleLike pointed this out early on, during the waves of support for Team Coco. For the past ten years, you've been our cause celebre, our bearded avenger, our icon -- well, our Twitter icon, anyway. We've raised boatloads of awareness.
But what does any of it mean?
It's like the leaves. First, our twitter avatars were green, for Iran. Then the fall came, and they were orange, for you, Conan. Now it's the season of awareness about the suicides of teens, and they're purple. I wish there were something we could do that mattered more.
To me, the most successful of any of these awareness campaigns has been the It Gets Better project, which set as its goal the only thing people seem capable of giving -- their online attention. Sure, we'll make inspiring videos, write songs, and wear t-shirts! But that's about as far as anyone's willing to go.
This unnerves me.
Raising awareness? Can I lower awareness and just raise money? I know you can't eat money, but you can't even spend awareness. I once had a lot of awareness, and the vending machine kept spitting it back out at me.
That's why I wanted to apologize to you in advance. You deserve better. I hope other people watch! But from the start, this had all the hallmarks of the Things We Say We Care About But Don't Do Anything About. You know what I'm talking about. You can't deny that half of the outpouring for you was motivated by guilt, the same kind of guilt that makes you pay for your illegitimate son's passage to America after realizing he's grown up without a father figure.
But can you blame us? Cable television is what you turn on because you think you'll watch Mad Men and leave on because you think there might be a cop show somewhere. With a few rare exceptions -- Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men -- it's not appointment viewing.
And late-night talk shows? Those, by definition, are not appointment viewing. Jay Leno is what you watch after your cat accidentally turns the television on and you suffer a form of paralysis that prevents you from changing the channel. The reason I watched Conan before was that I was growing up in a household without twitter, or Facebook, or cable, or a computer that didn't make horrifying screeching noises before taking me to the Internet, which consisted of three sites.
Before, the graph looked like this.
And you played into our hands, embracing the twitter and the in-person appearances. Now, well, I'm sorry, but I can't make it.
So much for me. But where are the rest of us now, you ask? The ones who got enthusiastically involved in you Internet campaign, who followed you on twitter, who designed and implemented t-shirts with impressive graphic representations of your face? They're watching the Daily Show.
I love you, Conan. It's not you. It's me.
But I'll follow you on twitter.
*Avatar twibbons sound like a rare tropical disease you contract on Pandora
**I wish I could come up with an analogy that didn't involve colonoscopies! You deserve better.
| November 8, 2010; 6:08 PM ET
Categories: Petri, Reality? Television, That's awkward | Tags: apologies, twitter
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