Andy Ihnatko on the State of Late Night

Andy Ihnatko is one of my favorite writers, not only because of how well he masters the craft, but because of his ability to just plain nail exactly what the rest of us were thinking and trying to say.

His latest piece is a brilliant, explaining the current situation from the perspective of a viewer who truly understands what happens on television after 11:35pm. His take on the state of Late Night is spot-on:

If Jay takes back the Tonight Show — and does anybody believe that if Conan makes good on his promise, a Jay Leno show airing on NBC from 11:35 to 12:35 would be named anything else? — then the Tonight Show will live on as nothing more than a trademark. It’s damaged goods. The continuity of its comedy legacy will have been broken; it’ll be just another talk show. Its host will be thought of as a clock-puncher instead of an involved, committed innovator, a man who sees the chair not as the seat of a rich tradition, but as just a place where he can rest his feet and relax for an hour every night before his next show at some random casino in Godforsaken, Tennessee or wherever.

I’m a lifelong fan of The Tonight Show and of late night shows in general. It’s a shame to see how NBC and their boy Leno have screwed with Carson’s legacy, damaging so many late-night careers along the way.

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