Did the Academy Throw Conan a Bone?
by Joel Keller, posted Jul 8th 2010 11:00AM
When Sofia Vergara and Joel McHale announced at the Emmy nominations this morning that Conan O'Brien's 'Tonight Show' was nominated in the Outstanding Variety, Comedy, or Musical Series category, I howled with laughter. It seems fitting, doesn't it, that Conan gets the last laugh on NBC, Jay Leno, and pretty much everyone else by getting an Emmy nod for his short-lived 11:35PM show? It seems to be an especially sweet victory for Conan, since neither Jay Leno's 10PM show or his 'Tonight' revival got nominated.
But I wonder if all the news about Conan, and maybe some Team Coco campaigning inside the Academy, got Conan the nod. Because, let's face facts: Conan's version of 'Tonight' wasn't very good.
Before you start throwing virtual tomatoes at me, hear me out for a second. If taken as a complete entity, Conan's eight months on 'Tonight' were mediocre at best. Until he decided to quit in January, he was very tentative in the host chair. He shelved most of 'Late Night's' most daring bits in order to appeal to a broader audience, and he seemed to get swallowed up by the enormity of the stage, literally and figuratively. On many nights it looked like Conan wanted to be back in his apartment in New York, walking to work and bringing out the masturbating bear in front of his tiny but loyal studio audience.
Of course, the episodes that aired after he issued his letter to NBC and the public turning down the offer to move to 12:05 were brilliant TV; Conan looked and felt like his old self, free to just do any wacky bit he could think of (the Bugatti dressed like a mouse, for instance) and equally free to tweak NBC in the process. If the Academy nominated him on those episodes alone, it would make sense; I'd imagine that those were the episodes Conan and his producers decided to submit.
But taken as a whole, I'm not sure Conan had a better year than David Letterman -- creatively, anyway. 'Late Show' gets nominated every year in the Best Comedy/Variety/Musical Series category, whether it deserves it or not. This year, between Dave's extortion scandal, his fights with Sarah Palin, and other landmines, the show definitely deserved a nomination. Yet it was surprisingly shut out of the category, in favor of Conan and a mediocre year of 'SNL.' Even Craig Ferguson's 'Late, Late Show' and 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' were much more consistent this year than Conan was and neither of them got a nod.
So it leads me to believe that the Academy wanted to recognize Conan somehow, no matter how undeserving he may have been. Earlier today, I mentioned that the Emmy folks loved to honor shows after they were canceled, and this seems like one of those situations. But usually those canceled shows were of high quality. That's not something I can say about Conan's run on 'The Tonight Show.'
What do you think? Is Conan getting a pity nomination from the Academy?
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