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Did the Academy Throw Conan a Bone?

by Joel Keller, posted Jul 8th 2010 11:00AM
Conan O'Brien 'Tonight Show' banner
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?


(Follow @joelkeller on Twitter.)

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May 02 2011 at 3:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ptaray

Leno is the networks "keep the conservatives
" go to guy. Conan was the more realistic and mainstrem sort of guy, like him or not, the real bulk of this nation was warming up to Conan, but the folks who complain and call in boycott and spend the money for products peddled on late night tend to get more results. Jay WAS funny, Conan IS funny, but not on regular television anymore. Like Bill Maher, reality and true opinion, you need to hide it so the conservatives think America is still theirs.
just an opinion....

July 08 2010 at 4:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul

Joel, I don't see how it's a "fact" that the entire run of "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" wasn't very good. While the last couple weeks were phenomenal television, especially from Conan himself, as a whole the writing and production for the entire 7-month run was extremely underrated.

People were expecting "Late Night" and thus, I think, couldn't look objectively at what they were getting. It was a DIFFERENT show, but it wasn't a bad show by any means.

There were some brilliant bits THROUGHOUT the "Tonight Show" run, and some really memorable TV in such a short time. The writing -- monologues and sketches alike -- was at the same high level it was at "Late Night", and while the style of the show was different, it was still Emmy-worthy.

Will "The Daily Show" win the 2 main categories "Tonight" was nominated in (Series and Writing)? Probably. Had they kept the "Best Performer" category alive, it'd probably be a race between Ferguson and Colbert for that one. But Conan and his "Tonight Show" definitely deserve to be nominated.

July 08 2010 at 4:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Evan Blackford

I think Conan will be back, he needs no pitty the others just suck.. They lost the ratings when Conan left.. I go to bed watching David Letterman now, until that day I can watch Conan again:)

July 08 2010 at 2:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dickn2000b

I think Conan's attempts at humor are sophomoric and moronic. He is not funny now nor has he ever been. I'm glad NBC gave him the axe and hope that no other network gives him air time. LONG LIVE LENO!!

July 08 2010 at 2:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
michelle

I think it is very unfair to even attempt to compare Letterman (in his 17th year?) to a new host under surmountable Network pressure to make themselves marketable to a larger audience.

While some of the shows may have been tentative and rough, I think the Academy is voting to reward his passion for the job. They are voting to award the fact that had he been given a little more time and a chance to blossom, he could have owned the title of Tonight Show host.

While his run on The Tonight Show may not have been the absolute best, he was robbed of the chance to find his flow. I think he did an amazing job as the host, and the quality of the last month os shows was absolutely unbeatable.

I don't think there is anything wrong with rewarding a fighting spirit.

July 08 2010 at 2:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kim

Conan is an idiot. He doesn't deserve a nomination. I don't know why people made Jay out to be the bad guy in the situation. Jay is much better!!!

July 08 2010 at 2:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ac

I think The Tonight Show deserved the Emmy nomination for the final weeks of the show alone. While the rest wasn't his best work, it was better than the old Tonight Show and much of the other contenders on TV. As for Ferguson and Letterman, yes they were robbed. I would rather of seen them on the list than SNL or Real Time. Also a lot of categories have 6 choices so they could of maybe threw a CBS show in, but they didn't. Besides at the end of the night the award is going home with Jon Stewart anyway.

July 08 2010 at 1:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SteveMall

I agree that Conan's TS was better (great, in fact) towards the end of its run. But that's part of the game. Leno took almost three years to get his show to the point (now long gone) where it was watchable. Fallon and Ferguson took several months. Kimmel is much sharper now than he was when he started.

I liked Conan's entire TS run and miss it much now. I think we also saw a glimpse at the end of his huge range of talents. I hope we see more of that soon.

Question: are Emmy nominations/votes made based on entire body of work or do the shows submit representative episodes? I don't know.

July 08 2010 at 11:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to SteveMall's comment
M-D

If memory serves, Emmy nominations for series, writing, etc. are based on individual episode submissions, rather than on a body of work. From my brief glance at the nominations earlier this morning, it looks like Conan's nominations are based on the strength of his first show (which was a solid show, what with the cold open video and all)and his final few shows.

July 08 2010 at 1:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SteveMall

Thanks M-D! I guess it makes more sense that if you're going to review something, that everyone should be watching the same episode. That way you don't have one guy reviewing the 3/17 episode of "30 Rock" while another is reviewing the 3/24 episode.

Wonder if Conan's final few shows were in the mix. I'm a fan of all of his work, but those last few weeks were truly different from anything else on TV.

July 09 2010 at 1:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
EbonyDad

I think it is hilarious.

July 08 2010 at 11:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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