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On the Same Night, NBC Glides with Conan, But Not Before Crashing with "I'm a Celebrity"
June 2, 2009  | By David Bianculli
 

im-a-celebrity-silverman-09.jpgNBC honored its history and tradition Monday night by presenting a polished premiere of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.

A few hours earlier, it betrayed that history and tradition by presenting a wretched revival of a six-year-old ABC disaster, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!

The curious viewers came out in strong support of Conan, notching unusually strong numbers in the top overnight markets. Leno, though, drew better for his farewell show Friday, and the real test is the smaller, rural markets. That's where Leno won the late-night war and where Conan will be most severely tested.

For my review of Conan's Tonight Show debut, and a look at NBC's late-night moves in general, click HERE after 5 p.m. ET today, or listen to today's Fresh Air with Terry Gross on your local public radio station, for my review. You'll hear, for one thing, my favorite part of Conan's first show: his trip aboard the Universal tour tram.

im-a-celebrity-heidi-spence.jpg

Earlier, in prime time, NBC presented the premiere of the worst show it's presented all year. Everything about I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! was hideous, from the juvenile misbehavior of Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag from The Hills (especially Pratt, which may rhyme with Brat for a reason) to the utter live-TV incompetence that had the only live element involving the contestants -- a final gross-out battle in which they basically were waterboarded with insects -- cut off partway through.

"It's okay to breathe now, America," one host said earlier, after what, I guess, was supposed to be a breathlessly dramatic moment. But it wasn't okay. Any time you breathed during I'm a Celebrity, you smelled the same stench of horrible, irredeemable, unwatchable television.

The worst thing of all, in a program that was a veritable parade of worst things, was when poor, petulant Spencer wanted to take his Heidi and go home -- and got on the phone with the chairman of NBC Universal, Ben Silverman, who interceded to try to get him to stay.

im-a-celebrity-tarantulas-0.jpg

"I'm too rich and I'm too famous to be sitting with these people," said Spencer, distancing himself from such other alleged celebrities as Sanjaya Malakar and Stephen Baldwin. "The cast is devaluing our fame right now." Somehow, both of these young brats got to sit out the final bug-infested challenge, but I don't care about that, or about them.

What I care about is what you can see in the photo at the top of this column. Ben Silverman's phone call with Spencer didn't have to be part of the program, but it is. Prominently, so that Silverman's name and title are superimposed on the screen.

Here's my point: Most former NBC executives (let's just invoke Grant Tinker's name as the best example) never would have put I'm a Celebrity on the air, much less attach their name to it. Ben Silverman -- that's Ben Silverman, everybody, the same man who revived Knight Rider and Bionic Woman -- has proudly done both.

 

5 Comments

 

Neil said:

>> ...got on the phone with the chairman of NBC Universal, Ben Silverman, who interceded to try to get him to stay.

Am I mistaken that the chairman of NBC-Universal is Jeff Zucker, not Silverman? (A dim bulb in his own right, but accuracy is accuracy.) Silverman is president of NBC Entertainment, or some similar bullbleep title.

...Editor Neil

(BTW, got the headband, it's nicer than I was expecting. Thanks.)

(Neil -- Believe it or not, the on-air credit for Silverman, as NBC-Universal Chairman, is correct. Zucker, who now has the even grander position of NBC-Universal's president and CEO, promoted Silverman, because he did a great job increasing profit margins. Decreasing program quality, at the same time, but NBC's thinking these days, as practiced by Zucker and Silverman, is all about profits, even if their profits are without honor. -- Glad you liked the headband. I suppose I should mount a "Land of the Lost" contest, but I just can't find the proper motivation. -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 2, 2009 12:39 PM


giggles said:

Scary, no?

(Who's callin' who an asterisk NOW??!!)

Gladly, I was able to keep myself away from that, yet stay awake long enough to enjoy the new Tonight Show...and enjoy it I did! LOL funny! YAY for Conan! (I understand LOL, though I'd prefer it spelled out -- but what does YAY stand for? -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 2, 2009 1:26 PM


Danny said:

David,

"What I care about is what you can see in the photo at the top of this column. Ben Silverman's phone call with Spencer didn't have to be part of the program, but it is. Prominently, so that Silverman's name and title are superimposed on the screen."

What photo are you talking about? (The photo I forgot to post. It's there now. Boy, I can't WAIT until this book is done! Thanks for noticing... -- David B.)

Comment posted on June 2, 2009 1:43 PM


giggles said:

YAY: A loud raucus cheer in the affirmative.... rhymes with "day" ... not an abbreviation, just my way of acknowledging good work in the most emphatic written way I know how.... Akin to "Yeah" I suppose in my own unique "way" ... Like this! :-D

Comment posted on June 2, 2009 6:01 PM


Rich said:

Won't even waste my time with "Celebrity"- did watch Conan thou.

Conan was gutsier and funnier in the first 15 minutes than I've seen Leno be in the last 15 years. His opening line about moving to a bankrupt state, on the last place network, with one his sponsors being General Motors - that's biting, fresh, accurate, and self-effacing. I love how he even this evening [Tuesday] mentioned how 'In the Toilet' NBC is (His Rodeo ROAD shopping spree- lol).

A lot of shows (especially talk shows) do some of their best stuff when they just 'cut loose'. "Attack of the Show" on G4TV does this constantly and they are also Conan's audience...

Conan's gift is that he know how to make unfunny people 'part of a joke' by tailoring humor to their strengths (as opposed to Conan's ego). Like Martha Stewart eating a burrito with a 40 oz. bottle of beer. People that 'lay eggs' on Letterman are often hysterical on Conan.

Comment posted on June 3, 2009 1:19 AM
 
 
 
 
 
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