New York magazine has a great piece up detailing the final days of the Conan O’Brien regime at “The Tonight Show” that includes this insightful passage:
By the time O’Brien signs off tonight, with a $33 million buyout and a green light to jump to a rival network as early as September, it will be on a wave of populist support. A younger, tech-savvier constituency—one that was more likely to watch TheTonight Show on DVR or Hulu and was now tweeting its allegiance to Team Conan over Team Jay more than 50 to 1—had remade him, with viral swiftness, into something he had not sought to be and, as a fantastically wealthy Harvard-educated showman, did not exactly match: a folk hero for the downsized age.
The phrase “folk hero for the downsized age” made me think, is there even more going on here than that? I think it’s a generational thing: Conan O’Brien represents the collective angst of Generation-X’ers and Y’zers who have had to sit patiently while a generation of Baby Boomers stubbornly refused to pass the torch. And Jay Leno’s continued willingness to stick around long, long past his cultural sell-by date could just be the perfect metaphor for the self-involved, decreasingly-effective generation of Boomers that continue to hog up the top slots in our nation’s workforce.
The sole bright spot likely to emerge from this entire embarrassing affair may turn out to be the uncharacteristically optimistic, final words from O’Brien’s final “Tonight Show” broadcast:
All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
Let’s hope amazing things happen for Conan much sooner than later, and let’s hope Jay Leno gets crushed by a Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental.