Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Downfall of Awards Shows & Late-Night TV

By Tony Mazur

Remember the days when you sat through an awards show to see who was performing? Remember the days when you would turn on The Tonight Show to see what guests Johnny Carson will be interviewing?

I do (except in my case I watched Letterman). And it wasn't too long ago when those programs were still entertaining. But somewhere along the line they became bland and uninteresting. They have become elements of the past, along with variety shows and prime-time game shows from the 1970s. Where's Gene Rayburn when you need him?

Kanye West's outburst during Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards shouldn't have been shocking. Yeah, I felt bad for Taylor, regardless if Kanye's inebriated appearance was staged or not. But after Beavis & Butt-head, Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up", and the hundreds of reality shows, nothing should be shocking to the MTV audience. I believe this incident was drummed up by the media to actually get people interested in the VMA's again (if they ever were in the first place). The last time I tuned into that rubbish was in 2002, when the censors bleeped out any use of the word "gun", including when Guns N' Roses hit the stage.

On Monday, I sat through The Jay Leno Show. I like Leno, but his show was like watching The Tonight Show, only at an earlier timeslot. There was nothing earth-shattering about it. I enjoyed "Headlines", but again, this was a Tonight Show bit. And I have not watched Conan O'Brien's version of The Tonight Show, mainly because I don't care.

Honestly, when was the last time your water cooler talk revolved around a cable TV awards show? When was the last time you guffawed about something David Letterman said on his stale CBS program?

The only reason why Leno, Letterman, O'Brien, Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel (he still has a show, right?), and Craig Ferguson still have jobs is because they are more cost-efficient than a scripted and produced TV drama or sitcom. If so many people were sick of reality shows, then why are they still on TV? Because they are cheap to produce.

The medium of appearing at awards shows and late-night talk shows is dying. Nobody cares anymore. If Kanye didn't open his cakehole, not one person would have muttered a word about it on Monday morning.

Maybe TMZ has had something to do with it. TV viewers once had a couple of opportunities to catch their favorite actor or musician; the Oscars/Emmys/Grammys, and if they were interviewed by Carson. Now that TMZ is ever so popular, we can get daily updates on how old Chevy Chase looks like, rather than wait for him to go on Letterman to promote yet another failed attempt at a show.

And by the way, it is sad that I get more accurate reporting of breaking news than legitimate news outlets. TMZ reported the death of Michael Jackson LONG before the rest of the mainstream media considered it safe to run.

While Leno's show can still be funny, I think we will be seeing the death of the late-night talk show in the coming years. Each host has gotten away with copying Carson's format for too long. It is time for TV executives to find original and creative programming to fill the gaping holes in their programming.

The same goes for the awards shows. Change the format and keep it interesting. As the years go by, each show is even more forgettable than the last.

But by all means keep your silly programs. I'll just watch infomercials of Vince Offer pitching ShamWows! and hooker repellent.

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