Matt Lauer becomes new Larry King, Colbert the new Jay Leno, if I'm king of TV
The last time I saw Conan O’Brien in person, he looked at me like a man hoping for intervention from a security guard.
The scene was a gathering of TV critics in January 2009; we had learned that NBC was scheduling Jay Leno at 10 p.m. that fall, after kicking him off the Tonight Show for O’Brien. My question for the carrot-topped comic was simple: Since Leno is taking his signature bits to 10 p.m., did NBC really give you the Tonight Show or a pale imitation?
A year later, O’Brien was performing his last Tonight Show after a painfully slow public ouster and I wondered why more stars don’t listen to me. So here’s another shot: a list of the stuff I would do if made Emperor of Television. No concerns about contracts or corporations or anything else.
This is simply my blueprint for making the world of TV a little bit better. See if you agree.
Change #1: Stephen Colbert would take over the Tonight Show. (I would give the job to Jon Stewart, but he’s currently the biggest wit standing between us and the unfettered, relentless mediocrity of cable TV news). Who wouldn’t pay real money to see what kind of Headlines Colbert would mine to juice up Jay Leno’s stale signature bits?
Change #2: Matt Lauer, the most underrated interviewer on television, would have gotten Larry King’s spot on CNN. Imagine watching the guy who got George W. Bush to admit an insult from Kanye West was a worse presidential moment than Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 carve up a different celebrity every night.
Change #3: CBS would build a better version of its lame-o daytime chat show The Talk. this version would feature Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers and Monique. Sexier, funnier, and way cooler. Of course, it could only air at night. On Showtime. After everyone on the FCC has gone to sleep.
Change #4: American TV would find a crackling series for Wire star (and British native) Idris Elba. He could play a more realistic Detroit cop than Sopranos alum Michael Imperioli or a more dangerous spy than Burn Notice's Michael Westen. While I'm at it, Jimmy Smits would follow in David Caruso’s footsteps one more time, kicking the deadly dull actor off CBS’ CSI: Miami and doing what he does best -- juicing a faded franchise with his legendary charm.
Change #5: Dateline NBC would stop spending money tracking stolen iPods. Time to stop spending good money proving peopel will steal iPods left out in the open and some clerks at convenience stores lie about winning lottery tickets. Let's put that prime time journalistic muscle behind some real journalism. I hear somebody’s still looking for that Bin Laden guy.
Change #6: GOP champions Fox News and liberal lions MSNBC would stop pretending their political orientation doesn’t affect their news coverage. I know why they don’t – fans want to believe each channel’s view of the world is the “true” view. And MSNBC defenders have a point when they note Fox News is less intellectually honest -- more willing to bend and break the truth while serving the needs of a specific political party, the GOP. But after five minutes watching Keith Olbermann bemoan GOP victories anchoring MSNBC election coverage or seeing Fox’s Megyn Kelly spend weeks growing more hysterical about the New Black Panthers, I’m thinking the cat is out of the bag for good.