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Conan O'Brien's exit should a sign that the late-night talk show format needs to be shaken up

  • "While O’Brien ultimately stayed true to late night’s roots, Conan has evolved better than his predecessors," says Olivia Cathcart. "Institutions like The Tonight Show, Late Night, and The Late Show have struggled to adapt to the changing landscape across the internet and social media, politics, and celebrity. Traditional late night is a relic of the past. Instead of constant rebranding, it would serve better to take its final bow and set the stage for the next generation of late night programming, one better suited for today’s TV viewer. In many ways, the internet killed the late night star. Late night was born early in TV’s history, when there were only a few channels and at a time where a TV in every house was not a given like it is today. It rose to a place of cultural dominance as TV became more and more common, and by the late ‘60s and ‘70s Johnny Carson and his Tonight Show held significant sway over the public. Networks have been chasing that prominence ever since, despite social and technological changes making it impossible for that to happen again...While we’ve always known celebrities are not as relatable as they try to appear, the one-of-us image is no longer attractive. The fakeness of these interviews became ever more obvious in the pandemic-born Zoom-based episodes. Without a shared stage presence, the hosts lack the charm that is needed to convincingly create a facade of longtime friendship and appreciation for their guests who, by and large, are not as interesting as their PR machines make them out to be. Though we should all know by now how these things work, with anecdotes and bits pre-planned, the puppet strings became ostentatious. Like a lot of entertainment media, celebrity culture was a form of escapism. We enjoyed peering into a life of luxury most of us will never see. While social media has made this easier than ever by giving celebrities control over their own image, it also killed all the fun (and some reputations). From Gal Gadot’s 'Imagine' video to Chrissy Teigen’s endlessly tone-deaf humblebrags, we’ve seen that celebrities are, in fact, not like us. More than that, their wealth and privilege is no longer viewed as inspiring but odious. Late night is largely a PR tool, one that celebrities no longer have to depend on, and one audiences no longer have the patience to suspend disbelief for." 

    TOPICS: Conan O'Brien, Late Night