Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dues

I grew up watching The Tonight Show. Even as a kid, I was always a night owl. My parents gave me a television in second grade, one for my very own room. I was never a huge tv watcher, but I do have fond memories of that 13 inch black and white screen. One of the very first things I watched on it was the last episode of M*A*S*H, when my parents thought I had gone to bed. Yes, I was 6 and watched M*A*S*H. What can I say, I was a strange child. And I watched Johnny almost every night.

I remember watching the last show Johnny hosted, and I remember being skeptical about the new guy. Jay. I vaguely remember the drama involving David Letterman, but I didn't pay too much attention to it at the time. With time, Jay grew on me. Until I got to college and started watching other late night shows. Jay started to seem too mellow, too self-important, too blah. The other guys were just funnier. And Conan was one of them.

We continued watching the Tonight Show for years, mostly because we liked Jay better than Dave. He just seemed too East Coast, and we didn't get a lot of the jokes since we'd never lived there. There's not too much else on in that time slot, the better shows were on later. Conan and Craig. Weirder. Edgier. Funnier.

I was pretty glad when they announced that Jay was leaving and Conan taking over the show. I've always liked Conan, and felt that he had more than paid his dues over the years. He had played second fiddle for a long, long time. And finally, it was his turn. Sure, some people would be upset about the change. They would lose some fans, especially in the transition stages, but that was to be expected, right?

Turns out that Jay wasn't really done. He wanted back in, but his new show flopped. NBC decided in the last few days to push Conan back and give Jay back the coveted post-nightly news spot. Conan decided today that he wasn't going back to playing second fiddle. And I can't help but admire the guy.

Maybe it's just a topic that is a little close to home right now. Working for years towards a goal, paying the proverbial dues. Only to have that goal pushed back and delayed. And you can't help but feel like you worked your ass off for all those years for nothing. When your fate is controlled by someone else, the powers that be, it's hard to keep reaching toward a goal that seems always, perpetually, out of reach. At some point, any rational person would say "enough". Conan did. As for the issue in my own universe, only time will tell. It's not a choice I have to make. It's not my call.

It's easier, I suppose, not to want it in the first place. To be content with mediocrity. To just have a job. But when what you want is more than that, and when you work towards something more for so long, it's hard to just let it go. And it's hard not to see all that time as a waste.

Conan paid his dues. I can only assume that some other network will pick up his show, and that the story will end happily for him. I would think that someday, somewhere, he will be appreciated. I can only hope so anyway. And I can only hope for the same for everyone else who has paid their dues.

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