Thursday, December 23, 2010

Winter Pill

Ack. What's the use of drawing it out? I've written hundreds of words in a concluding post about Bill Carter's The War For Late Night, and I simply can't finish it. Well, I could if I put this morning drink away, bore down and hammered it out a la James Agee on deadline with The Nation while a perturbed Diana Trilling taps her tiny foot impatiently, waiting for Agee's copy. Then again, Agee drank while he wrote. Smoked a lot as well. He died of a heart attack in his late 40s. Maybe Agee's not a good example.

My holiday pseudo-depression is darkened this year with my marriage nearly over and me moving into a new life. I've tried to stave it off with long pieces about comedy and related passions, but it creeps back into my head, smashing mirrors and ripping up the floorboards. This transition's gonna be harder than it looks on paper. And it doesn't help that I burned the paper in a drunken offering to the lunar eclipse the other night.

Divorce for me is a Claymore mine. My parents' split was truly awful and hateful, filled with blood curses, character assassination, and cries for vengeance. And my father seemed pretty upset, too. They went their separate ways, remarried, and I got tossed back and forth between crazy houses before I settled with my father and his second wife. I wasn't present for their eventual divorce, but I did witness the build-up, and again -- loony tunes! I was amazed what people put themselves through, and swore it would never happen to me.

Good thing I didn't put serious money on it.

Our split is pretty amicable, at times tense and mostly sad. Mix in the holidays and you can see why I say Fuck It when the urge to write hits. But I hate promising a follow up and not delivering. So, here's a capsule of the rest of Carter's book.

Jay Leno, whom no one seems to understand, was pissed he lost the Tonight Show to Conan O'Brien. Yet he remained with NBC, smiling, shaking hands, which proved to be a savvy move as he got his old show back. Conan refused to push Tonight back thirty minutes to make room for Leno, and this cost him the show. Conan didn't hide his anger. He thought the network owed him for his many years of service, and was genuinely shocked when NBC didn't feel that way at all. David Letterman enjoyed the whole thing, sniping from the sidelines.

Letterman can do whatever he wants, and CBS won't touch him, regardless of ratings. Jimmy Kimmel does a Letterman-lite show. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert retain their loyal audiences. Jimmy Fallon scores high with college kids. Chelsea Handler serves straight lines to gay gossipmongers who trash celebrities. Craig Ferguson plays it loose, improvising his opening monologue. Jay Leno still does a boring show, and will until he drops. And Conan looks to have a happy home at TBS, though NBC never seems far from his thoughts.

That's pretty much Carter's book. I glossed over the corporate machinations and executive double-dealing that Carter presents in great, gray detail. Consider it my Christmas present to you. Have a Merry Happy!