Monday, January 18, 2010

In the Company of Wolves

Right now, if all is going according to plan, dozens of draftees to the "I'm with Coco" movement are converging on NBC offices across the country to stage a series of rallies in support of Conan O'Brien. The Chicago Tribune did a little preview piece on these events in today's edition and it features one quote that really caught my eye -- mostly because I think it hits on something largely overlooked by those who've been endlessly debating the NBC-Leno-Conan miasma.

Obviously, there are plenty of people out there who've asked the very legitimate question, "Why should I care about what happens to any of these multi-millionaires? So Conan's gonna be paid a fortune to walk away from a job -- so what?" There's no reason to argue with this sentiment because it makes complete sense. But the fact that's inescapable is this: A lot of people do care what happens to Conan; he wouldn't be getting paid all that money if they didn't. In our culture, we care about movie and TV stars, musicians, comedians and athletes, which is exactly why they're rich; they're paid in direct proportion to how entertained we are by them -- how well we think they can act or sing or make us laugh or throw a football down a field (and on a side note, I'm willing to bet that quite a few of the people complaining about the injustice of late night talk show hosts making millions are the same ones who cheer their asses off for guys like A-Rod, Peyton and LeBron).

Yes, in the great scheme of things, it really doesn't personally affect anyone that Conan O'Brien's getting screwed by NBC -- but that's where the quote in the Tribune comes in. When asked about the reasoning behind his passionate crusade for Conan, Mike Mitchell, a 27-year-old from Los Angeles who, through social networking, instigated today's protest, said, "A lot of people have really crappy bosses; they can relate."

And you know what? He's absolutely right.

What makes the story of NBC's underhanded treatment of Conan O'Brien resonate with so many isn't simply that they enjoy his brand of humor more than Jay Leno's; it's that in a flatlining economy, where imperious corporate robber barons have swindled the little guy blind and laughed all the way to the Hamptons while doing it, when millions are out of work and many of those lucky enough to still have jobs are struggling three times as hard thanks to staff cutbacks, when almost everyone really can relate to the feeling of being crushed under the wheels of the cold-blooded corporate culture and the bosses who espouse it -- this is when the executives at mega-media giant NBC decided to ruthlessly end the career of a guy who's been loyal, humble and classy even as he's been at the mercy of the most Machiavellian of machinations. On top of that, they had the balls to actually bad mouth him in public. And they did all of this knowing full well that they could. That there was nothing anyone could do to stop them. Sure, a lot of Americans like Conan O'Brien. But even more are just plain tired of heartless company liners getting away with this kind of crap. The average person really can't identify with Conan O'Brien per se; but they sure do know what it's like to have management stab you in the back while a conniving co-worker who wants your job twists the knife.

And that's what it all comes down to, and it's really an incredible thing when you think about it. NBC has managed to do the seemingly impossible: make a multi-millionaire look like a victim, a little guy everyone can relate to and get behind. What's more, NBC executives of all people should've seen this coming. After all, that's why they were paying Conan so much in the first place -- because people liked him.


CNNfan said...

OK. This story is right up my alley. I know a thing or two about fans, especially as it relates to public relations.

NBC should take a page out of the playbook of FOX Studios and FOX Public Relations, when it comes to handling millions of upset fans.

Look at this brilliant idea! FOX setup an entire free website, right on to relieve the anxiety of fans of a popular FOX show that had to be cancelled.

FOX has set a PR standard in my opinion. And I have seen some good public relations work over the years. CNN has excellent PR people too (in case they are reading).

FOX Public Relations, worked together with FOX Studios to give me permission over the phone to use one of the props from their cancelled TV show! Can you imagine! OK... I explained that I ran the CNNfan site, which fully supports FOXfans too, and that helped:

And FOX is even hosting one of my robot A.I. engines right on ... This is PR utopia for fans.

Wow!!! That is really impressive Public Relations by FOX. Thank you very much FOX Studios!

NBC, you need to turn this around by being spectacular to fans like FOX did for their fans.

As word of advice, if FOX can't help, you might want to call me before you call MSNBC (Microsoft) for a .NET solution.

Myspace hasn't even fully ported over to .NET (aspx) yet. Some of Myspace is still ColdFusion (cfm). What?!?! That's a black eye for .NET in my opinion. So... A .NET solution may take too long to implement.

I have years of experience with fans, for a lightning fast fansite solution.

Disclaimer: No disrespect whatsoever, intended towards anyone or anything in this commentary. Especially MSNBC, Microsoft or Myspace. I am published in books on Microsoft computer programming. So, obviously, I fully support Microsoft.

Mary said...

I completely agree. I'm losing my job in March, along with most of my department. It's breathtaking to see Conan on national TV flat-out saying kind of stuff that we've been grumbling to ourselves in the hallways. I'm not a multimillionaire and I don't have the leverage to tell my bosses to suck it, so there's a HUGE catharsis factor in watching Conan this week.

Fifth Generation Leftist said...

This is also a generational thing. Baby Boomers run the world, some might say have run it into the ground. Gen X and Y are witnessing yet another entitled Boomer refuse to get off the stage, pushing aside the younger person simply because they can.

The screwing of Conan is striking a lot of different angry chords with the public. And NBC is handling it just like Wall Street and defiantly refusing to admit wrongdoing, and not caring what anybody thinks.

em said...

Yup. C'mon--who can't get behind supporting someone who has a crappy boss? That's probably why I'm so outraged about this too, apart from being a Conan fan. After getting laid off early last year (by a company who, you know, felt totally comfortable letting people go, but could not BEAR to part with their private-jet-and-golf-club-membership lifestyle), it's easy to relate to someone who's also getting fucked over. Obviously he's got a lot more money, but still. The principle is the same.

The best part now? Leno trying to backpedal and "save face" by claiming that NBC "pushed" him out of the Tonight Show, which I heard about on my morning news show. What did they do to counter that? They played the video clip of him talking saying the whole "So right now, here it is. Conan, it's yours. See ya in five years, buddy" speech. Doesn't sound like a forced retirement to me, asswipe.

em said...

Sorry, just had to add this snippet from an article I found...

"“Through all of this, Conan O’Brien has been a gentleman. He’s a good guy,” Jay told his audience. “I have no animosity towards him. This is all business. If you don’t get the ratings, they take you off the air.”

Jay also explained how it came about that Conan was promised “The Tonight Show” years ago, while Jay was still on top.

”[In] 2004, I’m sitting in my office, an NBC executive comes in and says to me, ‘Listen, Conan O’Brien has gotten offers from other networks. We don’t want him to go, so we’re going to give him ‘The Tonight Show,’” Jay recounted. “I said, ‘Well, I’ve been number one for 12 years.’ They said, ‘We know that, but we don’t think you can sustain that.’”

The host went on to explain that he asked NBC to wait until he slipped to No. 2 in the ratings and then fire him, but he said the NBC exec told him the decision had already been made.

“Don’t blame Conan O’Brien,” Jay continued on Monday’s show. “Nice guy, good family guy, great guy. He and I have talked and not a problem since then. That’s what managers and people do, they try to get something for their clients. I said, ‘I’ll retire just to avoid what happened the last time.’”

Sorry, the whole "If you don't get the ratings, they take you off the air" sentence is incredibly stupid to me, especially after reading here that it took him three years to overtake Letterman in ratings.

Chez said...

Yup. Leno was given the opportunity to lag for a while -- Conan was declared an "astounding failure" after just seven months.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

Okay, slightly off topic, but where'd you pull the "most Machiavellian of machinations" quote from? I recognize it from somewhere and it's on the tip of my brain, but ravages of time and off-brand over-the-counter cough medicines prevent me from accessing the info.

Alanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ethnic Redneck said...

The biggest floater I see in the pool is that the Baby Boomers still hold onto this childish belief that big business will save us all. Why else would they be so blindly willing to trust the PR flacks and corporate journalists who basically keep repeating the mantra "we know what we are doing" when they clearly don't? We trust economists who understand nothing about the real economy, we refuse to punish those who do evil in the name of 'capitalism', and we refuse to take the free tour of the sausage factory. They know that the American people will never hold them accountable for long, and that is just fucking sad. Hey Boomers, you will be called to account for your bullshit eventually - but it maybe your precious little kinder that pay the price. How does that effect your self-esteem?

NoxiousNan said...

Oh for Pete's sake! Don't they even watch their shows? NBC is Michael Scott.