Why did I care about Conan?

Todd Hertz

Last week, I watched every episode of Conan O’Brien’s The Tonight Show, all of David Letterman’s monologues, two full episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and various viral bits from other shows. But the thing is: I never watch late night talk shows except for bits I find online. So why did I watch? Why was I drawn into all the drama of the NBC late night debacle?

I’ve been trying to answer that for myself.  I read an entry on NPR’s Monkey See blog where writer Linda Holmes put the matter well: “These are late-night shows that most people don't watch; it's the difference between two relatively similar hosts doing relatively similar things, neither of whom has been setting the world on fire lately, so ... who cares?”

Great question. Reading through the possible draws that Holmes identified (we all relate to inner-office tensions, we love a common villain, etc.), I found that none of them really seemed to be what truly resonated with me. And it took me until this morning to put my finger on why I cared. Without being too dramatic, I think it boiled down to my innate desire for justice. Someone was being wronged, an underdog was fighting for his life, and I wanted the wrongs righted. I wanted to see “good” prevail. Could this red-haired David take on the Goliath network oppressing him?

Of course, there are greater injustices in the world (and in our neighborhoods). However, this was a pursuit for justice, a quest for fair judgment that was safe and far less uncomfortable than watching news footage from Haiti or fighting modern slavery. Just like why I love underdog sports movies and action movies, I want justice done, I want the little guy to win and I long for justice—but self-tellingly in a safe, tidy way.

How about you? Did you get sucked into NBC’s late-night skirmish? If so, what drew you in?

Topics: TV, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment, News & Politics, Justice