Oh, it's on -- it's on like Gray Poupon! This week Conan, aided by glowing press coverage, wiped the floor with the edgier, more melancholy David Letterman in his debut as a late night talker. The grace period ends tomorrow, though, and the battle between the two latenight comics begins in earnest Monday. Howard Stern, who is revered in the tight-knit world of late night comedy writers, will appear on Letterman. They always make fireworks, those two. From Marksfriggin:
"Howard started the show talking about how he was driving in his car yesterday coming back from Long Island when he got a call from his agent. He had to call him back quick thinking something big was going on. He said he called back on his Blackberry Bold and he got disconnected in like 30 seconds. Howard said that thing sucks as a phone. He has a cheap $10 phone that works fine with his AT&T service but his Blackberry doesn't. Howard isn't sure why that is.
"Howard said he was going nuts when that happened. He said his agent didn't know he wasn't on the phone and called him back and said that he couldn't tell that he wasn't on the line. Howard said his agent blames him and it's not his fault.
"Howard said his agent told him about how David Letterman's show is asking him to come on again. Artie sarcastically said that's a big surprise. Howard said he hasn't been on that show in over a year now. He doesn't have much to say right now either. Howard said his agent asked if he wanted to do the show and he said he'd go on this coming Monday. Howard said Letterman and Conan are going to start their battle next week and this is how it's going to start."
"...Howard said he thinks that Leno is going to end up as a guest on Letterman. Howard thinks that Dave would have him on now. He said he'll ask Dave that when he goes on."
Oh, it's on -- it's on like Gray Poupon! While Conan murdered Letterman in the ratings on Monday, the lead has slipped. "The Tonight Show slipped to a 4.3 household rating," says TVBytheNumbers. "For those of you keeping score at home, that’s down from 7.1 for the Monday night premiere and a 5.0 rating Tuesday night." This is, careerwise, an existential battle for David Letterman (Isn't everything with Letterman carry about it the vague air of Midwestern American existsntialism?). Since the infamous July 10, 1995 Hugh Grant "What-were-you-thinking" episode aired, The Tonight Show -- Dave's lifelong dream -- has pretty consistently beaten his in the ratings.
The pendulum swings. If Letterman is to ever take advantage of the changing-of-the-guard it is now. Letterman has in his favor the possibility that Leno's new daily program might overshadow Conan's, precipitating a ratings slide for the Tonight Show. The great danger is that in the previous division of labor that governed the Leno-Letterman competition, Leno tended to get the bulk of the ratings while Letterman got the attractive demographic because he worked edgier, darker. The younger Conan could conceivably get both the lions share of the late night watching audience and the attractive, money demographic.
That would leave Letterman in a very bad place, careerwise. That's why Letterman's calling in the big guns, the ultimate get among the late night writers (who grew up listening to his show on the radio), namely: Howard Stern.