“Boy, Those Were the Days, Huh?”

Thanks to the @sorkinese Twitter account – one of the best there is – I learned today is the 15th anniversary of The West Wing’s premiere. Sam, Toby, CJ, Leo, Josh, Bartlet, et al entered America’s living rooms on September 22, 1999. The show has only been part of my world for the last 18 months, but nonetheless, I celebrate its beginnings because I like thinking of people watching the show in real time, in an age when Toby’s airplane phone and Sam’s pager were actually technological marvels.

I know anniversaries are completely arbitrary, and why should we celebrate the 15th over the 14th or the 9th or the 37th or whatever. But since basically any day is an excuse for me to celebrate this show, I’ll do it today, too.

As someone with plenty of TV/movie/culture obsessions, I think a lot about what makes something an obsession versus just something I simply enjoy. I enjoy How I Met Your Mother. I am obsessed with The West Wing. Why is that? Sometimes I can barely make it through the first episode of something. Other times, I can just feel it, five minutes in. I am going to spend a lot of time with these characters.

It may not have been five minutes in for me with The West Wing, but I remember watching the pilot for the first time and when the President makes his entrance…I just knew. What was this show! He comes in with just a few minutes left in the episode. The whole time, you’ve been hearing about him – POTUS in bicycle accident? – but you don’t see him until much later. And the thing is, you don’t even notice! You’ve been swept away by all sorts of other stories. And then…oh, yeah. The President.

And it all comes together. This would not be the last impassioned Bartlet speech that brings the rest of his staff to its senses. It would not be his last cry against religious fanaticism. But it was his first entrance, and it was a great one.

As I went deeper into the show, characters other than President Bartlet became my favorite, but in my mind, that first episode is all about him (though Toby delivers some of his finest shouting in that first episode).

So happy birthday, West Wing. I do The Jackal in your honor.

 

Apparently, Primetime Didn’t Have it Coming.

The picture below was inserted in the 30 Rock season 3 DVD set I received for Christmas:

Those words in the middle say “Primetime had it coming.” Apparently, primetime didn’t have it coming. NBC did.

NBC has faced quite a public relations dilemma with this situation (which TIME’s TV and media critic James Poniewozik has termed the “Jaypocalypse” and NBC’s “Conanundrum”).  There are several Facebook groups supporting Conan, and in the interest of full disclosure, my Facebook profile picture is a picture of O’Brien with the caption “I’m With Coco.”  Groups like “Team Conan O’Brien” have tweeted their support for Mr. O’Brien and have encouraged others to tweet pictures of themselves at Conan support rallies.

To make matters worse, NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker is patting himself on the back for his handling of the situation. “I think it’s the sign of a leader to step up and say, you know, when something’s not working, to have the guts to reverse it,” he told the New York TimesMedia Decoder blog. That is a quality of a leader, but I would also argue that a leader must keep his word. A leader doesn’t offer job security and then pull out seven months later. Granted, Zucker is the boss and he has a business to run, but this awkward cut-off of “The Jay Leno Show” and sudden termination of O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” run seem to suggest that poor business decisions were made somewhere along the way.

NBC has taught us that the media landscape is changing and unpredictable. Just because people loved Jay Leno at 11:35 did not mean they’d love him at 10:00. Just because previous “Tonight Show” hosts held the gig for 10+ years did not mean Conan O’Brien would have the same longevity. Just because Jeff Zucker demonstrated leadership abilities does not mean he can stop people from plastering their Conan support all over the web.

I may be on Conan’s side, but I’m interested in other perspectives. Do you see it from Jay Leno’s point of view? Why? What do you think this debacle means for the future of television, specifically network TV? If Conan moves to another network, whose show will you watch?

Also, a couple of spot-on articles considering the Jay/Conan/NBC issue from a PR perspective:

An Open Letter to NBC Universal President & CEO Jeff Zucker by Keith Trivitt, published in the PR Breakfast Club newsletter.

This post from the Media Decoder blog, which discusses the most recent happenings and discussions at NBC regarding the issue.  The Jeff Zucker quote noted earlier comes from this post.