Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

April 10, 2013

Leno and Letterman should bring their late-night laughs to the morning

Well it’s official — Jimmy Fallon is replacing Jay Leno as host of NBC’s venerable the “Tonight” show in 2014. I like Jay Leno, but I can’t honestly say when the last time was that I was able to stay up past 11:30 p.m. to actually watch him. And since Fallon currently doesn’t come on until 12:30 a.m., I’ve rarely seen his show. Basically, when you work every day and try to hold on to a job, you have to get to bed at a decent hour. So that means no staying up to watch the late-night comedians.

I also enjoy David Letterman over at CBS, but once again I rarely get to watch his opening monologues anymore. I’m sure Fallon will do fine as the new host at the “Tonight” show, and NBC was probably smart to resolve this whole debacle before it reached the same level of ugliness that Conan O’Brien’s departure did a few years ago.

As a newspaper guy, I enjoy reading my news as much as I do watching it on television. Often, the television is on simply to provide background noise. The living room area can be eerily quiet at times without a background distraction.

A little comedy is always a good thing. And you can often listen to the late-night comedians and their opening monologues while not actually watching the television itself. But finding a good noise distraction in the mornings is becoming increasingly difficult. That distraction used to be the “Today” show. But the “Today” show has been in a state of turmoil for several months now — ever since popular host Ann Curry was removed from her morning hosting gig alongside Matt Lauer. Once again, as a newspaper guy, I like to listen to a little actual “news” while getting ready for work each morning. And that is becoming increasingly difficult.

The “Today” show is mostly fluff anymore — light news that may be fun to some but not necessarily reflective of current headlines. For example, North Korea has been threatening to nuke us now for several days. You would think that would merit some mention during the morning news cycle. Apparently not. So I turn the channel to CNN. And what do I get? Sadly, a lot of gushing commentary about how great President Barack Obama is. It seems the once-reliable anchors at CNN can say nothing bad about the president — even though a few of us average folks back home do have some legitimate concerns about how things are going in Washington. OK. There is plenty of time throughout the day to sing the virtues of the president. Why does this have to be done in the morning? How about a little actual news? I miss the old CNN — back when the network reported news without pushing an extreme liberal viewpoint.

So I turn the channel to Fox News, and things get increasingly worse. It seems a lot of people are angry over at Fox News. And that anger translates into their commentary. OK. So now you get the exact opposite of CNN. Every single thing the president is doing is sinister. And North Korea is more likely to nuke us because Obama is ignoring Pyongyang while instead traveling across the country promoting his gun control legislation, or something to that extent the Fox News report goes on to say. But hey, at least they are mentioning North Korea. And I do like their “madman with nukes” label for Kim Jong Un. But once again, the commentary (disguised as news I might add) is far too slanted in one direction to appeal to a more independent-minded viewer. As a crusader of true journalism, I’m offended by the inability of two major cable networks to present a balanced report showing both sides of a story. So soon I turn the channel again.

This time I flip over to “Good Morning America” on ABC where I get a report about Sylvester Stallone — complete with movie footage from his “Rambo” days. This was a slight improvement, and did help to lighten up the morning. I’m a big fan after all of those senseless ’80 action hero movies. But, once again, this is more fluff than news — even if it involves Rambo — so I once again find myself turning the channel.

I’ve been told I should consider Headline News, but I can’t seem to find it on my cable package. So I keep turning the channel. As one of the guilty parties in the newsroom responsible for coming up with our morning online news polls, I’m looking for actual news on television each morning for a reason. Poll question ideas can come from the news. But considering the early morning news void, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that Leno, Fallon and Letterman should perhaps consider moving their late-night comedy shows to the morning. More working people would be awake to watch, and their ratings may soar.

If I can’t find any television news in the morning, I might as well have something to laugh about. And Leno and Letterman at 7 a.m. would fill that void nicely.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him at Follow him @BDTOwens.

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