16 January 2010

Causes: Relief for the Haiti earthquake, Keep Conan O'Brien on the Tonight Show

Haiti earthquake

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Death tolls are estimated between 45,000-50,000 by the American Red Cross; the Haitian government estimates it even higher, at around 200,000. Because Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, even government buildings and local United Nations headquarters have suffered significant damage, and the head of the Haiti UN headquarters has died in the rubble. Hospitals are so overwhelmed that they can't tend to everyone who's been hurt. Already, the US government has issued temporary asylum for illegal Haitian immigrants currently living in the US. And many countries worldwide have sent aid.

MTV Networks has organized a telethon, Hope for Haiti. Commercial-free, it'll be shown on Friday, Jan. 22 at 8PM on: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, BET, the CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT. It'll be hosted by Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean (from New York City), actor George Clooney (from Los Angeles), and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper (from Port-au-Prince). Well, fans of the (now-cancelled) show Dollhouse: at least you'll have another week until your beloved show ends.

One way to donate to the Haiti relief effort is to text the word "HAITI" to 90999; as a donation to Haiti $10.00 will be charged to your cell phone bill. If you don't use texting or don't know how, then check out the American Red Cross website for information about donating the old-fashioned way (y'know, writing checks). My condolences go to all who've lost loved ones to this earthquake.

Sadly, there are those who chose to ignore or mock this tragedy. For example, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has remarked: "We've already donated to Haiti. It's called the U.S. income tax." And, he said that President Obama was giving aid to Haiti to gain credibility from the "light-skinned and dark-skinned black community" in the US. Regarding Limbaugh's "income tax" remark, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and even MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough (a former Republican congressional representative) condemned Limbaugh.

Evangelical Christian and host of The 700 Club Pat Robertson also had this to say about Haiti:
The Haitians "were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever," Robertson said on his broadcast Wednesday. "And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.' True story. And so, the devil said, 'OK, it's a deal.' "
Not really surprising since back in 2001, Robertson agreed with Jerry Falwell that liberals, homosexuals, and atheists were to blame for the September 11 attacks and said that God used Hurricane Katrina to punish America.

A study by the progressive media research organization Media Matters for America found that MSNBC's primetime commentary shows (Hardball with Chris Matthews, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The Rachel Maddow Show) devoted far much more coverage than Fox News's competing shows (The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, Glenn Beck). While the Haiti earthquake got brief mentions on the Fox shows (think about the "headlines" segment on Good Morning America) the MSNBC shows dedicated much deeper coverage (even interviews with politicians and others associated with Haiti). MSNBC's morning show Morning Joe had several segments about the earthquake (and I again stress that Scarborough has conservative leanings), so it surely reflects on what Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck feel are priorities for their audiences and how those hosts react to tragedy.

Host of The Tonight Show

This week, NBC announced that it would remove The Jay Leno Show from its primetime lineup because affiliates complained that it decreased their 11PM newscasts' ratings. NBC experimented with its primetime schedule in the fall by giving Jay Leno a daily 10PM show on weeknights while replacing him with Conan O'Brien on The Tonight Show. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Jimmy Fallon succeeded O'Brien on NBC's other late night show, Late Night. To keep Leno on the network, there are now two choices:
- Leno's show moves to 11:35PM (current Tonight Show timeslot) but is reduced to a half-hour length. The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon follow.
- O'Brien leaves and gives The Tonight Show back to Leno.

O'Brien has stated that he refuses to host Tonight should the first option take effect:
I believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
I agree fully with Conan...in Internet meme-speak: I'M WITH COCO!!!!!! Leno's had his turn on Tonight, and it'd be a shame to see the brilliant O'Brien (who's written for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons) leave after only just over half a year on The Tonight Show. Although I still watch The Jay Leno Show every once in a while (mainly for the guests), I'm personally against Leno returning to The Tonight Show. There've been many Twitter posts and Facebook groups rallying behind O'Brien. Also, according to Wikipedia's article "The Tonight Show host and timeslot conflict":
Dozens of celebrities expressed support for O'Brien, including Roger Ebert, Rosie O'Donnell, Jim Gaffigan, Paul F. Tompkins, Doug Benson, Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, Alyssa Milano, Chris Parnell, Jimmy Kimmel, Marlee Matlin, Ben Stiller, Ice-T, Matthew Perry, Howard Stern, and Ricky Gervais. Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt has expressly backed O'Brien, saying, "Comedians who don't like Jay Leno now, and I'm one of them, we're not like, 'Jay Leno sucks;' it's that we're so hurt and disappointed that one of the best comedians of our generation... willfully has shut the switch off."

While support for O'Brien has been overwhelming, Leno became the target for heated criticism and increasing negative publicity in his role in the timeslot conflict. Fellow late night hosts David Letterman of The Late Show and Jimmy Kimmel of Jimmy Kimmel Live! were quick to publicly blast NBC and Leno in their monologues. Kimmel went so far as to perform an entire episode of his program dressed in character as Leno, mocking his voice, jokes, mannerisms, band, and popular segments (such as "Headlines"). Shortly after, he was invited onto The Jay Leno Show to participate in its "Ten at Ten" segment, during which he sharply criticized Leno several times. Jimmy Fallon, who hosts the program immediately following The Tonight Show, refused to take sides, calling O'Brien and Leno "two of my heroes and two of my friends."

And now rumor has it that NBC is paying O'Brien $30 million to leave, but NBC denies it. ABC News called it "a PR disaster for all".

If we really want to support O'Brien, we should contact NBC in addition to howling on social networking sites.

On NBC's contact page, select "Tonight Show Conan" from the pulldown menu. Write a message expressing your support for Conan O'Brien staying on the Tonight Show as long as his contract states (right now O'Brien has about 2.5 years left on it). Other forms of communication that are more likely to be taken seriously:

Postal mail
Jeffrey Zucker
c/o NBC Entertainment
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

212-664-2333 (New York City)
818-840-4444 (Burbank)

No comments: