Politics, politics, politics, gripes the Right: when these shows started going all left-wing, the viewership drops. The Left is whispering that, well, maybe this is the case. Ratings on these shows continue to suffer.
But so, too, do the ratings for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, who has made overt efforts to win back Republican viewers…to the point where celebrities refuse to appear on his show. And further, look at Conan, who suffers ratings losses even though—on average—he bashes Democrats slightly more than Republicans.
Maybe it’s not the politics that are tanking these shows; after all, ratings remain high for Fox and MSNBC at the same late-night time slot. In fact, Fox and MSNBC do better at those time slots than most of the late-night chat shows combined.
Could it be, the Czar wonders, if late-night talk shows are done? Like variety shows, westerns, and celebrity roasts, maybe America has moved on.
It was one thing when you had three networks, and NBC went with the talk show format in the 1950s. You didn’t have much choice to watch something else. Today you do, and better still you can watch pretty much anything else on demand, as you want. Tuning in to hear what Nanette Fabray has to say about her comeback film before Crystal Gale sings a B-side number with the band…well, that sort of thing isn’t going to draw in viewers.
Maybe, even, it’s not the politics that are killing the talk shows—perhaps it’s the politics that keep any viewers at all. If Jimmy Kimmel stopped lecturing Americans on liberal talking points, and went back to the Johnny Carson format of listening to a former sit-com star boast about how much fun they have on set now that the star is breaking into movies, perhaps his ratings would drop to zero overnight. Maybe it’s the anti-Trump homilies that keep the thousands of viewers he has.
Well, executives will tell the Czar, it’s all about the variety. You have so many late-night talk shows to content with, all on cable and even the internet. You can’t expect Kimmel, or Fallon, or Meyers, or Noah to bring in the viewers Carson did. Okay, but so what? Consolidate them: do what television did in the 1950s when every second-rate Vegas act got a living room set and three guests to blather about who they saw at the Brown Derby that day—they cancelled them.
The Czar’s point remains: even if the networks did just that, viewers would probably not flock to one of the other shows. They’re done with late-night talk. Do you really care what Saoirse Ronan likes about working for a certain director? The video is up on YouTube. Want to see what Coldplay really looks like when they perform? Check out their video on their website. Interested in topical stand-up zinger-style monologues? Twitter, baby.
The reality is probably this: if the networks quietly pulled every late-night talk show off the air and replaced it with news, sports, or syndicated sit-com reruns, it’s entirely possible that weeks would go by before anyone noticed. What’s scary is it could be months before anyone does.