A year from now everything after your late local news is going to look quite a bit different than it does today.  In case you hadn’t heard, after the Winter Olympics NBC is finally taking Jay Leno off the air (fingers crossed that it takes this time) and promoting Jimmy Fallon from Late Night to the Tonight Show.  To fill in the vacated chair at Late Night NBC has gone back to the Lorne Michaels machine and have given the seat to former SNL head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers. 

Of course, unless you’ve been living under a rock, or not watching TV, or reading the internet (perhaps because your rock gets poor reception) I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know.  What prompted this post is more the change in the concept of late night television than the actual change itself. 

Watch the video above for it is the future of late night television.  Dying are the days of the monologue/short bit/1st guest/2nd guest/musical act-or-comedian format.  In the Age of The Jimmy (Kimmel as well for the record) the name of the game is to appeal to the next generation audience and that entails using every form of media at their disposal.  Think of it this way, when was the last time you watched a YouTube clip of Letterman or Leno?  Do you think either of them even knows what a YouTube Channel is?  The unfortunate news for the old guard is that the game has changed and they have decided to either stick to their model to the bitter end or just ride off into the sunset.

Today’s programming is much more conscious of just who their market is.  At 11:30p on the East Coast most anyone who is gainfully employed is off to bed and if they are willing to stay up it is only going to be for something worth their while.  Watching someone read a witty list and then talk to a celebrity about nothing controversial has been done, eliciting a yawn no matter when you watch it.  The game now is built around producing 3-5 minute YouTube-able clips (that is too a word) that can get passed around email chains while the coffee is being brewed the following morning at the office.  Instead of a meatless interview the audience wants to see their favorite celebrities put into new situations that either humanize them or allow them to actually entertain.  Is it any wonder that this next generation of talk show hosts is being pulled from the ranks of SNL and The Man Show?  They’ve cut their chops in the world of sketch entertainment and that is the currency of the medium today. 

Boith Jimmy’s (and I’ll make an assumption about Seth’s forthcoming venture) are specifically focused on audience interaction that far exceeds the putting butts into the seats of their respective theatres.  Fallon uses his Hashtag Game to allow his audience to interact directly with the show itself, and Kimmel tops that by making legendary segments built from user submitted video clips following his various YouTube Challenges (i.e. tell your kids you ate their Halloween candy).   This is a whole new level of drawing the users into the program and giving them a sense of ownership in the final product.  Having a microphone thrown in their face for a ad-libbed interview this is not.

It’s a new age for post-primetime television and I could be more excited for it.  While the audiences have been diluted as a whole with thousands of options a push of a GUIDE button away, it is time for a breath of fresh air to be blown into the medium that in itself has been a television institution for over fifty years.  As the new century adapts to the evolving media at our disposal, I can say with great confidence that this American staple is in the best hands possible to keep us entertained as we drift off to sleep.