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Talking about my generation

NBC is paying Conan O'Brien $45 million to go away.

Of course, one person may go that easily, but my generation won't.

This outcome was inevitable. I personally am pleased that Conan stuck to his guns and refused to continue to play second fiddle to Leno. Based on my very unscientific observations of friends and celebrities on Twitter and Facebook, many back Conan. At least among those I know, I see little support for Leno, although NBC is more accurately portrayed as the villain here.

I've been viewing the Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien-NBC-Tonight Show debacle from a different perspective than I've heard elsewhere. I look at as symptomatic of the treatment of Generation X by the Baby Boomers. (Depending on the standards used for of those generational guidelines, Leno is a Boomer while Conan is an X.)

In his book, X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking, Jeff Gordiner discusses the lack of presence of Generation X in our mass media. Gen-X had a brief moment in the nineties when they drew attention for Nirvana and Lollapalooza, but then they faded from the cultural scene. X'ers hate even the notion of being lumped together, and they are exceptionally difficult to market to en masse. They value individuality. Statistically they are the most highly educated generation. They don't buy into structured organizations and they distrust authority.

[Here's where I point out that I am an X'er. I could be the definition - too much education, too much distrust of what anyone tells me, etc. Much of what I describe here comes from either Gordiner's book or the Wikipedia entry here.]

They are also a substantially smaller population than the Boomers or the Millenials. Madison Avenue saw more potential and opportunity in marketing up and down the generational ladder and essentially gave up on them.

Stung by the recent economic downturn, Boomers cannot go gently into that good night now, even if they wanted to, which they never did. Their jobs and retirement accounts are gone, thanks to the misdeeds of the more disgustingly greedy of their generation.

They claim they cannot find new people to hire for jobs requiring experience. This is because they refuse to retire or otherwise give up their positions, keeping anyone younger than them in low-paying jobs. According to the Brookings Institution, Generation X is the first generation that will be less financially better off than its predecessors.

Whenever we speak of generations, we speak in broad terms. We try to define a group of people simply by the time of their birth. In this respect, it's not much different from astrology. Leno and O'Brien have both worked their way up to one of the highest profile jobs in television. It is unlikely either sees themselves or one another as a mantle for a generation, and they shouldn't. As I said, NBC, a corporation focused on the bottom line and responsible only to its shareholders, is to blame here.

However, Conan and Leno are representative. NBC's heyday is behind it. Network television is struggling to keep an audience against cable, the Internet, and video games. NBC is flagging even by the standards of network television. They were looking for a quick cheap fix to the expense of late prime time. They gave Conan only a short time to find an audience. Their experiment with Leno in prime time was a disaster. They did not want to lose Leno, seeing in him the chance to recoup their audience. In short, they continue to market themselves to a generation that is less likely to abandon them for video games or the cable options than they are to death.

Good luck, Conan. For some of us, your story of being slighted by corporate America is already old news. Many in my generation have already lived with it in some way, shape or form.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 25th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading and commenting. I was worried people thought I was crazy or something because no one said anything.

I don't want to sound like a conspiracy nut or something. I don't think it's done deliberately - one generation trying to screw over another. NBC, in this case, is a business and made a business decision that screwed over Conan O'Brien. That's all.

But it seems these kind of decisions are awfully common, where the Boomers' interests are favored over future generations. I know it's happened to me. In some ways at my current workplace, it still is.

I wish I knew what to do about it other than complain, though.

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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