Emmy hangover: Conan's plane-crash sketch

Did you laugh? Or cringe? It might depend on where you live. Either way, Conan’s opening Emmy sketch — in which his L.A.-bound flight crash-lands on a Lost-like island — is kicking up dust. In Kentucky, where, earlier Sunday, a Comair regional jet had crashed, killing all but one aboard, the skit read as ghoulish, albeit circumstantial irony. The local broadcaster wants an apology from NBC.

Do they owe him one? Yes, NBC could have responded to the news unfolding in real time and axed the sketch — but not without throwing the live Emmycast into significant confusion and perhaps necessitating a statement from the host. (This isn’t SNL, where the format is designed for last-minute omissions and substitutions.)

Of course, none of that matters in an urgent situation requiring the heroic utmost in taste and sensitivity: Conan could simply have come on stage and called for a moment of silence, I suppose. My question is… was this such a situation? For the families of the victims, the answer is an unequivocal yes. But the same could be said of those involved in a fatal car pileup — do networks watch the wires for news of an automobile tragedy, and adjust their programming accordingly? No. There’d be nothing left on television.

Life gives us many grim juxtapositions, many cruel ironies, on screen and off. This is one of them. But I wouldn’t assign blame to the network. My guess is, anyone intimately involved in the Kentucky air tragedy wasn’t watching the Emmycast anyway. Viewers troubled by the images they saw had every right to be troubled and, of course, every right not to watch. But I don’t think there’s any wrongdoing here — only rotten, ugly chance.

Feel free to correct me below.

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  • Ep Sato

    The Real tragedy was that Julia Louis Dreyfus won an emmy for that piece of crap show “The New Adventures of Old Christine” while “The Comeback” and Arrested Development got totally dissed. Seriously, WTF is up with that?
    No offense to fans of “old Christine”, but dude, that show TOTALLY SUCKS. The only good post-Seinfeld show to feature a Seinfeld cast member that is even worth watching is Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. Old Christine feels like an old shoe. Cheesy laugh track, awful plot that makes little to no sense, and one dimensional characters not worth exploring in any way (New christine, the ex husband, the annoying kid, and Old Christine, as examples), and you’ve got every sitcom from 1980-1995. Why is such an outdated concept winning? Poor choices this year, but I am happy that The Office and My Name is Earl got some wins.

  • mike

    It’s a terrible thing about the plane crash, but watching the wires until showtime is a little much.
    Ep Sato- How much voting is done based on the actual quality of the show and how much is name recognition. How many Emmy academy voters thought it would be great for Elaine to break the Seinfeld curse? A lot of well known stars won Emmys last night. (Barry Manilow over Stephen Colbert? I know what next weeks #1 Threatdown will be.) How many deserved them this year?

  • EP Sato

    Mike, your point is solid. I am just bummed out that my underdogs stayed underdogs.
    And Barry Manilow? He’s officially on notice ;)

  • Kat

    Scott, I totally agree.

  • Anne

    I also totally agree that it’s just a sad coincidence. Being a New Englander, it was very strange a few years ago when CSI: Miami had an episode centered around a fire due pyrotechnics display in a nightclub which caused many deaths, which IS what happened at the Station Nightclub. It was eire, but I wasn’t offended: the episode had obviously been written and shot before the fire. The similarity hurts, but, Scott, like you say, it’s not as if networks can or should have to reprogram tv similar to events that are, at the time, sensitive.

  • Rachel

    In other recetnt events, I was kind of surprised that they didn’t mention Bruno Kirby in the tribute part of the show. Or did I miss it?

  • brandonk

    “Old Christine” is hilarious, and she totally deserves that Emmy.
    Anyway, I think the sketch was fine. A very small number of people, most of whom probably didn’t even watch the show, would have been affected by the plane crash. It was obviously making fun of the first episode of “Lost”, not the crash in Kentucky or any of the other real-life airplane crashes that have happened.

  • Kitty

    I’m sure nobody wanted to disrespect the families of the Kentucky plane crash. The tragedy is just that, a tragedy and no one was trying to make fun of it.
    If you watch lost……….you would have gotten the joke.

  • Peggy

    I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, however, they could have avoided this unfortunate coincidence by starting the sketch as Conan walked onto the shore. ( This is how the “Today” show replayed it on Monday). That sketch was brilliant, my favorite part was the “Chris Hanson sting”.

  • Manda

    Unfortunately I’m not the least bit surprised that that manager of WLEX has overreacted about this issue. This is the same man who chose to pre-empt an episode of “The Office” last year because its “graphic nature.” Anyone with eyes could see that the Emmy skit was a take on “Lost.”

  • girard

    I’m sure the families of the victims of the crash gathered around the TV to watch the Emmys last night. Puh-leez! Let’s grow a pair here people, my Mom was killed by a drunk driver, but every car crash scene doesn’t put me over the deep end.

  • Emmyfan

    I too think everyone is overreacting about the skit. It’s very unfortunate timing, but it’s not like they knew there would be a real-life plane crash that day. The thing was filmed probably weeks ago. And everyone’s comments are right on: one, I doubt many people who were personally affected by the Kentucky tragedy were even watching the Emmys in the first place, and two, what are networks going to do, check news reports to make sure nothing bad happened that day so they don’t air something that might offend someone? And you know, apart from all that, the crash happened the same day as the Emmys, literally hours before. I think if there had been a little more time, if the Kentucky crash had happened a week ago, then they would have edited it out. Take 9/1, for example. I remember that Fox had originally scheduled for their Sunday night movie, on Sept. 16, the movie “Independence Day” which as we know features many buildings and landmarks being attacked and destroyed. In light of the WTC attacks, they obviously changed the schedule. But then, they had five days’ notice. This plane crash happened earlier the same day, complaining people. Stop making a big deal out of it.

  • Emmyfan

    Edit: That’s supposed to say “9/11,” obviously. Stupid keyboard.

  • sam

    Although the opening was hilarious and I knew that it was a skit about Lost, I still cringed at the beginning plane crash and I wondered why NBC wasn’t sensitive enough to start it at the beach. When did it become acceptable to be indifferent to other people’s pain? I have seen so many comments today about this issue and Dick Clark’s condition from people trying to be funny and cool that it sickens me a bit. What is wrong with Conan that this didn’t occur to him?

  • BJohnson

    1st of all I don’t think Conan O’Brien is in charge of the entire Emmys so I don’t see him as being the final say in if that part of the Lost parody aired. As far as the sketch airing, I laughed through the whole skit, I knew it was a Lost ripoff, but I remembered when they pondered the Lost crash two seasons ago because of 9/11. Then doesn’t the CSIs, Law & Orders & Without a Trace play up similar tragedies in hour long episodes “with a twist” so it’s not exactly like the original case. That portion of the opening act lasted about a minute b4 it moved on in the Lost parody. If it was all about in good taste, only thing left on tv would be….well nothing.

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