A power outage hit the ABC lot on Monday about an hour before Jimmy Kimmel was set to tape Jimmy Kimmel Live. The brown out shut down the control room, broadcast transmission center, and tape operations area. Kimmel, whose late night talk show has a recent bump in ratings and is seen on average by more than 2 million viewers each night, handled the situation with aplomb.
Determined to let the world know his capabilities to entertain are not constrained by the bonds of broadcast television equipment, Kimmel taped the entire episode of Kimmel Live on his MacBook. He carried his laptop to and fro throughout his office, the studio, the editing bay (so viewers could see the show’s planned, pre-recorded segments), and on stage. The television audience saw guests Seth Rogan, John Henson and country artist Dierks Bentley all through the lens of Kimmel’s computer screen.
It was an unplanned stunt that Jimmy Fallon (the self-proclaimed Tech King of Late Night) should’ve thought to plan months ago. It garnered a ton of attention from the press. But what’s more is the episode is genuinely great. The question is, why?
Was it great in a “goofy, amateur-hour, show-must-go-on sort of way“? Yes. Was it simply super cool to see a behind-the-scenes, and alternative look at a broadcast television talk show? Definitely. Did Kimmel’s composure under adverse circumstances especially charm the camera? For sure.
But the main reason why Kimmel’s webcam episode is so good is because it was taped on a webcam. The medium is the message.
Ever since Bree’s life and death on the web series Lonelygirl15, we’ve been conditioned to record and consume webcam footage far differently than broadcast television. The proximity of the camera, the act of holding the laptop up to your person and physically moving the device to lead viewers through your story creates a kind of intimacy devoid from other forms of media.
On Wednesday night, Kimmel took viewers along for a very personal taping of Kimmel Live. The impromptu, self-guided tour of his office, co-workers, and personal paraphernalia and shotgun seat during his interviews made the episode feel more genuine, more real than any amount of close-ups and high definition ever could. The recurring technical issues throughout the taping (Kimmel and Rogan’s mics went out mid-interview) only add to the episode’s appeal. In an industry rife with contrived, candy-coated PR stunts, it’s a breath of fresh air to see spontaneity captured on such a small, intimate screen.
Bravo, Jimmy. Here’s to more blackouts on live, pre-recorded, broadcast TV.