In Defense of Carson Daly
In this current landscape where anyone with, let’s say, a face has the inalienable right to his or her own television show (reality, daytime or otherwise), it seems increasingly like a host of unqualified faces are added to the “entertainment” parade daily. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, anyone? Chloe and Lamar Do Whatever It Is that Chloe and Lamar Do? Extreme Ice Storage Hunters?
It is, upon this stark realization that so many are so intent on their fifteen minutes of fame — and the large check assumedly which comes with it — that I come here today to praise one solitary man on television who keeps plugging along unwaveringly. He has no gimmick. He has no schtick. He’s not a comedian, an ex-athlete, a “psychologist,” a writer or a musician. He’s a regular guy, who looks and dresses like a regular person, and — like some mysterious specter in the night — you have, I guarantee this, only glimpsed him unintentionally. He only appears when you fall asleep and forget to turn the television off, or when you stumble home drunk and watch TV as you sloppily brush your teeth before bed.
He is Carson Daly, the stalwart host of Last Call, and the man that NBC forgot.
There is no legitimate reason why Carson Daly should be super-famous, and yet there’s really no reason why he shouldn’t be super-famous. Daly is perhaps best known as the quiet and stolid forefather of his more sought-after progeny: the effusive, gleaming-toothed and highlighted Ryan Seacrest. Like Seacrest, Daly began his career as just a guy with a likeable personality — an archetype historically rewarded in a small niche of fame, a secret club consisting of people like Greg Kinnear, Graham Norton and Dicks both Cavett and Clark. He began as the pragmatic host of MTV’s Total Request Live, where he would invite on and chat with the likes of Hanson and Savage Garden with an affable and credible straight face as teen girls pressed their faces against the window behind him and screamed. TRL was, let’s call a spade a spade, probably the last substantial and successful music programming MTV aired to date, and a great deal of that success was Daly as host.
Now he’s been on NBC for ten years — ten years! — as the host of Last Call, which began as a small studio interview program and today features Daly on the road at various hip clubs chatting with bands, comedians and actors “on the cusp of making it.” You won’t see Samuel L. Jackson on Last Call, nor will you see a musical performance by Nicki Minaj. You will, perhaps, get information on a club named after a poisonous snake, meet an tattoo artist, see an actor named Chazz Steeterton, who is a supporting actor on a soon-to-be-canceled CW Network program called The Romantic Young Vampires, or learn about a band called Rescuing Mary or Finding Stacy or Helping Gail (the gerund-plus-pronoun school of naming one’s band is a popular current trend within our nation’s small-town music-houses and clubs, which you would know if you watched Last Call with Carson Daly).
Daly performs his task dutifully every night, and outside of that brief twenty-two minutes at 1:37, he is a ghost. He doesn’t make waves. You don’t see him on TMZ. He isn’t a problem celebrity (in fact, he famously dumped notable early-oughts hot mess Tara Reid). He just does his thing. It’s tempting, watching how Daly delivers Last Call with the regularity and humbleness of the postman who brings your mail, to imagine that Daly stays on at Last Call because NBC must keep promising him more and never delivering on that promise. Recently, he has been tapped as the host of The Voice, but it’s hardly compensation as he could likely do more than he’s given to do. And in what must be a major slap in the face, not only was Daly not invited to NBC’s recent Olympic coverage party — which featured NBC personalities from all hours of the day — but he had to watch sparkly Ryan Seacrest brought in to join the peacock party. What, Carson Daly can’t talk about beach volleyball? Carson Daly can’t narrate a production package on Lolo Jones? Carson Daly can’t be “thrown to,” back in-studio, with a bronze medal-winning track and fielder?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Carson Daly. He can do all these things. He’s a television good guy. He’s a family man. He has the rare skill of conversational talk-showism. He knows a lot — a lot — about music both popular and on its way. But strangely, he never gets that shot. And so he stays quietly in his seat, in the middle of the night, sandwiched between the ultra-hyped Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and a re-run of the Kathy Lee and Hoda hour of the Today Show. He probably doesn’t deserve this treatment. Yet you will not read about Carson Daly in the news tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week, or the next month. But he will be out there, doing his thing. Just in case you happen to tune in. And for that, someone should point him out. Here’s to you, Carson Daly, you unsung and lost presenter among presenters. We here at TBTS love you and salute you. Your appreciation party will be held tonight at the Rattlesnake Lounge in Minneapolis, right next to a tattoo parlor, and feature a musical bill of Missing Helen, Pursuing Madeline and Finding Ruth. See you there.