In 2004, when NBC brokered a deal to keep Conan O'Brien in its clutches by handing him the reins to The Tonight Show five years down the line, 2009 seemed like a lifetime away. Five years went fast.
In 2004, when NBC brokered a deal to keep Conan O'Brien in its clutches by handing him the reins to The Tonight Show five years down the line, 2009 seemed like a lifetime away.
Five years went fast.
Now, with Conan taking over late-night TV's crown jewel from Jay Leno, it feels like an entire generation is growing up. Leno was for my parents, and lefty darling David Letterman has always seemed like the preferred host of people at least a decade older than me. But we Gen-Y types came of age with Conan, so it's somewhat surreal to see him headlining late-night.
That's especially true since he's putting on essentially the same show he always has, complete with Max Weinberg, Andy Richter and a hop and hip-shake to kick off his monologue. Yeah, he's got the A-List guests that come with the timeslot, but ultimately he's still the same old Conan.
That might be a problem for much of Leno's audience, which in turn might be a problem for the ratings-challenged NBC. But it's great for Conan fans, who appreciate his rampant self-deprecation and mastery of the absurd.
His first week started off awkwardly, with a debut show too dependent on pre-taped sketches rather than in-studio action. But by the second night, Conan proved himself ready for this gig with his riotous "Twitter Tracker" bit and a superb Tom Hanks interview. By week's end, this felt right. -Chris DeVille