Before anything else I wanted to let everyone know that I wrote today's guest post at Raquelle's blog Out of the Past. Be sure to stop by the blog. It's one of the best on classic film!
Tonight Conan O'Brien, the former host of Late Night, will take over as the host of The Tonight Show. Conan is only the fifth man to hold the position, following Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and Jay Leno. He then has some fairly big shoes to fill. Steve Allen virtually invented the late night talk show, while Jack Paar and Johnny Carson are television legend.
Conan O'Brien is not the only one making the move from Late Night. His house band, The Max Weinberg 7 will also make the move, although they will now be called Max Weinberg and The Tonight Show Band. Andy Richter, Conan's sidekick from 1993 to 2000, will join him on The Tonight Show. Jeff Ross, who had produced Late Night with Conan O'Brien, will take over as producer of The Tonight Show.
Conan O'Brien had taken over the hosting duties of Late Night after David Letterman had jumped ship from NBC to CBS. Conan had an awkward start, being relatively inexperienced in front of the camera. NBC initially showed little faith in Conan, renewing his contract a mere thirteen weeks at a time. Slowly, as Conan gained more experience in front of the camera, the rating rose. In the end he hosted Late Night for a total of sixteen years. Oddly enough, he will now be competing with the man from whom he had taken over Late Night, David Letterman.
Of course, the big question is how well Conan will do against Letterman. I suppose much of this depends upon whether he can hold onto Leno's audience. I must confess I have my doubts. I have always liked Conan, even in the early days. I watched Late Night with Conan O'Brien semi-regularly until Craig Ferguson took over the hosting duties on The Late, Late Show (in my humble opinion, Ferguson is the best late night host since Jack Paar). Here I must point out, however, that I was probably typical of the viewers of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Quite simply, Late Night has always appealed to a younger crowd than The Tonight Show. Late Night was the show of my generation--Generation X, while The Tonight Show appealed more to Baby Boomers. I have little doubt that much of this was due to the nature of Conan's humour, sometimes outrageous, often surreal, and filled with non sequiturs. I have to wonder if this kind of humour would appeal to The Tonight Show, and if it doesn't if Conan will be able to make the transition to the more reserved sort of humour for which The Tonight Show under both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno was known. I fear that he might not. In that case, the older audience that always watched the show will desert it in groves. And I have to wonder that much of his old audience aren't regular viewers of Letterman. The question then becomes whether he can lure his Late Night audience away from Letterman. I don't know if he can or not.
Regardless, I have always been fond of Conan, and I probably will tune into see him on The Tonight Show from time to time. I wish him all the luck in the world. And I just pray that when he retires in another sixteen years (or makes the move to prime time....) that Jimmy Fallon doesn't take over The Tonight Show seat...