O’Brien’s first shot at ‘The Tonight Show’ — How’d he do?

Posted by · 10:05 am · June 2nd, 2009

conan3.jpgIn his first shot at hosting “The Tonight Show,” I think it’s safe to say Conan O’Brien has tamed things down from his “Late Night” antics of old.

Tapping comedian Will Ferrell and musical guest Pearl Jam as introductory guests might be seen as indication of a “hipper” or younger direction, but came off as rather safe in hindsight.  The crowd got a “string dance” routine but only briefly and as merely a wink and a nudge.  And the overall atmosphere of the show was somewhat stiff, O’Brien appearing nervous to maintain a straight man’s routine throughout while seemingly longing for his 12:30 element.

Of course, I’m not criticizing.  It will take O’Brien some time to warm to the gig and, perhaps, his new audience to him.  But what worked really worked.

The cold open was probably the obvious play, but the commitment to a cross-country, Forrest-Gump-like sprint from Manhattan to Universal City was full, spirited and lots of fun.  The studio tram tour bit felt a little too old Conan for the time slot and might have been better saved for later down the line, but it’d be a hoot if “Cir-cle!  Cir-cle!” became an unintended tradition with studio audiences.  And that stage is something to behold.  Absolutely gorgeous.

You can check out the cold open below or at the new “Tonight Show” website (with other goodies, of course).

Announcer Andy Richter will hopefully not take on the irritating demeanor of Steve Higgins over on Jimmy Fallon’s show.  The role is a bit confused at the moment but I’m sure it’ll fill out.  It’s also a bit strange to see The Max Weinberg Seven’s (here, Max Weinberg and The Tonight Show Band) opening ditty merely transplanted to the new digs.  Personally speaking, I don’t want the old show.  I want the best of the old show with the maturity of the flagship, and I think if that balance is struk, O’Brien could be the show’s most successful front man ever.  But we’ll see.

Over on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” things were decidedly old school.  Bill Cosby came on to deliver one of his age-old sit-down comic routines and pitch his current tour.  Paula Abdul was scheduled to perform but Melody Gardot ended up filling in.  Abdul was moved to Wednesday.  Not sure what the story is there.

Anyway, O’Brien’s first show was a rousing success.  Early ratings reports show that more people tuned into O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” than ABC’s “Nightline” and CBS’s “The Late Show with David Letterman” combined.

Tonight’s guest include Tom Hanks (which, in my opinion, might have been a better pick for first-time guest) and Green Day.

What did you think of Conan’s first stab at NBC’s flagship show?  Have your say in the comments section below!

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7 responses so far

  • 1 6-02-2009 at 10:12 am

    Mr. F said...

    It was fun, but like you said he seemed nervous. It was like he wanted to do the stuff he did in his old show, but has to restrain because his new audience may not like it. I’m sure things will go back to normal for him as the show goes along.

  • 2 6-02-2009 at 10:45 am

    Mike_M said...

    Only watched clips so far, have it on my DVR, but man how good was that Pearl Jam song?

    Sounded better than any of the tracks on Pearl Jam. Also the new album art (?) and the title of the new album was announced which was great.

  • 3 6-02-2009 at 10:47 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The song was great. The sound was bad. Muffled, almost. Not sure what was up with that.

  • 4 6-02-2009 at 11:38 am

    Anthony said...

    I would’ve liked it no matter what, if only for the generational switch that the move seems to signify. Having said that, I thought it was pretty high quality for a first episode. Some of the humor seemed a little stiff, but as he seemed to allude to at the beginning of the episode, he expects it to loosen up as time progresses.

    I expect it to be a huge success (ratings wise it seems to be if the first episode is any indication). He’s too goddamn likeable for it not to be.

    Go Conando!

  • 5 6-02-2009 at 11:49 am

    Vito said...

    The show was great, I thought. Will Ferrell’s entrance nearly had me in tears. Brilliant. I love Conan, and I’m really looking forward to him adjusting to his role, and becoming a great host for many years hopefully.

  • 6 6-02-2009 at 2:25 pm

    JC said...

    I don’t think Conan wanted to scare off new (read: older) viewers by pulling out Triumph The Insult Comic dog on the first night. I think of this first show as basic setting the stage for better, more edgy stuff to come.

    That said, late-night talk shows are hit-and-miss (from sketch-to-sketch, and interview-to-interview) in the best of times, so anyone expecting wall-to-wall funny is expecting too much.

    I’ll watch the entire shows this week to see how it develops, but from that point on, it’ll depend on the guests that are on. It all comes down to how Conan plays off of the guests, in those sideways spontaneous moments that come between them plugging their latest product, and offering up pre-scripted anecdotes. Like a few years ago, when Al Roker was promoting a book, and Conan behaved as though it was an incredibly attractive item by fondling and licking it. Weird, but definitely funny.

  • 7 6-02-2009 at 5:10 pm

    Andrew L. said...

    I take back my previous enthusiasm toward Andy Ritcher; cool guy, but the banter between him and Conan was very awkward.

    Then again, it was just the first show. I miss Joel.

    And I’m glad he kept the intro theme!