conan o’brien has officially taken over the tonight show franchise on nbc. he’s gotten through his first week and i couldn’t be happier. he moved in with little to no hiccups, and it looks as though he’s gonna make a great host.
monday was such an exciting night for me. i’d waited three months with great anticipation to see conan back on the air and i was just amped to see the news anchors end with “stay tuned for the tonight show with conan o’brien on next!” right off, i’ve gotta say that seeing conan’s new show, i was left with the impression that he really loves television. just as a medium, as an art form, as a way of communication, he loves television. his show started with a decades old nbc peacock logo stating, “the following program is brought to you in living color on nbc.” super cool homage to an era of television gone by. his intro too has a very cool old-time microphone with a very vintage nbc logo on it and loads of flashy lights, and his new set really has the perfect mixed feeling of vintage and contemporary styles. for example, there is a mural wrapping around the stage above conan that’s hard to see on tv, but it’s a really trendy art-deco vintage mural with scenes from 1920s LA area and nbc logos. just really cool stuff. it’s hard to explain but it just seems that conan loves tv and this whole new show is very much an homage to television from the past. such a neat thing.
conan’s cold open was a great way to kick of his show too. seeing him literally run across the united states was really funny to me. the man has just the longest limbs you could ever imagine. it’s incredible, and seeing him sprint across wrigley field was great. it was a great intro that i think was endearing to leno’s old viewers.
the new intro is really cool too. i mentioned the old mic, but it’s just a very hip, vintage montage of lights and sounds with conan’s old pal and new announcer andy richter announcing conan and the band and guests. a fitting job for andy. and the theme song. oh man when i heard conan’s old theme music from late night i was just ecstatic, but they’ve updated it with some real flourish and it kills now. it’s such a great tune. seeing max weinberg and the tonight show band (previously known as the max weinberg seven) playing was great too, i’m so happy they came from new york to join conan on the show. they are such a great band.
so overall, conan was great. he seems really happy and really grateful for this new opportunity and is really excited to take the show over and make it his own. while he didn’t seem completely at ease on the first night, by the end of the week he was really getting into his groove. i have no doubts he will feel right at home right away.
i guess what i mean by completely at ease is on late night, there was a lot more of him killing time during the monologue with just silliness. conan making jokes about his hair or how the audience cheered too much for him or how a joke bombed. so far on the tonight show, there has been a lot more pre-produced sketches, off-set segments (also called “remotes”) which has conan interacting with just normal people, like universal studio tourists, workers on the universal studio lots, random LA citizens, etc. i’ve always found these segments funny, because conan has an incredible knack for improvisational comedy and finding the comical within normal situations with normal people. some of my favorite moments from late night were his remotes, like the old-tyme baseball sketch, anything that triumph the insult comic dog did, conan’s bird-watching outing, conan’s formation of a boy band, and conan’s dinner with associate producer jordan schlansky. these are just a few of the absolutely hilarious sketches that conan has done off the set. if you have a chance, take a look at these sketches because they are thoroughly entertaining. if conan keeps this kind of comedy up on the tonight show, his viewers are in for quite a treat. what has been missing a bit, and was coming back slowly by the end of the week, was his off the cuff silliness on camera. during his monologue, conan plays the audience so well and often rambles just enough to say hilarious things. he comes up with ridiculous “impressions” of celebrities that are just him doing things like pulling on fake suspenders to do larry king. they aren’t actually “good” impressions but they are funny. it’s this type of silliness that has taken him a bit to ease back into since starting but i think the more he takes over the show the more we’ll see it.
one thing that improved greatly as the week went by was the return of great old comedy bits from late night. when i realized they were doing in the year 2000 on wednesday, any of my fears for conan’s switch to an earlier time slot were alleviated. i was unsure if they were gonna bring a lot of bits over or use max and the band in bits as much, and seeing them take a classic bit from late night and giving it just a little bit of pizzazz for the new audience was reassuring. thursday’s show saw the return of max weinberg as more than just a great band leader but also a really weird and hilarious member of the show’s comedy team and friday’s show featured the old bit celebrity surveys. i’m not worried anymore. they’ll bring over the funny stuff and leave aside the not as good stuff.
the first week was jam packed with celebs. will ferrell, tom hanks, gwyneth paltrow, ryan seacrest, and a few lesser knowns. musical guests included pearl jam (debuting a brand new song from their forthcoming album), green day (who gave conan a guitar as a house warming present), sheryl crow (performing the same song she did on her debut performance on late night with conan o’brien way back in ’93 or ’94, whenever it was), and most importantly for ME, john mayer trio. the trio hasn’t played together in like a year and a half and to see them performing on stage was just really great. they covered california dreamin’ by the mama’s and the papa’s and were backed by a los angeles children’s choir. so awesome. leave it to john mayer to turn a ’60s folk song into a real rock ‘n roll tune. get a load of this.
so it’s been a good first week. i want to call it great just because i’m excited to see conan doing the job he was born to do, but i’m gonna keep my grade at good for now, mainly cause i know he hasn’t won many new viewers’ hearts yet. but i know the show is only gonna get better. conan has only ever improved in his 16 years on television and this is his chance to really do what he wants with his show and with his comedy. can’t wait to see what he’s got up his outrageously long sleeves.