Set the DVR’s! For the first time in thirteen years, Conan O’Brien will be visiting David Letterman. The reunion takes place on Thursday, May 17.
Brookline native O’Brien, who had been a writer for both Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, began his talk show career in 1993, taking over hosting duties when Letterman left Late Night on NBC. Letterman’s not so amicable exit from NBC came about when the network passed him over and instead hired Jay Leno as Johnny Carson’s successor to The Tonight Show. Letterman jumped to CBS and went head to head with Leno in the late night ratings war until Leno left The Tonight Show in 2009.
When Leno left the show to move to prime time, O’Brien became the new host and he and Letterman vied for the same viewers. But in another not so amicable move, NBC bumped O’Brien and The Tonight Show from the 11:35 pm. time slot to 12:05 a.m. when Leno decided he wanted to return to late night because of his less than impressive prime time ratings. O’Brien, unhappy with the network’s plan and what he felt would be the demise of the show, walked away, leaving Leno to take the helm again.
This will be O’Brien’s fifth time as Letterman’s guest. Given the common bond the two share in their experiences, the audience should probably expect a barb of two to be thrown in Jay Leno’s direction.
On Monday evening, Brookline native Conan O’Brien’s anxiously anticipated return to television kicked off in grand fashion on his new home at the cable network, TBS. The late night funny man had his first time out in the 11PM time slot, one half hour earlier than Andover’s Jay Leno, who took back his old post at “The Tonight Show” earlier this year after O’Brien spent less than 7 months as host himself. The NBC debacle turned publicity nightmare meant O’Brien got booted, and Leno was reinstated at his former post. Since the kerfuffle, O’Brien and his crew received a multi-million dollar payout, and the comedian was forbidden from appearing on any new television shows until the fall.
The show was filmed on the Warner Brothers Studio lot, and featured guests Seth Rogan, Lea Michelle, and musical guest Jack White–whom O’Brien actually performed with at the close of the show. His first official guest was actually winner of first guest contest, Arlene Wagner, founder of the Leavenworth’s Nutcracker Museum in Washington, who beat out the likes of Justin Bieber, though she did only make a brief appearance. Familiar faces filled the spacious set, such as Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band, and announcer Andy Richter.
Then lanky red-head took to the stage in what was titled “Episode: Baa Baa Blackmail”, doing his trademark string dance amidst rousing cheers of “Conan! Conan!” to which he quipped: “Sit down, we don’t know how much time I’m gonna get here. That lasted longer than my last job.”
Not one to shy away from the subject of his departure from NBC, he went on to joke:
“Welcome to my 2nd annual first show! Its called ‘Conan.’ People asked me why I named it ‘Conan,’ its so that I would be harder to replace…I want you to know, I have dreamed about being a host on basic cable since i was 46.”
After taking his seat behind his new desk, O’Brien showed off some of the features of his new digs; a remote controlled moving moon on the background scene painting. With Richter seated in a guest chair next to him, the two talked about one of O’Brien’s lowest points in the months since he’s been off the air–finding out that a Halloween mask was being sold in his likeness and labelled as an “Ex-Talk Show Host.” After each donning the masks, Richter quipped, “These are very authentic–the inside smells like tears.”
Later on in the evening, now in his new time slot at midnight, George Lopez of “Lopez Tonight” welcomed his new lead-in.
“Sixty years ago, a redhead and a Latino made history on “I Love Lucy,” history repeats itself tonight with Conan O’Brien and George Lopez! Team Coco, meet Team Loco!”
Reports show that “Conan” was watched by 2.45 million adults 18-34; 3.28 million in the 18-49 category and 4.155 million total viewers on its opening night, with a projected median age of 30.
Six years ago, Conan O’Brien signed a contract with NBC that stated O’Brien would take over “The Tonight Show” in the Summer of 2009. It was only seven months ago when the “changing of guards” took place on the last episode of the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno“– a tribute to Jay Leno’s last 17 years as host that included stars like Billy Crystal, Jerry Seinfeld and Mr. President Obama. Three months later, Leno went primetime with his new show “The Jay Leno Show.”
Just days ago NBC announced the cancellation of “The Jay Leno Show.” A short lived one hour comedy, which failed on what is necessary to make it in primetime–ratings! Like any primetime show, if it’s not getting the ratings, it will get yanked. That’s show business, right?
Leno had his “fifteen minute” primetime debut and will air his final episode Febuary 12th. But, that’s not it for “The Jay Leno Show,” NBC has offered Leno his old time slot back and asked O’Brien to move the “Tonight Show” to 12:05am. O’Brien adamently announced he will not move to the 12:05am time slot to accommodate the shortened “Jay Leno Show.”
Yahoo Blog TV posts a statement from O’Brien addressing, “The People of Earth… For 60 years, The Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show.”
NBC has yet to comment on O’Brien’s decision. O’Brien’s statement also addresses rumors about moving to Fox, “I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next.” O’Brien ends his statement by saying, “I’m truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.” Like his red locks, the “Tonight Show” has “always been that way.”
Check out this video, of the last episode of, “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Billy Crystal was Leno’s first guest 17 years ago and he is one of his last guests. Listen as Crystal sings his tribute song to Leno about going primetime, with the words “you’ll be back in a blink of an eye.” Did he mean he’ll be back to his 11:35 time slot? “The Jay Leno Show” will air at 11:35 pm after the Olympics are over.
Few things are as difficult for a new TV show to hold as the competitive 10 p.m. slot on weeknights. With the increasingly large selection of programs available, even the most experienced of talk show hosts struggles to maintain an audience. Less than three months have gone by since “The Jay Leno Show” first appeared on NBC, and the household ratings have been dropping.
Raised in Andover, Massachusetts, Jay Leno was considered the long reigning king of prime-time with “The Tonight Show.” That is until September, 2009, when Leno was replaced by fellow comedian and host Conan O’Brien. Shortly after the transition, Leno began hosting “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m.
In an attempt to boost his ratings with the younger audience, Leno has been featuring offbeat and eccentric comedians. Thirteen “correspondents” have appeared since the show’s conception, each with his or her own unconventional brand of comedy.
In regards to this new approach, Leno said, “When we were doing ‘The Tonight Show,’ we had the traditional stand-up, where people come out and sell their jokes. Nowadays, you don’t hold the audience as much without a visual. We set out to find people with a show-and-tell element, who bring video and music into it.”
Despite the worries that producers might have about lower ratings, “The Jay Leno Show” and its host continue to seek out fresh ways to attract new and younger viewers. Only time will tell if this new venture proves successful.
Watch Leno describe his early stand-up days in Massachusetts:
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