Meet the new King of
All Media Late Night.
Last night Conan O'Brien arrived at his new basic cable home with Andy Richter, Jimmy Vivino and even the Masturbating Bear (surprise!) in tow, and the show felt... a little like both of his old shows! It was stiff and cautious at times, like The Tonight Show was, and then there'd be a five minute video sketch about Conan getting assassinated at a toll-booth, Godfather-style (I remember reading years ago that he'd begged Entertainment Weekly to let him do that on their cover and they refused, so glad TBS is really making his dreams come true here) and it felt like the relaxed silliness of Late Night all over again. The premiere as a whole wasn't exceptional, or even exceptionally funny throughout, but there is probably wisdom in starting out cautiously. Either way, I really wouldn't say it was a bad episode, so that certainly is something.
Sadly, former Tonight Show fixture Ed McMahon, who played second fiddle to Johnny Carson for 30 years, passed away earlier this week. We weren't sure we could pay tribute to such an icon of television, but luckily, Conan O'Brien did it for us, with a selection of his funniest Tonight Show moments, which you can see below.
If you live outside New York (or just don't read New York magazine), you probably haven't been following the ongoing analysis of Jay Leno's Tonight Show performance during the WGA strike. First, Sam Anderson wrote (essentially) that his monologues weren't much affected by the loss of his writers because they weren't so hot to begin with. Then the Vulture blog did a detailed breakdown of Leno's last scab monologue. Finally, there was a brief post-mortem this morning on the first monologue involving the Guild. Thank God so many dedicated New York-ers are watching this -- for science -- because I certainly couldn't do it.
No real big news stories today. Oh, what's that? You heard that nominations for some fancy (but not soul-suckingly pretentious! Looking at you, Oscars) awards show were announced this morning? And that they actually kind of, dare we say it -- made sense? Well aren't you on top of things. Here's our take on it. On to other must-knows of the day, including an imminent farewell to Mr. Jack Donaghy, a permanent place in TV Land (and our receptive hearts) for Betty White, and a questionable but lucrative stint in rehab for notorious kidnappee Jeremy London.
While NBC's decision to move Jay Leno back to 11:35 PM and to try to make Conan accept a Leno-Fallon sandwich timeslot is aggravating for Conan fans and embarrassing for everyone involved (and may leave sad little Carson Daly unemployed), we're pretty psyched for it. If Conan ends up leaving NBC (and he really should) for Fox, as is being reported he likely will, that's great for Conan fans. And even if he stays, getting Leno out of primetime and freeing up all those timeslots is nothing but good news for a floundering NBC. Here's why.
Good news, everybody! Weird news, but still! Really good! It looks like the bleak hell that has become Ed McMahon's life has suddenly become slightly less horrifying, thanks to... Donald Trump, of all people. Homeboy has agreed to buy McMahon's $4.6 million dollar mansion and let him live in it for free, saving it from foreclosure and McMahon from certain homelessness. Aww. Why would he do this, you ask? According to Trump, it's just because a long time ago he went to a fancy school none of us can afford/get into and don't you effing forget it, and while he was there he loved to watch what I can only assume was The Tonight Show. He told the L.A. Times, "When I was at the Wharton School of Business I'd watch him every night. How could this happen?"
As we are all regrettably aware, last week was the worst, in terms of celebrity welfare. We lost Ed McMahon, then Farrah Fawcett, then Michael fricking Jackson, then late night infomercial titan Billy Mays suddenly died yesterday. That is so sad! I don't know why, but it's really freaking me out to think that Billy Mays will never shout me to sleep at 4 AM on a Sunday morning with a new infomercial ever again. What am I going to unwisely buy in the middle of the night now? Pizza? I can't secure a bookshelf to the wall without screws or brackets with a pizza like I can with all that Mighty Putty I bought that one time. Can't do it with Proactive either. See what I mean? Billy Mays was an important part of my life!
Which is a good thing. Last night's Tonight Show premiere was pretty much just a solid Late Night episode on a bigger, much prettier stage, which means it's finally safe to believe that Conan will not transform into some unrecognizable hack just because he's on an hour earlier. Plus, Andy's back! And the decision to keep him off the couch for this show was a smart one -- sometimes it did get awkward with him having nothing to do on the end of that couch back in the day. Let's examine the good and bad parts in bullet list detail.
Is it wrong of me to want a witty president? I would have liked Bush a lot better if he was witty. Heck, even though he wasn't witty, I would have tuned in to The Tonight Show to watch him attempt to banter with Jay Leno. (...Okay, maybe not Leno. But Conan O'Brien? Or Craig Ferguson? Absolutely.) So why has no seated president ever appeared on The Tonight Show before now? It seems like a much better way to boost your ratings than by pre-empting everyone's favorite TV shows with some boring old speech. Plus, I don't think I remember a State of the Union address where the President made an American Idol reference (at the 2:15 mark). Obama gets a bunch of laughs -- more than Leno does, usually -- with routines on the overprotective Secret Service (1:19), whether people let him win at basketball (21:45), and his beginner's bowling score, which he calls "Special Olympics" (20:51). Hope that one doesn't come back to bite him on the ass. (Too late!) Check out the clip below.
What did you think of Obama's appearance? Should he make the late-night rounds? Cast your vote below.