Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Conan O’Brien Tonight Show Debut Off to a Running Start

Photo NBC

I’ve always been a fan of Conan O’Brien on his “Late Night” show, but I haven't been able to watch the show for a while (no time!). After watching his debut last night on the Tonight Show, I’m very pleased with what I see as a re-energizing of a tired Tonight Show.
Conan's debut show opened with Conan preparing a checklist of all the things he had to do for his move to Los Angeles, the home of the Tonight Show. The problem is, he forgot to do one important thing on his checklist – actually move to LA. We then see Conan running across the streets of New York, and other locations across the country such as Amish country, St. Louis, Chicago (including a stop running onto Wrigley Field being chased by security), the Grand Tetons, Las Vegas, etc. He also runs past a Victorian Doll Museum, and then backtracks and runs in, where he admires the corn silk hair on one of the dolls. He finally arrives in LA. The problem is, the door to the studio is locked and he left his keys back on his desk in New York. Conan decides to take matters into his own hands and gets a bulldozer to knock the door down.

This was a great beginning to a high-energy show. After the crown quieted down, Conan went into his monologue, which included the following: a welcome from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (a clip of her saying “hello” from some other televised appearance); Conan – or shall I now call him Conando – speaking a line in Spanish; and Conan attending a Lakers game with other famous people, the famous sitting court side, and Conan in the last row on the upper level, eating popcorn and stroking his hair. He also included a tour of Universal studios. Conan put his own spin on the tour – literally – by having the multi-car tram drive in a circle. He then had the tram drive off the Universal lot, getting “lost” in a neighborhood and then going to the 99 cents store to buy everyone on the tram something to remember him by (including toilet paper and lettuce).

As part of his monologue, Conan does what he does best, which is poking fun of himself. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a huge night for me. I remember watching Johnny Carson when I was a kid and thinking, ‘That’s what I wanna be when I grow up…I’m sure right now, somewhere in America, there’s a little kid watching me thinking — What is wrong with that man’s hair? Is that even a man? Why is she crying?”

In order to show the size of his new studio, he brought on the letter “D” (a facsimile of course) from the famous Hollywood sign, which the stagehands proceeded to lop off the top on the doorway as they exited the stage.

Guest stars included Will Ferrell, who made his entrance on a throne carried by four muscled men. Ferrell, who also plugged his upcoming movie “Land of the Lost,” gave Conan some advice on what to do now that he is in LA. Some of his (joking) suggestion included visiting a Burger King in South Pasadena, driving on to the airport tarmac accessed through a hole in the airport fence, and borrowing a gun from any LAPD officer, because they let you borrow them for a day. Pearl Jam was the musical guest – I’ve never been much of a fan of theirs so I just tolerated the performance.

All in all, the show seemed to retain those things that I liked about Conan, the offbeat humor and the high energy. Even though I’m 54, I find Conan’s style much fresher and much more in tune with not only those much younger than me, but for those my age as well who try to stay young. This may be the best thing that has happened to the Today Show in years. The show has won me back with Conan.

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