Are you all watching Conan O’Brien’s first week as host of The Tonight Show? If not, how can you compare him, either favorably or unfavorably, to Letterman and Leno? How can you say he’s gone too soft in his old-person-friendly new time slot? How are you going to decide where he fits in the pantheon of Tonight Show hosts? How are you going to predict his ratings from now through infinity?
Who cares, you say? It’s only been three lousy episodes, you say? It’s too soon to tell, you say?
Well, I completely agree. I feel like with this and with Jimmy Fallon’s debut, people jumped in with their opinions while the credits were barely rolling on premiere night. This time, they were eager to say that Conan is both more of a comedian’s comedian than Leno ever was and that he’s a sellout for not trotting out the Masturbating Bear on the first night. Writers even made a huge deal over his Letterman-beating first-night numbers, with TV Guide noting that the show posted “the best numbers for a Monday Tonight Show in more than four years,” as if that’s going to mean anything in the long run.
I’m happy that he’s on earlier, so I can watch his show. That’s really as far as I’ll go with that right now.
If you’re somehow interested in this horse race, I’ll put a round-up of some knee-jerk judgments after the break. In general, they seem pretty positive, which does make me happy.
“It’s basically the same show, right down to the pitch-perfect O’Brien-Richter patter. O’Brien has kept his mischievous, self-deprecating glee intact, but nothing about the show appeared to be too surreal or alienating for the timeslot’s existing, graying audience (no masturbating bears were in attendance).”–TV Guide
“While it seemed at first that Jay Leno’s move to primetime was terrible for Conan, it’s starting to look just the opposite. Conan doesn’t have to forfeit his comedic style or his younger-skewing audience. When Jay’s new show joins the line-up, the Sea-Bond set will be able to watch their guy that much earlier, and then after the local news, they can go to bed. Meanwhile, those of us that like our comedy a little edgier can enjoy Conan a bit earlier too… I can still stay up and laugh like a baked college kid, then get up and go to work like a sensible adult. Everybody wins.” —Pop Vox
“Because we knew that Conan O’Brien would be rested after an extended vacation and would have the benefit of an atypically great guest (Will Ferrell) and a bunch of strong non-topical material culled from three months’ of writing sessions, it was probably unreasonable to expect that his first-ever Tonight Show last night would give any indication of what a regular episode would be like. And it didn’t! It was good, we guess.”–Vulture
“The Conan O’Brien era of NBC’s Tonight show kicked off Monday night with an opening that served both to signal the heightened energy the star will bring to his assignment and as an homage to the debut that introduced him to the national television audience in 1993.”–New York Times
“It was a funny, ambitious and surprisingly majestic sketch but, more important, it’s certainly something Jay Leno would never, ever do.”–L.A. Times
Photo credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC Photo