Conan O’Brien Makes Tonight Show Debut

Land of Punt enjoys watching the various late night debuts. These inaugural shows are racked with well-written and highly produced bits, sketches, and vignettes. The effort they put into these premieres is impressive.

Then in about six and half weeks the show becomes indolent. Hosts start reading headlines cut out of newspapers and producers send mildly amusing staffers out on the street with a camera crew. Ah yes, it’s broadcast laziness at its finest.

The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien has a bigger and brigther set than his Late Night show.

The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien debut June 1st on NBC. His guests were Will Ferrell and Pearl Jam.

Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show debut on Monday was anything but lazy. The host was featured in several funny videos, including one where he ran across country and another that saw him leading a Universal Studios tour.

His 16-year tenure on Late Night prepared O’Brien well. He seemed calm and comfortable during his first Tonight Show and at times was even funny. However, O’Brien did seem to reek of that boyfriend who tones down his personality when he meets her parents.

While the show was packed with pre-produced attempts at comedy, Will Ferrell and Pearl Jam, it did seem to drag in places. Not what you’d expect from the only time a weekday talk show is actually exciting, but at least this reveals that O’Brien won’t have any trouble settling in.

“I have to admit I think I’ve timed this moment perfectly. Think about it: I’m on a last-place network; I moved to state that’s bankrupt; and tonight’s show is sponsored by General Motors.”

Andy Richter was on hand as the show’s announcer. LOP couldn’t figure if he was just an announcer or a side kick or a hanger-on. Is Richter permanent (what else does he have to do anyway)? Whatever his relationship is, or will be, to the show, can someone please prevent him and O’Brien from talking at the same time—it’s the single most irritating thing that can ever happen on television.

The ratings for O’Brien show were tremendous. In fact, his debut attracted higher ratings than any program in prime time on Monday and that includes CBS. It was the highest rated Tonight Show since the 2005 tribute show to former host Johnny Carson.

It can be argued that any host in their first show would have garnered those numbers, but regardless of whether or not the high ratings were conciliatory, O’Brien absolutely had to get them and he did.

Now that the debut is out of the way, Land of Punt can’t wait for that Tuesday show in the middle of summer where O’Brien has to save a show with Sarah Chalke, Vern Yip and musical guest Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Let’s see his ratings after a slug like that.

Ultimately, O’Brien is a stalwart choice to replace Jay Leno and carry on the Tonight Show banner. Even after one show it’s obvious that he’s an adequate fit. It’s one of NBC’s rare good decisions.

BTW, Andy Richter is a permement fixture on the Tonight Show. Richter has stated he’s looking forward to a steady paycheck and the opportunity to not work with laggard production companies.

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