In preparation for this historic event, I've found myself taking stock in what will become the late night schedule. Since I've got the summer off, I'll be able to dig in and evaluate how the shift in time slots changes my late night allegiances.
Let's start with Leno.
In his 17 years at the desk, I watched one full Tonight Show with Jay....it was on Friday...and I watched because Conan was the guest and my girlfriend loves James Taylor. I think Leno's move to 10pm takes pressure off Conan because Jay's elderly viewers will simply shift up to 10, no longer needing to avoid Law & Order: Pervert's Row, or whatever version they have Coolio starring in. But unless Conan someday takes over, I won't be watching. And I think he was lying about those 68 offspring of the show. Still, seeing that clip of him dragging a 30-year-old Conan onstage was pretty funny.
Alright, from here on out, we're gonna go with a basic pros and cons list.
The Late Show with David Letterman
Letterman was my first taste of late night TV, when he moved to CBS. I was 12 years old, and just starting to stay up that late on Friday nights. I loved him, primarily because my family did. He was wronged by NBC, and we weren't going to support that sissy Leno. As an adult, I've eaten at the Hello Deli, to this day call my college buddy "Gator" and he calls me "Skunk" (because at some point, Dave and Paul used those nicknames for each other), and this is the only late night show I've been able to watch in person. The line-up that night was David Alan Grier, some dude who climbed the 7 Summits, and the Von Bondies. The only saving grace of that trip was being on Broadway earlier that week when Phish played outside on the Late Show marquee. But enough about the past. Here's where Letterman stands now...
- from Indianapolis (as a rule, you have to love entertainers from your hometown....expect for John Mellencamp. I hate that dude.)
- only needs about 30 seconds to make his point
- has apparently hired a great musical act booker recently
- can create newsworthy interviews
- doesn't seem to try all that much
- drives jokes into the ground
- always talks about his son (I find it annoying, not endearing)
- can create completely pointless interviews
I used to watch this show when the other Craig hosted, having followed him from The Daily Show. And when the guy from The Drew Carey Show took over, I didn't take much notice...until a recent development involving puppets.
- his interviews are unscripted and personal, rather than, well, scripted and impersonal
- creative monologues that don't follow the typical structure of NYC joke, current President joke, former President joke, celebrity drunkard joke, Kirstie Alley joke.
- even more creative "cold opens," usually involving puppets, and sometimes involving Steven Wright pushing Brittany Murphy on a swing.
- can't seem to get A-list guests
- has no budget
- takes stands that no late night host can keep
I know a lot people were afraid that Fallon was either going to (a) not be funny or (b) be funny, but not be able to stop laughing at himself. I was never really that worried, because all of these shows follow the same formula, and there was no way he was going to be as badly recieved as Conan when he was first hired.
- The Roots
- his Saved By the Bell campaign
- A.D. Miles as head writer (meaning lots of The State tomfoolery to come)
- relies too much on SNL connections
- worst. interviewer. ever.
- beer pong is incredibly boring to watch on television
I'm predicting great things for Conan at 11:30. He's going to steal some viewers from Letterman for sure. But I also think his vacancy from 12:30 will probably move some of his audience to Furgeson, not Fallon. Bring Andy back is awesome, and we can only hope that Will Ferrell has a sweet new birthday suit for the big event.
Anyway, be sure to tune in here tomorrow night for a LIVE BLOG of the first ever Tonight Show with Conan!