Lots of brouhaha over the late night talk shows this week (talk of a sequel to The Late Shift? yikes!) and I might as well declare myself Team Conan. I’ve been a fan since ’98, when my older brother introduced me to The Late Night 5th anniversary special. For years, I’ve found his humor smart, offbeat and strangely endearing. My brothers and I were excited to see him take on The Tonight Show, and looked forward to seeing the new direction the show would take with Conan’s sensibility over the next few years. One of those insufferable yet banal life choices was whether to watch Conan or Craig Ferguson, as I am a big fan of both. Having Conan on the Tonight Show made it easier – one right after the other. It’s also amazing to look at the executives who seem to be acting as if they’d never worked in television before. This has to be one of the biggest PR nightmares in recent TV memory. Now with Jay returning to his old timeslot and Conan leaving NBC (and Jimmy Kimmel pwning Leno like it was nobody’s business last evening) it will be interesting to see how this unending drama plays out.
Back in 2001, the producers of the Broadway revival of The Music Man were looking for a replacement for star Craig Bierko. While Will & Grace star Eric McCormack assumed the role for his summer hiatus, one of the original choices they approached was Conan O’Brien. The soon to be former Tonight Show host is a fan of the musical; he famously used it as an inspiration for the classic “Marge & the Monorail” episode of The Simpsons from back in that series’ early years. (It also featured a Harold Hill crowd-rouser type song called, simply, “Monorail!”). The talk show host was very much interested, but due to his TV commitments they just couldn’t work around the scheduling.
I hope Conan is back on TV – and soon. I also hope he moves back to NY, as I think this city is more his groove. For a trip down memory lane, here is his opening number from the 2006 Emmy telecast to the famed “Trouble” from that aforementioned Meredith Willson classic. Enjoy: