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August 31, 2015

Conan's problem is ... his location?

by Bob Sassone, posted Aug 26th 2009 12:02PM
ConanI'm not quite sure I get what Tom Shales says near the end of this piece about his recent visit to the set of The Tonight Show.

Shales tries to get to the heart of why Conan O'Brien, after a big start (of course), is losing more and more ground. He is even losing to David Letterman when Letterman is in repeats (overall ratings - Conan still wins the younger demographic).

He makes a lot of good points about how the set might be doing him in (too big), how the interviews are too rehearsed, and that there's too much prepared comedy. Those are all things that Conan and his crew will look at in the coming months, I'm sure. (I also think part of the problem is Conan's personality - I think he's more of an acquired taste than either Leno or Letterman.)

But Shales also says the studio that NBC built for Conan at Universal is on "a quiet little corner of the Universal lot," that O'Brien seems to be "reporting from some remote outpost," and that it's "a place that no one will happen upon, so cameos from big-time stars seem unlikely."

What the hell is he talking about? Is this a feature of successful late-night talk shows that I've missed over the years, the surprise cameo by celebrities? I don't think that ever happens, and if it did decades ago, it doesn't anymore. Any "surprise" that you see on the talk shows are carefully planned ahead of time. So I really don't think that's a realistic problem.

I also don't think this is the time for Conan and NBC to push the panic button either. Letterman beat Leno all the time when Leno started, and look what eventually happened there.

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I love Conan and crew, but the new show feels heartless somehow.

August 27 2009 at 8:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Conan is a 1,000,000x more entertaining than Leno. I've caught the new Tonight Show (and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) almost every night now.

The biggest complaint I have is that it seems like the same show Conan had in NY, just in LA and an hour earlier.

I think when you ascend to the Tonight Show chair you could bring something new to the table. After all, this is an iconic show. Even the theme song is a retread--might want to start there.

August 26 2009 at 9:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

But Shales isn't really talking about NY vs. LA (that would be an interesting discussion), he's talking about where the studio is located on the Universal lot, that it's in a secluded area and celebs don't walk by. That's the part I don't get.

August 26 2009 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Bob Sassone's comment

The star cameo thing I don't get, but I do think that Conan feeds off of the energy around him and projects it, and a quiet setting rather than a hustling and bustling one may present less energy to feed off of, and therefore less energy to absorb and project.

August 26 2009 at 9:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jonathan C

thats the dumbest thing i've ever heard, shales is an idiot.

it's within a friggin studio to begin with. and did he know it is at the ENTRANCE of the lot anyway? the place is great anyone can just walk in and say hey - celebrity wise.

which brings up a good question...

where was leno filmed?
burbank. where nothing is.

August 26 2009 at 10:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I used to watch Letterman and Conan all the time, but since Conan became host of the Tonight Show he became grating. I even stopped recording him, despite having a DVR with a dual tuner. It seems to me he is trying to be Leno, while doing bits straight out of Letterman's 80s schtick.

Also, I have to agree with Tom Shales; maybe not for his reasons, but Yes, location is definately Conan's problem. He is an uptight city person, LA completely contradicts every fiber in his being. Moving him to any city in the northeast and he would've been fine (it wouldn't have made much sense, but thats beside the point.). In an attempt to bring Conan closer to the stars, they brought him out of his comfort zone and not in a good way.

August 26 2009 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just like when Carson left lots of people went to Letterman ... Than they got sick of him and had nothing else to watch so they went back to Leno and that's where it stood ... The same will happen with Conan as they hone his comedy to fit in with the tonight show ... You can see it evolving from week too week it is getting more ad more away from his previous show ... There are several skits that are awful (in the year 3000 for one) There are others that will work and eventually he will find his niche ... If he doesn't Leno might be back in that time slot ... I personally think Leno should have made a deal with another network and he could have stepped right in and made them # 1 for that hour ... My guess is he is banking on Conan failing and hoping to get the tonight show back ... Meanwhile he is making a boatload of money for his 10 pm slot ...

August 26 2009 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Before he got the cbs gig, Letterman was an acquired taste. now he's just a sellout.

August 26 2009 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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