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October 4, 2015

Last night's Tonight Show felt like a series send-off

by Danny Gallagher, posted Jan 13th 2010 8:24AM
Even as a little kid, I remember watching the penultimate episode of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show as Robin Williams launched into an enthusiastic rant about the development of his newborn's genitals. In between battles for control of my ears from my Mom's protective hands, I remember Carson uttering as he tried to gain control of his lungs, "We're out of here tomorrow. What do I care?"

Last night's Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien carried the same air of "Who gives a f#*$&?", even if he'll still have an 11:30 show to do the following night.

The release of his respectful yet angry statement to NBC's backhanded decision to pimp slap him and his staff back a half hour as they move Jay Leno into his time slot showed he has realized that his bed has been made, both by himself and the executives who probably couldn't make one without some kind of phonetically spelled instruction manual. Naturally, O'Brien has been using the brouhaha as a source of comedy in his last few shows, but Tuesday's episode was wall to wall "What do I care?" moments from the opening monologue to just before the rolling of the closing credits.

Naturally, his monologue was peppered with jokes about the time shift but it also started with another noticeable moment: Conan's string dance. I can't remember the last time I saw him do it, something that become a regular occurrence on his old Late Night show. It almost felt like a big kiss-off to the bosses minus the sugar in the gas tank or the severed horse head left hidden in the TV executive's bed, presumably made by someone that doesn't need to consult "the manual."

Then Conan brings out Deal or No Deal host Howie Mandel, who these days looks like a metrosexual Wild Bill Hickock, to continue with the NBC bashing, complete with a bevy of bosomy, briefcase bearing babes. I liked how the jokes all throughout the night didn't just lay waste to Leno and the NBC brass. The writers got some good jabs in at their bosses, but also stuck to the kind of self-effacing humor that helped Coco and company get to 11:30 p.m. No matter how made Conan and his people get about the whole mess, they still realize there are jokes to be made about the big headed freckle puss who has taken up so much space on the television, both figuratively and literally.

The secondary comedy portion of the show picked up the Friars Club Roast of Conan O'Brien's Career by giving Tonight Show writer and commentator Deon Cole the boom mike. For a show that built comedy on puppet madness and surreal sarcasm, Cole has found his footing on the show in a short amount of time. His appearances have always made me laugh without straying too far from things that makes Conan's show so great.

Even the interviews spent more than an average amount of time discussing the situation as Conan cracked wise with the likes of Tom Brokaw and Zachary Levi. The whole show was topped off with Rosanne Cash performing a sad, longing song that would have served as the perfect send off if this were the last episode.

The only thing missing was a heartfelt eulogy, followed by an announcement that refreshments would be served in the rectory.

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Whatever just don't send him back to New York. Once taken out of Soho no going back. He'd be seen as another rich kid sucking on the Great 'Merican teat.
Only thing sticks out for me is the better bits by Triump.
Zeroing in on DL is enough. Can't be bothered bouncing anymore, life too short and too much else going on.

January 13 2010 at 7:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

just FYI, "penultimate" means "second to last", not to be confused with "best" or "last"

January 13 2010 at 2:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chas Winterbottom

Yep, I know it's a small thing but I loved how Conan came out and did the twist and the string dance. I'm sure he was thinking, "hey why not, how many more opportunities am I going to have to do this as The Tonight Show host"? He also knows the fans love it, and yes it was definitely a subtle kiss-off to the NBC suits that created this whole mess.

January 13 2010 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I caught the opening of the show last night and it was pretty funny. I love how he's letting the exec's have it. I've never been a huge Conan fan but I think he is right about not being given a fair chance. I remember Jay saying back on his last Tonight Show, that if the new show didn't work out, that he would say they had a great run and would leave it at that. What happened to that? This whole situation has just gotten ridiculous.

January 13 2010 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree Leno should bow out. He's creating all this trouble. He didn't get forced out. He decided to leave 6 years ago and signed a contract stating that Conan could take over the show. Then he changed his mind. Now The rest of NBC's primetime and late night line up is suffering because the execs are bending over backwards to accomodate his flights of fancy. I like Jay but I feel it's time for him to move on to something new.

January 13 2010 at 10:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mterrific's comment

While I'm with Coco, I wanted to note that Leno isn't the bad guy here. NBC was afraid of losing him to another network, since he never promised to retire, and they worked with him to come up with this half-baked idea for the 10PM timeslot. While Leno is involved in this matter, it really comes down to Zucker.

January 13 2010 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It seems obvious this was your first time tuning into Tonight, at least for some time. This is the way Conan handles situations (similar to that of Letterman -- the man he looked up to).

Danny, you don't get it.

January 13 2010 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Guess Who

Leno should just bow out - it makes him look like a classy guy and fixes everything. I don't hate Leno (he got forced out himself) but he had the Tonight Show for almost 20 years and now it's time to move on - fair or not.

Conan is a smart and talented man - and no Grandma isn't watching...but given time people will warm to Conan as they did to Leno, Dave and Kimmel (once he put a tie on).

January 13 2010 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I understand all the irritation created by NBC, but nobody has mentioned that Leno is being reduced to a half hour. Does this not denote something?

January 13 2010 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Richard's comment

Leno's not being reduced to half an hour. NBC's plan was to give Leno 30 minutes at 11:35 (ET/PT), followed by an hour of Tonight with Conan, and an hour of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Conan's letter yesterday unambiguously rejected the idea of "The Tonight Show" starting when it was, as many wags have noted, tomorrow.

NBC will now have "The Tonight Show" for 60 minutes at 11:35 PM, but out of fear of losing Leno to Fox (!), they're going to keep Leno and ditch Conan. Leno only got less time if Conan accepted the compromise. He did not, in a letter full of WIN that Leno couldn't match with 3X the writers and 20X more time.

When Leno finds out he's not so beloved anymore, and his ratings are in the tank due to NBC's colossal prime-time prostate exam, he'll probably retire in a year or two because he has more money than God already. And NBC will have no one to turn to, having lost Letterman in 1993 and Conan in 2010. I like Jimmy Fallon but he won't be ready to host "The Tonight Show" in that timeframe.

NBC: Trying to relive the past instead of preparing for the future, again and again and again. Good luck, Comcast.

January 13 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

he just needs to get jim carrey to replecate his performance on the finale of the larry sanders (fictional) late night show on his actual final episode. now that would be some great stuff.

January 13 2010 at 9:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Christ, can you PLEASE stop solely embedding Hulu videos? At least when it becomes pay-only? -_-'

January 13 2010 at 8:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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