And so last night was the last Conan O’Brien Tonight Show. I have been watching this week – it was Conan’s best week ever. He let loose and did real comedy. His guests were free-wheeling and able to say almost anything. Conan packed his show full of comedy. And what happened? His ratings went up. To the highest levels ever. Sure the news gets people to tune in, but programming gets them to stay. So in his final week, he showed the network what they will miss, and it was, unfortunately, what he should have been doing all along. But the show was good. Conan had still not developed into the top-flight host that Jay and David are – Conan STILL interrupted his guests (here’s a hint Conan: When you have Tom Hanks on, he is funnier than you are and your audience wants to hear him – just let Tom Hanks talk! Don’t interrupt him!) Even with Conan-interruptus, it was one of the best segments all week.
So is putting Jay back on the Tonight Show the right thing for NBC? This is just a long-time television observer’s opinion, but Jay has done damage to himself. Can he win the late-night ratings? Maybe. But it won’t be like it used to be with Fortress Jay dominating late-night. People have had a chance to tune around and see what else is available and the young, hip comedians are creative and interesting. Jimmy Fallon is showing his range (he can even sing a bit) as an entertainer. Craig Ferguson (a bit older, but still new to the scene) is showing that he is a terrific interviewer. Chelsea Handler is a stealth but powerful force. Jay now needs to look over his shoulder. As of today, Jay is the definition of old-school.
Good luck to Conan on his future career moves. Good luck to Jay. Now that the battle is over, it is time for this viewer to surf the channels and find something interesting to watch in late night.