Feb 16 2011

The Late Night Rundown – Conan O’Brien

Back in the 70’s, there was only Johnny Carson.  But since the retirement of the undisputed King of Late Night in 1992, there has been a plethora of new shows pop up, each with the same basic formula, but unique in their own way. After reading Bill Carter’s The War For Late Night, I have become addicted to late-night television all over again.  So I am starting a new series of posts dedicated to the many hosts out there currently making us laugh after prime time, analyzing one at a time.

The same night Jay Leno had his fifth anniversary special, whatever night that was, sometime in 1997 or 1998 I think, I stayed up and watched Late Night with Conan O’Brien for the first time.  I don’t know why I was watching late night TV, I imagine being bored had a lot to do with it.  Needless to say, even at age 11, I found Conan immensely funnier/smarter than Jay, and I became a member of Team Coco long before the term existed.

For the rest of these posts, with the exception of Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert, I am going to have to do some research i.e. I am going to make myself sit through a week of late night shows I otherwise would never watch.  Leno is one of them, as is Carson Daly, Chelsea Handler, and Conan’s current follow-up, George Lopez.  But I am already an avid Conan watcher and have been for many years, before his move to the Tonight Show, the shakeup resulting from that move, and his transfer to TBS.

Over the years, Conan’s entire show has made a gradual transformation from shy funnyman telling jokes and gags behind a desk to a bearded lanky veteran interacting with his audience and being sharper in his improvisation.  Of course, mainly because of his stature and appearance, the physical comedy has always been there, something you either love or hate.  His trademark “string dance” has become synonymous with the image of Conan, as has the red pompadour on his head and now, that shaggy beard he grew and kept after being fired from NBC.

Conan has a writing background, so the rehearsed bits are his strong suit, while the ad-lib banter with hit-or-miss sidekick Andy Richter (who has lost his luster since departing from Late Night and then returning for the Tonight Show) is usually spotty.  The interviews are often pretty awkward, he is not as comfortable with his guests as other hosts on the tube, such as Ferguson and Fallon, who are more conversational.

On Late Night, Conan was fresh and in his element, delivering a very weird brand of humor to a dedicated fan base, who has never really left.  His Tonight Show, admittedly, was fairly unwatchable, minus the final two weeks, where he not-so-subtly gave NBC the finger on their own network.  Conan’s transformation to 11:35 changed his brand of comedy, and he is not as sharp as we was a few years ago.  Still, with creative control of his show and no network execs telling him to “broaden” his show for a wider audience (now he is on cable performing for his true fans every night), Conan is free to roam, and roam he does.  He and executive producer Jeff Ross have found new ways to deliver comedy with a limited budget; Conan spends more time poking fun at his studio audience and breaking the fourth wall in rehearsed sketches.

Also, Conan’s reach spreads to the Web, where his production company is in full charge of the content of his show, and Conan is in command of his Twitter account.  O’Brien, who continues to be a top player in the key demographic for TV (ages 18-49), continues even on cable to be a worthy 21st century late night competitor with a very passionate following, and he shows no signs of stopping.

Feb 11 2011

Recommended Reading 2/11/11 – The War For Late Night

The War For Late Night, Bill Carter’s journalistic expose on the latest debacle in late night television, is surprisingly riveting.  Carter, of course, wrote the book for the first big go-around back in the 90’s, the bestseller Late Shift, which was made into a pretty awesome HBO movie.  That first book gave an inside perspective on the events dealing with the Tonight Show “scandal” between David Letterman, who lost out and moved to CBS, and Jay Leno, who ended up the “king of late night,” depending on who you ask.

The new book is even better, particularly because the story is juicier this time around.  Conan gets the Tonight Show promised to him, Jay is moved to prime time out of fear he won’t “retire” as promised and move to ABC – the ratings for both programs drop dramatically.  NBC proposes moving Jay back to 11:35 and Tonight to 12:05; Conan refuses out of respect for the flagship program and moves to TBS.  Meanwhile, the drama unfolds in front of millions on television, and Letterman, Kimmel, Ferguson, and the rest take it all in, but not without cracking jokes about it.

That’s the main focus, of course, and it seems like Carter talked to EVERYBODY about it, from insiders to the stars themselves.  Deep knowledge is made known about Team Jay, Team Conan, Team Dave, and the executives at the major networks.  Not to mention the book contains a vast amount of info on other late night stars not necessarily involved in the main plot, but interesting nevertheless (Stewart, Colbert, Fallon, et al.)  We learn alot about the late night/television business through the eyes of the entertainment, producers, presidents, everybody, and Carter remains objective throughout.  A fantastic read, I wasn’t able to put it down.

Dec 30 2010

Top 10 TV Shows of 2010

This list is more comprehensive and accurate than yesterday’s Top 5 Movies list – needless to say, I am a big fan of appointment television.  So without further ado, here are my picks for this year’s best TV shows.

10. How I Met Your Mother

9. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Watch Lethal Weapon 5 here. You’ll be glad you did.

8. Modern Family

7. Conan

6. The Walking Dead

5. Community

4. Boardwalk Empire

3. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
A Look Back – October 2010
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

2. Mad Men

1. Breaking Bad

Dec 26 2010

Sunday Night Videos 12/26/10

Nov 10 2010

Best Conan O’Brien Moments

It seems like it’s taken forever, but Coco has returned to television in the form of a basic cable late night talk show almost identical to the ones he hosted previously.  While the reviews have been mixed thus far and Conan’s ego is overshadowing the humor currently, I look forward to an edgier O’Brien once he gets cozy on TBS.  In the meantime, here are a few moments from the best current late night host, mostly from his 17 year stint on Late Night, but a bit from his nine month Tonight Show gig.

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Aug 1 2010

Random Web Findings: Happy Birthday to Me

Last Words Of The Executed

The Unemployment Chronicles — Ten College Grads, Ten Stories

Script Surfaces for Lost SNL Movie Co-Written by Conan O’Brien

The Web Means the End of Forgetting

The 8 Sexiest Subway Systems in the World

The Top 20 Gayest Cities

Top 10 Celebrity Music-Video Cameos

How To Find A Job NOW: 7 Crucial Tips From A Career Expert

The 10 Most Sacrilegious Music Videos of All Time

The 15 Most Annoying Ringtones You Can Get

9 Amazing Attempts To Live Off the Electricity Grid

Nine Movie Pitches Based On Facebook Apps

Nine Nostalgic Nintendo Games to Secretly Play at Work

Moogy Blues: Ten Quintessential Moog Songs

10 Ways Darth Vader Might Be Spending the Money He Stole

10 Great Movie Plot Twists (And Five We Totally Saw Coming)

10 Books That Will Help You Improve Your Writing (Or Your Sanity)

Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Indie Film

Minimalist Album Covers

Crap At My Parents’ House: An Homage To Mom & Dad’s Terrifying Belongings

The Celestial Jukebox: Unlimited Music Services Face Off

The 25 Greatest Boot Camp Clik Songs Of All Time

13 Of The Most Ridiculous Things Overheard In Bookstores

The Most Obvious Headlines Of All Time

The Coolest Minimalist Websites Ever

10 Moments of Cynical Sincerity in Adam Sandler Comedies

Racist, Racy, ‘Derogatory’: 13 Facebook Posts That Got People CANNED

The Funniest Notes Left For Thieves Ever Written

Colleges NOT Worth Their Cost

Is M.I.A.’s 2010 Cursed?

The Most Expensive P.R. Bait Restaurant Dish Gimmicks

9 of the Most Amazing Bookstores in the World

15 Films the Geek Crowd Really Wants to See

The BEST Colleges to Work For

Bizarre Magazine’s 31 Geekiest Places

The 19 Most Regrettable Pop Culture Tattoos

The 15 BEST iPad Apps Every User Should Try

10 Reasons To Label Genetically Engineered Foods

Austin: Top Ten Things Newbies Should Know

11 Of The Best MFA Writing Programs

Top 30 Cable News Programs

The Top Ten Rap Supergroups That Never Happened

Top 10 States With The SLOWEST Internet Speeds

10 Weirdest Sites To See In America

Top 10 TV Theme Songs

40 Comics That Should Be TV Shows

The Best Tweets of Kanye West’s First 24 Hours on Twitter

The World’s 15 Best Countries For End-Of-Life Care

The Definitive Beastie Boys Sample Source Collection

The 15 Biggest Bestsellers EVER After The Bible

Overly Distracting Actors

20 Overrated Classic Films

The Funniest Facebook Page Suggestions Ever

2010 Is the Worst Year for Movies Ever, Just Like Every Year Before It

May 15 2010

The Funniest Thing I Saw All Week 5/15/10

Apr 9 2010

My Top 100 Songs of 2009 – 80-71

Today I continue my ten-part series showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of last year.

80. Nickel Eye – Brandy of the Damned

Seems like all last year, the Strokes were running around doing all kinds of different things unrelated to their core band.  Julian and Albert pursued solo projects, while Fabrizio started Little Joy.  The only one that sat around and counted money was Nick Valensi.  Bassist Nikolai Fraiture started the Nickel Eye project, churning out a debut album in January of 2009.  While I was mostly underwhelmed with the majority of the disc, “Brandy of the Damned” is the ultra-repetitive, ultra-catchy standout.

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