I think my rave review of Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show debut explained my love for Coco enough for you to understand my disappointment over NBC’s decision to replace him with a dinosaur devoid of humor.
NBC had a great late night pairing with Conan followed by the new Jimmy Fallon Show (it doesn’t get much better than The Roots), and I’m sorry to see them mess it up with such a huge step backwards.
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, NBC has announced that it will move Jay Leno’s corpse of a show back into Conan’s timeslot and Conan released a statement declining their pathetic offer to keep his job in order to avoid ruining The Tonight Show or bumping Jimmy Fallon’s show back further.
I’ll still watch Jimmy at whatever time he ends up at, but before that I’ll follow Conan wherever he goes.
In The Great Buck Howard, John Malkovich deftly portrays a washed up, prima donna “mentalist” who hires law school dropout Troy (Colin Hanks) as his personal assistant and road manager.
The character of Buck Howard is loosely based on magician The Amazing Kreskin, a Tonight Show regular who once employed writer/director Sean McGinly as his assistant and appears in one of the dvd’s bonus features. The film also includes cameos by Tom Hanks, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Tom Arnold, George Takei, and Jay Leno.
As the story unfolds, Buck’s career enjoys an unexpected revival – unexpected, that is, to everyone but the egotistical and eccentric Buck.
Jay Leno unwittingly becomes Buck’s nemesis by first refusing to book the magician on The Tonight Show, then by bumping him in favor of Tom Arnold – an act that results in the film’s funniest scene, during which Buck calls Jay “Satan!”
The movie lags when Malkovich is absent from the scene, but it is worth seeing him play such an uncharacteristically flamboyant character.
In addition to Up!, another thing that raised my low spirits last week was Conan O’Brien’s debut as host of NBC‘s The Tonight Show – during which I rediscovered my love of all things Conan. I was a fan of Conan’s old show pretty much from the beginning (not to mention I was once awakened by the sound of the tv and found one of my cats sitting on the remote, watching Conan O’Brien), and was worried that he would abandon his quirky charm to appeal to the broader Tonight Show audience. But with a few exceptions, that hasn’t happened yet.
Conan O’Brien’s new Tonight Show digs are certainly more polished than his previous set, and the return of former sidekick Andy Richter (who I like as a comedic actor, but find annoying as an announcer) has sadly pushed my beloved Max Weinberg back into the limited role of bandleader. In recent years, Max had become Conan’s new sidekick and their chemistry was much more entertaining and natural than the forced banter between Conan and announcer Andy during these new monologues. But he did give Max and fellow bandmate La Bamba some brief camera time this week, so maybe this will be a temporary complaint.
Otherwise, though, Conan seems to be remaining true to what made us love him in the first place. He has restrained his quirky moves in the monologue so far, but occasionally does his hippy shake for the camera and throws out his “Keep cool, my babies!” catchphrase to the audience. But while such signature elements have faded a bit, the content of Conan’s jokes and the ease of his delivery are sharper than ever. And what could easily have become a cringe-inducing mix of live jokes and pre-recorded skits (in which I still enjoy the Conan/Andy comedy duo) has instead resulted in a very well blended variety show. I’d say O’Brien is closer to Carson than Leno ever was.