Today we’re not going to talk about the Lady Gaga raw meat magazine cover controversy. Nor will we discuss the True Blood raw actors magazine cover controversy. We’ll even leave people’s baby bumps alone and instead, focus on Conan O’Brien. The late night talk show host who was summarily unseated by Jay Leno after taking over for Jay Leno and then Jay’s Not Ready For Late Night Odd Variety Show Just Plain Didn’t Work Out. Seems like Conan got a pretty raw deal (and I should preface this by saying I am fan of Conan’s; I think he is bright, funny, and appealing. I could have gotten used to watching him nightly on TV before I fell asleep, if I was one of those people who ever watched people nightly on TV before I fell asleep). Seriously. If giving someone the most important talk-show time slot in the history of, well, history, and then taking it back isn’t Native-American Giving – I don’t know what is. BUT – what I also know is that there are an awful lot of people who love Jay Leno. Most times we toss a poll out, you all prefer the guy with the lantern-jaw and oft-imitated voice. And I’ve actually been to a taping of Leno – which, if you ever come to Hollywood you must do (it’s pretty easy to get tickets). The guy is actually much funnier and warmer in person, on a stage twenty feet away from you, than he is on TV. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found new respect for him. Nor do I think that whole Conan brouhaha had as much to do with Leno as it had to do with lawyers and TV executives who had to do something. Plus, Conan was pretty classy and higher-ground dwelling, I thought – because even if he was legally prohibited from being funny, there still coulda been snipey shenanigans, which there weren’t for the most part (with the exception of that comedy tour). Anyway the story is that Conan’s revealed the name of his new TBS late-night show (True or false: the use of the term “chucklefest” is absolutely one of the worst slang terms the Hollywood press uses to denote a late-night comedy special, ever.) So after rabid speculation he opts for “Conan” which is now the subject of considerable debate and much more rabid speculation. If you ask me, the name is smart. For two reasons. First, that’s what we’d call it anyway. Because if they called it something else, you’d still qualify it with his name. Right? At the water cooler you’d hear “So who watched ‘Monty Python’s Flying Burrito Brothers Brigade’ – the new Conan show – last night?” Now no one has to worry about that. (Worst case scenario you’ll hear “So who watched ‘Conan’ – the new Conan show – last night?” ) You always use the guys’ names – and thus he just makes it very simple. And secondly, when you have a memorable name you’d be foolish not to use it, especially when you come across as such a likable guy in the first place. And really especially when the Conan the Barbarian people don’t mind – which supposedly they didn’t. Reportedly one of the reasons they didn’t go with “Conan Tonight” is that it would somehow conflict with “Lopez Tonight” – a show that’s Conan’s stablemate. (My question is — wouldn’t’ George Lopez welcome some kind of confusion? He’s already getting a great viewer bump out of sheer anticipation. But as usual – and for good reason – nobody asked me.)
So I began to read the articles (and there are many) talking about other shows that bore somebody’s first name – and their fate. AOL cites “Kristin” which lasted only 6 episodes, “Emeril” which lasted 7, “Ellen” (107 episodes), and “Martin” (132 episodes). “Roseanne” was obviously a huge hit with 222 episodes, while “Geraldo” ran for 12 years. Will Conan last? I bet it will. Will it struggle? I bet it will do that too – does anyone remember when he came on the air at first and no one thought he would last? I say it will develop a cult following and somehow, someway, he’ll be back on the bigger airwaves. Remember the Golden Globes used to be on TBS and nobody could find them — much less find it in themselves to watch? And now they’re a big deal? I say Conan, in some form or fashion, will be a very, very big deal again. He’s too smart – and key here: too self –effacing – not to. And maybe they’re not first names, but who among us doesn’t think warm thoughts about Mannix, Colombo or Kojak?