Conan O'Brien Takes the Helm at the 'Tonight Show'

Conan O'Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
Host Conan O'Brien (L) of the television show "The Tonight Show" and executive producer Jeff Ross attend the NBC Universal portion of the 2009 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Universal Hilton Hotel on January 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Conan O'Brien;Jeff Ross (Getty Images)more pics »Last night, Conan O'Brien became the fifth man to host the Tonight Show on NBC, following Jack Paar, Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, and Jay Leno.

Judging from his first night out of the gate, his version of the show will keep the gleeful absurdity that marked his time during Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The trademarks were there: some hilarious pre-taped segments with Conan as stork-legged jester, a memorable in-studio gag involving a letter from the Hollywood sign, his easy banter with guest Will Ferrell, and a full-bore performance from Pearl Jam.

Even better for long-time fans was the return of Andy Richter, Conan's erstwhile sidekick, sitting in as announcer.

Critics agree, with most praising the new version of the Tonight Show.

Ken Tucker at Entertainment Weekly said:
The opening bit -- a long, amusing run across the country from Manhattan to his new studio in Los Angeles -- showed that O'Brien used his time preparing to replace Jay Leno wisely. Also that he's thinking big.
Josh Horowtiz at MTV.com writes:
In an assured and consistently funny premiere episode of “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien,” first guest Will Ferrell (arriving literally on the shoulders of a slew of strong men) and musical guest Pearl Jam kicked off a week that’s set to feature A-list talent galore, including Tom Hanks, Green Day and Gwyneth Paltrow. E! Online noted that Conan killed it in the ratings department last night:
The audience for Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show hello was 173 percent—yes, 173 percent—bigger than the audience for his Late Night goodbye, NBC said today.Of course, the true test will be not one triumphant show taking over a venerable institution, but how O'Brien handles the weeks ahead, and how much of Jay Leno's sizable audience he can hold on to.

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See more Conan O'Brien pictures (click any photo):
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
  • Conan O Brien in 2009 Winter TCA Tour - Day 9
A senior associate editor at Zimbio, writing about entertainment and current events.
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