For First Time, Dave Tops Conan
By Bill Carter
Just seven days into the new competition in late night, there was a new leader Tuesday night, at least in the preliminary ratings, as David Letterman passed a still-sliding Conan O’Brien to take over first place among the late-night shows.
Mr. O’Brien’s numbers fell in the so-called overnight ratings for a seventh straight night since his premiere as the host of NBC’S “Tonight Show” on June 1. Mr. Letterman, meanwhile, scored some of his best recent ratings with a Tuesday show that featured Julia Roberts and the Black-Eyed Peas.
There have been times when of all the late night guys, Conan was the only one I'd think of watching even if I didn't like the guests. (Now, Craig Ferguson has that distinction.)
I watched the first couple episodes of Conan's Tonight Show, and for one thing, Mark Evanier is right: They're not making the best use of Andy Richter. Sit him down next to Conan and let 'em trade stories about their families for a few minutes each episode, I say.
If better material comes out of the time with the guests, the Conan & Andy stuff can always be cut, but I think it could be really funny and charming. I'm basing this on some of Richter's returns to Late Night as a guest.
But anyway, my point is, I have no interest in seeing Conan fail; I hope he finds a way to make the show his own and succeed, as he did on Late Night. However. With the same ghoulish fascination that causes us to slow down at the scene of an accident, I have to admit I am at least mildly tickled to see NBC's fortunes failing.
You see, when the network decided to give five hours of Prime Time a week to Jay Leno*, they took away five timeslots that could've gone to, oh, hmm, gee I don't know...Life. And now they're dying on the vine.
Is it wrong for me to savor the sweetness of that taste?
*Leno has this in common with Ellen DeGeneres: In both their cases, their doglike "Like me, like me, like me, like me, like me!" shtick periodically has the effect of making me not like them.