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Conan Has Good Start in Marathon

It is a marathon and not a sprint, but Conan O'Brien's fast-paced opening "Tonight Show" got off to a promising start Monday night.

However, since it had so many pre-recorded bits, it may be difficult to keep up the pace.

The clever opening bit featured O'Brien running from his old office in New York City through various landmarks across the country (including Wrigley Field in Chicago) to eventually land at the Universal Studio stage in Los Angeles where his new show is being taped.

It was amusing, though it ran just a little too long. There also were filmed pieces following O'Brien in his 1992 Taurus attracting a bevy of beauties; leading a tour of Universal Studios; and illustrating his celebrity status by sitting in the last row at a Los Angeles Lakers game eating pop corn.

The bits were all pretty amusing, playing off O'Brien's outsider status and California stereotypes.

The opening monologue started off well with O'Brien noting his timing was perfect now that he works for the last place network in a bankrupt state on a show sponsored by General Motors. But clearly, the monologue isn't going to be as important to O'Brien as it was to his predecessor, Jay Leno.

O'Brien smartly acknowledged Leno and did a brief imitation of him after cracking that the former "Tonight Show" host would be back with a new show in two or three days tops.

The first guest, Will Ferrell, is in serious danger of being overexposed. But he has a movie coming out and was there to paint O'Brien as an underdog.

"It's so incredible," said Ferrell. "Because like no one thought you could do it. Like literally no one thought you could do it... And you're here."

Later, Ferrell started singing a song, "Never Can Say Goodbye" to O'Brien before the host cut him off to advise him that it wasn't a goodbye show.

"Don't get me wrong," said Ferrell. "I'm pulling for you man. This whole thing is a crap shoot at best."

It will take weeks or even months to know if O'Brien can pull the move to "Tonight" off. But nothing that happened in Monday's lively show made you think he couldn't appeal to Middle America and succeed.

What did you think of O'Brien's first show?

-- Alan Pergament   

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