Conan the 11:35

During the 1980s and before, the chat show was king in the UK. People like Terry Wogan, Russell Harty and Sir David Frost had the measure of the zeitgest by having the people that moved society appear on their show, politicians, sports stars and celebrities.In the US, there is one show that still has that power: NBC’s Tonight Show which starts at 11:35pm which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. In the UK it is probably most famous for a few reasons:

– Some of the most famous footage of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles was their performances on the show after being introduced by Johnny Carson. When they arrived on the show they had truly made it

– Jack Nicholson’s ‘here’s Johnny’ line in The Shining borrowed from the NBC Late Show’s warm-up guy introducing the host Johnny Carson

The show is a safety blanket and yet holds a mirror up to America but in a more establishment way than Saturday Night Live, because of all this the appointment of Conan O’Brien as the future host in FIVE years time was big news. O’Brien has a quick fire caustic wit that will need to be tempered when he takes over the mantle because since Johnny Carson the show is bigger than the presenter. In fact this is bigger than Greg Dyke getting fired from the BBC.

More on this from Joe Hagan writing for the New York Observer.