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As Conan O’Brien Packs His U-Haul, Visions of Colonel Kurtz Dance Through His Head

Ellen, please.

Even though Conan O’Brien is down to his last two evenings as host of NBC’s Late Night franchise, it’s been difficult to muster up even a few crocodile tears for the guy who began his career as the ultimate underdog. Despite his admission to the New York Times that he’ll “probably cry like a baby” during his final show on Friday night, the fact of the matter remains that the guy is getting a huge promotion and a taking on what most would describe as a dream job. So how come he seems to be less than psyched about the move?

Ever since Jay Leno hoodwinked everyone who thought he was going to spend his twilight years tinkering in his garage with his Hertz-sized fleet of classic cars, the wind seems to have been taken out of Conan’s sails (and Jimmy Fallon’s … and Carson Daly’s). Instead of trumpeting his June 1 start date, Conan is being forced to play nice in the NBC sandbox with the Chin, even when outside observers like former NBC entertainment chief Warren Littlefield go on record with statements like this:

“Sure, Conan is still getting the Tonight Show, but who are we kidding? Call it what you will. But if NBC hasn’t done it yet, you know they are going to at some point be saying: ‘Late night begins at 10 o’clock.’ ”

Touché. And despite the continued reassurances from the network, even Conan O’Brien himself seems to be fairly downbeat about the move. “I’ve spent my fair share of time at 3 in the morning,” he tells the Times, “lying awake like Martin Sheen in the movie, staring at the ceiling fan, thinking about my trip up river — and we all know how that turned out.”

Jay Leno as Colonel Kurtz? Now that’s a metaphor we can get behind.

Building a Home in Late Night’s Shifting Sand [NYT]

As Conan O’Brien Packs His U-Haul, Visions of Colonel Kurtz Dance Through His Head