Tonight marks the final appearanfce of Conan O'Brien on "Late Night," (NBC, 12:35 a.m.) before he heads to Burbank to follow in the footsteps of Steve Allan, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson and Jay Leno as host of "The Tonight Show."
I remember Conan's first-ever show as host of "Late Night," following in the footsteps of David Letterman. O'Brien, whose claim to fame was as a writer for "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons," was a complete unknown in front of the camera and had to fill the shoes of the enormously popular Letterman.
After a great sketch where everyone in New York (including Tom Brokaw, whose attempt at intimidation including crushing a packaged of Saltines in his hand) tells Conan "he'd better be as good as Letterman" and the young host attempts to hang himself, O'Brien presented a show that was funny, weird and completely different.
For the first few years, he had Andy Richter as his sidekick, and regular bits included everything from predictions for the year 2000 to famous faces on a monitor with moving lips, doing "interviews" with the host.
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Conan carved out his own niche for a younger, hipper late night crowd, and likely helped pave the way for contemporaries like Jon Stewart and Jimmy Kimmel.
Now he's off to do "The Tonight Show," and I wonder if he will change the show, or the show will change him. Will Conan try to adapt to the different, older-skewing audience, or will he essentially keep his "Late Night" schtick intact?
Conan will no doubt be helped with Jay Leno serving as lead-in in the 10 p.m. slot, thanks to NBC's inability to develop any solid dramatic programming. Jimmy Fallon will take over "Late Night" beginnig March 2.
Once again, Conan faces questions about his ability to take over for a popular host, and once again, I think he will rise to the challenge.
OSCAR PREDICTIONS: Once again, The Reel Fanatic Keith Demko and I have made our picks for Sunday's Oscars (ABC, 8 p.m.). You can check it out here:
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: Well, Fox's big Friday night plans seemed to backfire. "Sarah Connor's" (Fox, 8 p.m.) ratings dropped another 30 percent and "Dollhouse" (Fox, 9 p.m.) debuted with pretty poor numbers (though it was the No. 1 downloaded show this week on iTunes). Both shows are new tonight, and "Dollhouse's" second episode drew a lot of critical praise for offering its own version of "The Most Dangerous Game," but the outlook isn't good for Joss Whedon fans.
JD McCoy continues to claim the bulk of the time as the Panthers' top quarterback on "Friday Night Lights" (NBC, 9 p.m.), which follows a pair of "Howie Do Its."
CBS is in reruns for the evening.
On cable, "Monk" and "Psych" wrap up their half-seasons tonight beginning at 9 p.m. on USA. I'll be trying to wrap my head around the fifth-to-last "Battlestar Galactica" (Sci Fi, 10 p.m.), which will have a hard time topping last week's opening sequence.
On Saturday, HBO airs the original movie "Taking Chance" at 9 p.m., with Kevin Bacon as a Marine officer who takes the body of a young soldier home. It's based on a true story, and many critics are already talking about an Emmy for Bacon's performance.
On Sunday, if you want to watch something besides the Oscars, well, there aren't too many options. "The Amazing Race" (CBS, 8 p.m.) is new, but the shows that follow it are reruns, and Fox is airing a NASCAR race. PBS wraps up "Oliver Twist" on "Masterpiece" (PBS, 9 p.m.)
HBO has a new "Big Love" at 9 p.m., while Showtime has a lineup of new episodes of "The L Word," "United States of Tara" and "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," all of which begin at 9 p.m.