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Conan’s ‘Late Night’ Theme Being Adapted for ‘Tonight’

May 26, 2009  •  Post A Comment

The new theme song for “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” will have a familiar ring to it.
That’s because Mr. O’Brien and executive producer Jeff Ross have opted to use a reworked version of Mr. O’Brien’s 16-year-old “Late Night” musical open as the theme song for the new incarnation of “Tonight.” Mr. Ross confirmed the decision Monday during an interview with TVWeek.
“We liked it. It worked,” Mr. Ross said of Mr. O’Brien’s “Late Night” theme. “We thought it we just embellished it a little bit, it would work perfectly for ‘The Tonight Show.'”
The theme was revamped by Jimmy Vivino and Max Weinberg, longtime members of Mr. O’Brien’s “Late Night” house band, the Max Weinberg 7.
Mr. Ross revealed that James Wormworth, a frequent substitute performer in the old Max Weinberg 7, is joining the late-night show as a permanent member of the house band. The new group will be known as Max Weinberg and the Tonight Show Band.
While instantly recognizable to anyone who’s heard it before, the new “Tonight Show” theme has a less manic feel to it, particularly during its opening chords. Perhaps befitting the largeness of the “Tonight Show” franchise, the beginning notes boast a grander tone.
The reworked song will be performed over the new “Tonight Show” opening titles. While “Late Night” featured animation during its open, Mr. Ross said Mr. O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” will utilize a live-action open. He declined to give details in advance of the show’s June 1 debut.
“It will look, hopefully, good,” Mr. Ross deadpanned.
The theme and opening titles are all part of an effort to give the new “Tonight Show” a “elegant feel,” as Mr. O’Brien recently told TVWeek.
“I wanted it to look like a really high-end steak restaurant,” he said. “I want people salivating when I’m in the monologue.”
Mr. O’Brien’s goal with the set was to acknowledge his New York talkshow roots, while recognizing the shift to Los Angeles. The solution: A deco feel via several subtle touches in the studio, including a mural across the top of the stage featuring Los Angeles icons as they might have appeared in the 1920s and 30s.
“It’s 30 Rock, but it’s this cool, Los Angeles version of it,” he said.
There’s also some whimsy to the set. The L.A. icons appearing in the skyline that will be seen behind Mr. O’Brien’s guests are in no particular geographical order. As a result, the Wiltern Theater appears to be west of the Santa Monica Pier and the Capitol Records building.
And, in another subtle nod to his New York past, careful observers of the backdrop used for Mr. O’Brien’s band will notice the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building adorning … the Los Angeles skyline.
“It was Conan’s idea,” Mr. Ross said. “It’s an homage to New York.”
During his interview with TVWeek, Mr. O’Brien betrayed little nervousness over his pending takeover of “Tonight.”
“I’m in a very serene state of denial,” he said. “They’ve told me it’s June 1, 2011, which has helped me stay very calm. I’ve been hypnotized into believing I’ve got two years left to prepare.”
One reason why Mr. O’Brien seems somewhat calm in advance of his 11:35 debut is the fact that he’s been readying for the role over the past five years, part of an evolution in Mr. O’Brien’s TV personality that’s taken place over the past 15-odd years.
“The biggest misperception is that suddenly [I am] shifting from 1993 ‘Late Night’ to 2009 ‘Tonight Show,'” he said. “Well, no. There’s a Conan that hosted the show in 1998 that’s different than 1993. And there’s a Conan who hosted the Emmys twice, who had to grow and adjust to do that. There have been specific phases you go through.
“In the last two years of “Late Night,” we really changed and expanded Act 1,” Mr. O’Brien added. “We’d do full-blown sketches from the monologue. If people haven’t been paying attention, and they tune in again in early June, they might think, ‘Oh, he completely, radically changed himself.’
“Well, no I didn’t,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The full transcript of TVWeek’s interview with Conan O’Brien is set to appear in the June 1 issue of the magazine.

119 Comments

  1. Looking forward to your show Conan… your gonna do great!

  2. Only 6 more days! I can’t wait!!

  3. I hope Conan grows up but the promo’s don’t indicate he has. Never cared for the hip snip thing or the other antics he frequently uses. I will probably start going to bed earlier. R

  4. Guess you didn’t see the last episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, huh Randy? He addressed that so-called “issue.”
    Nobody told Johnny Carson he had to grow up, and Conan’s closer to Carson than Leno ever was in style, writing, humility, and characterization. I think a whole lot of people forgotten exactly how The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson actually was, with silly characters, awkward yet funny monologues, a strange yet educated sense of humor, charm with a healthy dash of self-deprecation, and the humbling ability to not be bigger than his guests and enduring himself with them and the audience.
    I am so sick of people just trashing Conan like he’s beneath them. If you don’t like him, fine. Don’t watch. But don’t prejudge him because Jay Leno is some kind of overman above everyone who ever sat in the chair. Leno acted like a spoiled brat sitting in a coin-operated ride begging to stay on when the time for him to retire as host (which, I might add, he didn’t HAVE to do, no one put a gun to his head) grew closer and closer.
    Go ahead, Randy. Go to bed early. I look forward to The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien on Monday.

  5. Looks like they are trying to west coastize Conin. Conin jogging the Santa Monica beach in a New York business suit, are they trying to make him a joke before he even airs his first show?
    I never did like his show and and quirky humor, and always considered his show to much New York for my taste.
    Being a California native most anything from New York sucks…LOL
    And I will still watch Craig Furguson over him any day.
    Now if we could get Letterman to move to LA…..LOL
    Ultimately the ratings will prove if he has the guts to stick it out though the first two years.
    I hear there are a lot of industry types watching Universal to see if Conan’s show ends up being just another attraction on the Universal Studios tour.
    C… with a smile..

  6. I love Conan, and watching Jimmy Fallon try to fill his shoes has been misery … But I will be torn between watching Letterman and Conan. Probably a lot of flipping back and forth.
    Loving the promo ads of Conan running down the beach in his suit. Hilarious.

  7. [i]I think a whole lot of people forgotten exactly how The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson actually was, with silly characters, awkward yet funny monologues, a strange yet educated sense of humor, charm with a healthy dash of self-deprecation, and the humbling ability to not be bigger than his guests and enduring himself with them and the audience.[/i]
    You apparently have forgotten as well. Conan is closer to Letterman; both of them are far funner than Carson, who was a great interviewer but produced corny skits (Carnac, Aunt Blabby) and cringe-worthy monologues. That has apparently been forgotten by the revisionists, who want to deify Carson and have chosen to forget what the last 10 years of his show were like (on the nights he even bothered to show up).

  8. Well, guess I’m glad Letterman is still around. I absolutely can’t stand Conan. He’s a sophomoric idiot. Low-brow humor just doesn’t do it for me. But, unfortunately it obviously does for the American public. That says a lot about our culture I’m afraid.

  9. Most all humor has been either dumbed down or become low-brow (sitcoms, late night, you name it), so it’s now almost impossible to compare a Conan to a Carson.
    You don’t have to be dirty or silly to be funny, but not many people in Hollywood (or New York) seem to understand that.

  10. I’m excited! Can’t wait to see him at a decent time in Houston, Texas :)

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