New Host Doesn't Want to Learn Old Tricks : Television: NBC's Letterman replacement, Conan O'Brien, wants no part of 'Stupid Pet Tricks' or 'Top 10' lists. 'I'm going to do a brand-new show.'


Don't talk "Stupid Pet Tricks" or "Top 10" lists with Conan O'Brien, NBC's replacement for departed late-night host David Letterman. Although Letterman turned those features into popular staples of the "Late Night" show--and NBC may fight to keep him from using them on CBS--O'Brien is not interested in retaining them.

"I'm going to do my show, I'm going to do a brand-new show and I don't think anybody wants to see me do those things," O'Brien said Tuesday at a press conference before the Television Critics Assn. "I'm going to do a show with my sensibility. So it will be a waste of time."

But what the lanky 30-year-old O'Brien will do on the show will probably remain a mystery until "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" enters the heavily competitive late-night talk-show arena Sept. 13 at 12:35 a.m.

O'Brien and producer Lorne Michaels said writers and producers for the show have just been hired and that the specifics of the program are still evolving. Before the official launch of the show, O'Brien will do test shows in late August to fine-tune the format.

"I think by the time we start doing test shows in August, we'll be finding more and more what works for this particular show," Michaels said. "But there will be guests, obviously. It will be a talk show and, I think, in many ways it will be a traditional talk show. What will be different is that Conan will be hosting it."

O'Brien said the show would reflect his sensibility, which he said has been described as "somewhat absurdist and silly." He added that he wanted the show to have "more of a performance feel to it than the other shows."

O'Brien insisted that the show would not resemble Letterman's show, or any other talk show.

"I couldn't do Dave's show if I wanted to," he said. "I couldn't do Johnny Carson's show or Jay Leno's show if I wanted to. What I've got to do is Pat Sajak's show the best I can," he quipped.

O'Brien also made fun of the growing rift between Letterman, who will premiere his new CBS show Aug. 30 at 11:35 p.m. against NBC's "Tonight Show," and NBC, which has threatened to sue the comedian if he uses "Stupid Pet Tricks" or other regular "Late Night" features on his CBS show.

"We're going to have a 'Stupid Top 10' list," O'Brien joked. "By combining them, I beat them at their own game."

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