The celebrated arrival of Conan O'Brien to The Tonight Show a few weeks ago, and the death of Ed McMahon today, have me reminiscing about my relationship to late night television.
I didn't grow up watching Carson, but I know my parents watched at least occasionally. They had a TV in their bedroom, and sometimes when I knocked on their door late at night for something, I'd see that familiar rainbow curtain on the screen.
Letterman was all the rage when I was in college, and I was a devotee. In fact, I have treasured memories of watching his morning show during high school whenever I was home sick or babysitting during the summer. I'm still a huge Letterman fan, and frequently watch the first half hour of Late Night before going to sleep.
Perhaps the ideal time to become a late night talk show regular is during college; you're always up late, and the antiestablishment humor is appealing. Because Conan debuted during a somewhat later period in my life, I never followed him regularly. I enjoy what he does, but probably just because of acclimation, Letterman's looser, more genially meta style seems to fit me better.
My prime days of late night TV watching are probably behind me, which seems odd only because I associate Carson with older people. Has the target audience for late night changed along with the hosts and the times? Or does Letterman -- and Conan -- now appeal to the comfortably middle-aged and senior, of which I must now count myself one?