Skip to main content

'Conan' Extends HD into Late, Late Night

HD broadcast programming expanded into television's really late (or early) dayparts last week when "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" finally made the transition. O'Brien's nightly gig finally follows in the footsteps of "The Tonight Show," which precedes it on NBC. The nightly Jay Leno vehicle was among the first evening programs in television to go HD--back in late 1998.

Viewers for the O'Brien show (sleepy as a lot of them may be at that early hour), could not avoid missing the overnight jump from SD to HD immediately because of letterboxing and other aspects of HD that the comedian-host noted several times during the night. He made a point of mentioning the fact that fewer than 10 percent of U.S homes have HD yet ("This is historic. There are more Samoans in America than people with HDTV sets"), as well pointing out the new 16:9 aspect ratio, which is hard to miss, of course.

A comedy sketch speculated about what might be done with the extra space the side panels created by the wider frame, such as showing Irish Riverdancers on each side of the screen. As for the uncompromising detail that HD allows, O'Brien said, "I'm really looking forward to the extra hour in the make-up chair," making reference to evidence of his high school acne and freckles on his hands. Meanwhile, over at CBS, Dave Letterman is expected to jump to HD in the fall.