Unknown lure

May 07, 1993

He's tall (six feet, four inches), he giggles and he's slightly overwhelmed at his sudden fame. Until the recent announcement by NBC that he would replace the network's departing "Late Night" star, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien toiled in relative obscurity as a comedy writer.

That obscurity was probably one of the reasons NBC executives were attracted to the 30-year-old unknown. It's not that he -- and they -- have less to lose than a better-known comic; late-night revenues are not something that NBC can play around with idly. The network is betting that the choice will draw a new generation to late-night entertainment on NBC.

We suspect they also recognize the power of the unknown: the thrill of discovery, the lure of a new face, the attraction of a fresh, young, hip voice. Those same factors could also give the show a boost among more established audiences. It's too easy to tune out the familiar. An unknown? Who knows, even those tired, aging Baby Boomers may have to stay up to give this guy a chance.

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