Conan O‘Brien’s complete late-night TV archive will be posted online in January

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Enlarge / Late Night With Conan O’Brien‘s very first episode began with a lengthy skit about how much pressure he faced as David Letterman’s replacement.

Exactly 25 years ago today, NBC gave one of its coveted late-night hosting slots to a complete Hollywood unknown, with only a few TV series’ writing credits to his name. That man, Conan O’Brien, celebrated the milestone on Thursday by posting his debut NBC episode on YouTube in its entirety—and promising more to come.

The 38-minute video, scrubbed of its original ads and apparently dubbed from NBC’s master tapes, includes a brief caption that hints to a huge archive project. “Coming January 2019: The complete online archive of Conan’s 25 years in late night,” the caption reads.

The announcement does not include clarification of exactly where this video archive will be hosted, which could prove slightly complicated since that 25-year span includes work for both NBC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Comcast) and TBS (a wholly owned subsidiary of Turner). Whether that means the full archive will land on a network-specific video hub, on YouTube, or on O’Brien’s own Team Coco site remains to be seen, as the announcement didn’t include further details.

Further complicating matters is the fact that many episodes of NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien and TBS’s Conan include musical guests. It’s unclear whether those performances will be posted in the archive, or if licensing fees for song performances will restrict their sharing. The 1993 pilot episode in question, conveniently enough, does not include a musical act; instead, it features interviews with John Goodman, Drew Barrymore, and Tony Randall. (O’Brien himself ends the pilot by singing a bizarre and hilarious lullaby as a lead-in to the follow-up show on NBC at the time, Later With Bob Costas. Poor Bob.) We’ll update this report with any response from TBS.

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Late Night With Conan O’Brien, pilot episode, September 13, 1993

Still, this pilot episode landing on O’Brien’s YouTube channel, complete with NBC’s original logos and copyright notices (along with a ton of familiar faces) is a good sign that the “complete online archive” promise won’t be held up by a network brouhaha. The 38-minute episode also offers an interesting look at O’Brien and Andy Richter’s immediate chemistry so long ago, albeit with a pinch of adorable anxiety. (Highlights include Tom Brokaw joke-threatening O’Brien’s life in the opening bit.)