O'Brien in 2013.
After all, his debut in 1993 had been a near-disaster. When he was chosen to succeed David Letterman, O’Brien was an unknown comedy writer with precious little experience as a performer. It showed. Washington Post critic Tom Shales called him a “fidgety marionette’’ and “a living collage of annoying nervous habits,’’ adding that “O’Brien “seems a switch on the guest who won’t leave; he’s the host who should never have come.’’ Other TV critics weren’t much kinder. NBC had so little faith in O’Brien that the network forced him to work on 13-week contracts.