Coco's Hair To Stay On TBS
In what seems like the hundredth turn in the talk show melodrama, the red-haired one finally made his basic cable debut.
It feels like only last week when Conan made his reentry to earlier America, taking over the "Tonight Show" after leaving his late-night gig, and it couldn’t have been more than a day or two ago when he was honorably discharged from the spot in favor of a returning Jay Leno (it was actually June 2009 when he began and a pathetic eight months later when he signed off).
From about January of this year when word came out that NBC, namely the affiliates, were unhappy with O’Brien’s ratings, and were homicidally upset about Leno’s performance in his prime time slot, there was one industry gossip headline after another:
Leno’s Out! NBC Can’t Take Leno Contract Hit! Conan Moving to 12, Leno Back at 11:30! Conan Says No to 12! Kimmel Rips Leno on his Own Program! Conan’s Out, Leno’s in! Conan Joins Twitter! Conan Goes on Tour! Conan at Fox?! No! Conan at TBS!
In fairness, each step was good drama. Enough for a book. But it’s water under a bridge now, and judging from the opening of “Conan,” the water is powering the mill of the new show.
The beginning sketch showed Conan dealing with unemployment post resignation. He tries to bring his rather singular use of hosting and comedian skills to different jobs. Shockingly, Burger King customers don’t want to hear about Pearl Jam and kids at a birthday party aren’t the right audience for a political joke. He grows desperate and considers jumping into the LA river (he’s got a thing with suicides) until a guardian angel, Larry King, tells Conan that cable may be the answer.
Cut to the intro video, which seemed a lot like his "Late Night" opener. Actually, perhaps wishing back his success at his first talk show, the looks of almost everything in Conan are essentially "Late Night" pushed through an art-deco transmogrifier (this exists).
Max Weinberg is gone, replaced by guitarist Jimmy Vivino. Andy Richter is back as both an announcer and sidekick. And the beard, rallying cry of Conan’s defiance, looks here to stay.
The first monologue was, as expected, mostly about his drama leading up to here. He joked that his moral stand about not moving to 12 was useless given that his 11 p.m. start time was essentially the same when coupled with daylight savings.
Down at the desk with Andy, they wore Halloween masks in Conan’s likeness (called “Ex Talk Show Host” for copyright reasons). They paraded out a first guest, the elderly curator of the Nutcracker museum, then went into the celebs: Seth Rogan and Lea Michelle. Seth said "shit" a few times, Lea seemed to be a star pupil at the Anne Hathaway School of Bland Talk Show Guesting. Coco played guitar with Jack White, invoking his popular “Legally Prohibited from being Funny on Television” tour. And that was it. See you tomorrow folks.
It was simple. It was weird. It was very Conan.
I don’t believe Conan ever really felt comfortable in his stick-it-to-the man icon status that came from the NBC debacle. At his heart, Conan is a nice Irish lad from Boston who used his skills as a comedy writer and improv player to make an improbable turn as a talk show host almost 20 years ago.
He’s not an edgy game-changing comedian in the way Letterman was, nor is he a ratings whore like Leno. Conan just wants to have his show at the end of the day.
As far as TBS is concerned, he’s their guy, and assuming Conan doesn’t fall into the same guest booking issues that plagued his run at the "Tonight Show," he should be around for some time.