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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bitter and sweet: My review of TBS's "Conan"


With the possible exception of David Letterman, it's hard to think of any entertainer who's gotten more mileage out of a raw deal than Conan O'Brien. Months after being booted from "The Tonight Show" (and uncermoniously quashing the suggestion that he move to midnight), O'Brien's new show, "Conan," debuted on TBS Monday night. And, judging from the clever cold open, he's still a wee bit bitter about how things ended at his former home:

O'Brien continued to reference the NBC debacle in his monologue, calling Monday night's "Conan" premiere "my second annual first show." He also remarked on the irony that, after rejecting NBC's proposal to be on at midnight, his new show was debuting at 11 p.m. in the first week of Daylight Savings Time. "So, right now, it's basically midnight," O'Brien quipped.
Yet it wasn't all anger and NBC swipes on "Conan." There was a genuine air of excitement about the show, most of it from the very enthusiastic studio audience, who pounced on every Conan joke like a lion on a gazelle. Clearly, the man has a following who missed him dearly during his time away.
And "Conan" helped remind us why. Yes, the show was still a little rough (it's tough to get used to the new band, and even the host seemed a bit thrown by how physically close he is to his studio audience), but it was a solid opener. The host seemed confident, and the material wasn't all that different from his network shows Yes, guest Seth Rogen seemed a little more open about throwing around s-bombs than he might have been on NBC (the curses were bleeped out, though his use of the word "titties" wasn't. Go figure.). But, all in all, it was funny, smart, and not terribly surprising. Those who were already fans should enjoy the show based on this first episode. Those on the "Conan isn't funny" bandwagon will find no new reasons to like him here. Those who, like me, aren't tremendous late night show fans, will likely watch it a few times out of curiosity, then go back to their regular routine.
In other words, normalcy has returned to the TV landscape. For now.

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