It’s fair to say that this article may be a bit of a retraction from the previous thoughts I had in regard to Conan’s new TBS show, “Conan.” As eager as I was to quickly write a review of the new show and get it on the web, the real character of a show is never apparent in its early stages. One of the best shows in the history of television is “Seinfeld” and I hardly doubt anyone would label its pilot episode as their favorite. A show needs a chance to grow and its star needs a chance to get comfortable. If you’ve tuned in to TBS recently at 11pm, you’ve been able to enjoy watching a star get comfortable and a seeing a show grow.
When did a brief stint as host of “the Tonight Show,” last fall, there was something missing to his comedy. He was still being funny and his bits were as clever and smart as they had been on “Late Night,” but something was off. After all of the drama occurred with NBC, it was obvious what the missing piece was: Conan had no support from his network. Maybe it was draining him or maybe it was the suits pressuring him, but something about that show felt off compared to his “Late Night” show.
Now Conan is back on TV and he’s with TBS. It’s not network television, it doesn’t follow Jay Leno, and it is pretty liberal about its standards and practices. So at first, maybe around the time we wrote our first assessment of Conan’s new show, Conan was getting his mojo back. At first, it seemed he still harbored some NBC/Jay Leno anger (and rightfully so) but to the point where it seemed to dominate the monologue. And it seemed at first that maybe Conan was still looking over his shoulder a bit to see if anyone he had left behind was still watching over him. So the first week, not too surprisingly, was a little lack-luster.
But week one has ended. Nobody is trying to steal Conan’s chair, nobody is holding the spot in front of him, Jay Leno is a distant memory and Conan is making a home at TBS. He’s starting to settle in, he’s starting to get comfortable again, and dare I say it, he’s really getting his mojo back.
This, of course, is an assessment that I have concocted in my head. Perhaps Conan always felt comfortable on TBS and perhaps Jay Leno was always a very distant memory, but to your average, ordinary viewer, it only seems like now he’s starting to get in to the groove. He’s going back to being Conan and to being the comic genius that recruited us all to his Coco army.
In the past month or so the bits and monologues have really hit their stride. Conan has always been great at interacting with his audience, something that was especially apparent during the writer’s strike of ’08, and he’s doing exactly that on his TBS show. From a man dressed as Harry Potter (who just happened to be sitting in the audience that night… no really,) to a group of girls who showed up in orange beards to a man named Jesse who was dressed so poorly that not only Conan but guest Tim Gunn had a field day with him. Conan is brilliant at picking out the one person in the crowd in a funny costume or that refuses to laugh and stand. He never turns the camera on some one who is hiding their face or storming out because they are offended. He finds genuine characters and they love their little moment of Conan attention.
What Conan’s show is probably most famous for is his bits. I have seen so many great bits on this show lately, it’s hard to pin point just a few. He debuted a web show/vlog, he created commercials for his show aimed at a black audience and he even reenacted fights between him and sidekick, Andy Richter, through Taiwan animated news segments. But perhaps the most stand-out bit came from his interaction with the always over-the-top Gary Busey. Conan has been tracking his bright orange blimp around California as it floats by Gary Busey… no matter where he is, no matter how many times he tries to relocate. Busey completely freaks out anytime he spots the blimp and screams at the sky, begging for some kind of answers. While it’s obviously a staged reaction, because it’s Busey, you know it could be real. I wonder just how much of it is staged?
It wasn’t until last week when Conan decided to host the entire show in jeggings, that I realized that I needed to take to this blog and point out that the awkward, getting-to-know-you phase with his TBS show was gone. TBS and Conan have become a serious relationship, and ya know what? They make a great couple.