Tag Archives: the Tonight Show

Conan and TBS enjoy their honeymoon phase

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.

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Team Coco rejoyce… or not.

Somewhere in between watching my beloved Yankees lose the ALCS and watching “King of Queens” repeats, something occurred to me:  Conan O’Brien is coming to TBS.  The network placed it on the sidebars during the commercials, Craig Sager plugged it during every sporting event, and little Conan animations popped up during “House of Payne.”  The whole station just looked more orangey than usual.

This is great news for everyone who’s ever been Team Coco or better yet, anti-Leno.  Conan’s premiere on cable was to be Conan’s big redemption and revenge on the major networks that had wronged him in the past.  On top of all the hype that came with his exit from NBC and agreement with TBS, the trailers for Conan’s new show promised that the show would be EPIC.  Everyone was on the edge of their sofa’s waiting for the clock to strike 11 O’clock on Monday November 8th, 2010.

In fact, so many people were waiting and watching and clenching their pearls, that Conan trounced the competition.  Not just beating the red hot Daily Show and Colbert Report (who’s ratings last month were the highest ever for the two shows,) but also beating the big wigs of Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman and of course, the evil Jay Leno.  Point awarded to Team Coco.

But getting an audience after a much hyped premiere is easier than getting an audience on day two.  The first show was filled with F-U’s to Jay Leno and NBC, many jokes about getting fired, and funny thoughts about being on network cable.  But then, the second show was filled with the same thing… as was the second, and third show.  Conan is becoming Taylor Swift and NBC is looking like Joe Jonas.  But at this point, we get it.  You got dumped in a 27 second phone call; time to write a song about something else.

On top of weak and redundant jokes/sketches this week, the opening week guests were lack luster.  As per usual, Tom Hanks was a great guest.  I enjoyed Conan’s Wednesday bit on having the stars of basic cable stop by:  Bruce Jenner, a hoarder and the Alaskan crabs from “Deadliest Catch.”  But I could live without seeing Michael Cera and Charlyne Yi be their emo/awkward selves/characters two days in a row.  Are they really a great “get”?

We all know Conan’s potential.  We all remember the great things that came out of his NBC late night show, such as Triumph, the masturbating bear, hornymanatee.com, etc.  They are all still with Conan so as soon as he gets his sea legs over at TBS we should be able to see Conan and his characters be funny again, right?

It’s almost like when Conan got moved to 11:30, the funny in him got sucked out and now he’s got to find it again.  Hopefully, he finds it soon because the Jay Leno jokes are getting old.  The last thing we want to do is to have to watch Jay Leno to avoid hearing about Jay Leno.

I understand that not everyone comes bursting out of the gate at full speed.  Especially when you’re used to network executives breathing down your throat, so I am pulling for Conan to really pick up steam as his run continues.  I’ve already had to deal with a losing season for my Yankees (yeah yeah I know, I’m a spoiled Yankee fan, we spend a lot of money, yadda yadda yadda,) but I can’t handle another loss!  Team Coco needs to be a winning team.