Speculation has been running high for weeks about how O’Brien will address his new situation, whether his first-week guest lineup is good enough, which of his NBC bits he’ll bring over/alter just enough to avoid intellectual property complaints from NBC and on and on. Heck, Vanity Fair even has a play-along “Conan” premiere bingo card.
Whether Triumph or the Masturbating Bear or “In the Year 3000” make appearances early in “Conan’s” run is, frankly, kind of irrelevant to us. (OK, we actually hope to see Triumph at some point; Robert Smigel has delivered lots of great comedy to O’Brien’s shows in the past.) When the show kicks off at 11 p.m. ET (Zap2it will be live-blogging the premiere, by the way), we’re most hoping to see two things.
1. A return to the looser, goofier style of “Late Night”-era Conan. One of the chief criticisms of O’Brien during his brief “Tonight Show” tenure was that he seemed to be trying a little too hard. Until he knew he was headed out the door and therefore had nothing to lose, O’Brien at times seemed a little cowed by the “Tonight” legacy. He’ll presumably have a little freer rein in terms of content on TBS, and we hope that means a little more of the cockeyed comedy bits and laid-back style that helped him build his fan base in the first place.
2. More looking ahead than looking back. We’re sure that a sizable portion of the Coco Nation is looking forward to him zinging NBC sharply and repeatedly, along with resurrecting many of the bits he used during his “Late Night” and “Tonight” days. We’re not in that faction.
It’s been almost a year since the ball started rolling on O’Brien’s ouster from NBC, and while his exit helped turn O’Brien into a Twitter-era folk hero, it’s kind of old news. A nod to how he ended up at TBS is probably inevitable in Monday’s premiere, but O’Brien is back doing what he loves. Dwelling on the past won’t play well.
Similarly, we hope that the early run of “Conan” doesn’t turn into Conan O’Brien’s Greatest Hits. His live tour in the spring was hilarious, but the comedy was made up mostly of tried-and-true bits. As we said above, Conan without the occasional Triumph appearance wouldn’t be quite right, but we hope O’Brien and his writers have used the last few months working out fresh sketches and comedy bits that will make “Conan” its own thing.
We’ll see how it starts to shake out at 11 p.m. ET Monday
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