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October 13, 2015

Meet the New 'Conan' - Very Similar to the Old Conan (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 9th 2010 1:30AM
All the turmoil and all those Twitter frenzies... for that?

Given a chance to reinvent himself on basic cable, Conan O'Brien offered up a standard-issue late-night show on Monday's 'Conan' debut.

He kept his post-'Tonight Show' beard, and he has a fancy new (and very blue) set. But despite the nervous energy of the host, much of 'Conan' felt very predictable. There was little of the surreal, weird or goofy humor that so endeared Conan to his loyal audience.

Let's face it, there are a lot of people out there who can interview nervous starlets. Conan O'Brien doesn't need to be one of them.

Perhaps Conan and his team just need some time to work out the kinks, and Conan certainly needs to lay off all caffeine products for the foreseeable future. Every show needs its shakedown cruise, and once Conan finds a rhythm for his TBS show, perhaps the silly, anarchic, improvisational Conan will emerge. Let's hope so.

What's deflating, though, is realizing that this is not his first time around the block. He's done this sort of thing before. Before the paint was dry on the set, why not just toss out or cut back on the elements of the late-night format that didn't necessarily work for him? Why slavishly recreate a set of rules that previous sets of talk-show hosts perfected?

Why, given the chance for reinvention, do the same damn thing again?

Maybe TBS executives were nervous about taking on another late-night show, and demanded something conventional from Coco. Maybe Conan himself was just so obsessed for so long about grabbing the 'Tonight Show' brass ring that he can't quite give up the dream of doing that kind of mainstream, recognizable show. But who thinks that a lower-budget 'Tonight Show' is what the Twitterati were hoping for? Surely we all were hoping for something more creative than that.

Of course, nobody thinks Conan should be out there doing a full hour of his weirdest bits, especially not on his first night on a new network. but it was disappointing that everything about 'Conan' was pretty predictable. Conan, didn't you read this list of Dos and Don'ts? Why didn't you tap into your weird side, just a little?

Well, at least we got the Masturbating Bear -- that's something. Let us all hope and pray that NBC files suit over the use of the bear (whose name, it should be noted, was never uttered by either Conan or co-host Andy Richter). Those legal papers might be more surreally amusing than anything that transpired on Conan's show on Monday.

Sure, there were some good bits in there. It wasn't that Conan put on a bad or unprofessional show, just a very conventional one. (In any event, he needs to lose the jokes about making "much less" at TBS and he really needs to stop taking potshots about losing his old job. The statute of limitations has officially expired on Conan-vs- NBC jokes.)

Still, Conan's interview with Don Draper was terrific, and the footage of him as a birthday party clown, trying out some monologue material in front of a bunch of kids, was funny. Richter's crack about the inside of the Conan mask smelling "like tears" was inspired. The new set is nice, though could they turn down the blue ocean just a few notches? And that moon. That moon is very, very large. It scares me a little.

The least successful part of the evening was Conan's old weak spot -- the interviews with actors. Seth Rogen seemed game enough, but with both Rogen and 'Glee' star Lea Michele, Conan appeared to be trying to set some kind of speed record for interviewing celebrities. There were too many manic interjections, too much nervous velocity. Conan, Red Bull is not your friend.

Ah well, tomorrow night Conan plays host to Tom Hanks, a.k.a. Old Reliable, the gold standard for talk-show guests. Hanks knows how to riff with Conan, as he demonstrated near the end of Conan's 'Tonight Show' run.

Remember how loose and funny Conan was during his final weeks at 'The Tonight Show'? With nothing left to lose, Conan relaxed and just hung out and had fun. Clearly Conan wants to please his TBS masters, hence the excess of energy on display Monday night. But he needs to dial it down, and or he risks losing some of the good will he gained during his months of Twitter exile.

Now that Conan has convinced America that he's going to do a conventional talk show, perhaps he can begin to subvert that model. There's a lot of creativity lurking in that bearded noggin. Now's the time to start deploying it for real.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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I don't want to put words in Ms. Ryan's mouth (or keyboard, for that matter) but I believe she has been a big fan of Conan's based on previous columns she had written for another venue. To be reasonable and fair, her review is not highly critical of Conan, she just states that he is capable of so much more original and weird comedy than he exhibited on his debut TBS show. Please, all rabid Conan fans, take a deep breath, retract your fangs and re-read Ms. Ryan's review. She really likes Conan and hopes he can be more original and weirdly funny like she knows he is capable of being. I totally agree with her. And the NBC jokes have turned moldy with age and are no longer funny.

November 09 2010 at 9:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I didn't have to watch to know it would not be funny!!!!!

November 09 2010 at 6:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ariana lingenfelser

It's obvious Ms. Ryan does not know anything about why Conan fans watch his show - why would we want him to completely change? We like his pace (not Red Bull induced - he's always been that way!) and if he would have completely reinvented himself it wouldn't have been the guy we've all been waiting to see - if Conan's not your cup of tea, that fine, but please don't advise him to change - we're tuning in to see the Conan we missed, not some forced reinvention.

November 09 2010 at 4:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ron Sarson

I guess Conan is supposed to be a comedian. Has anyone ever heard him say anything remotely funny? If he lasts beyond a month, it will be another bad decision by the network.

November 09 2010 at 3:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I had dvr'd the TBS Conan...so after my first post, and reading more of the comments, I went back to the "tape". Folks, it's not funny the second and I can see no reason to malign Maureen for an article that is right on the mark.

It really only takes one show to realize Conan didn't improve, just offered up the same stuff that he's been trying for years to pass off as comedy. All that changed is the network logos. As one viewer wrote: Conan wasn't funny at NBC, and he hasn't improved one iota. Good Job MoRyan!!!

November 09 2010 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sherry Thompson

I'm so happy Conan's back! In my opinion, he's the best interviewer on late night....he always seems to be truly listening to what his guests are saying....not sitting there thinking about his next question, like Letterman does. Conan is "naturally funny"....sometimes just a silly look on his face makes me laugh! I don't want him to "change" at all....I love him just the way he is....silly and goofy. Stay just the way you are, Conan...don't change a thing!

November 09 2010 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Conan, you're back! How I've missed those 'laugh out loud,' 'tears in the eyes,' tickle my funny bone,' belly laughs. How I've missed your goofy humor. Immature? Yeah. Funny? Hell, yeah! Leno and Letterman can keep their network gigs. I'm moving to cable. Can't wait for 11:00 tonight!

November 09 2010 at 2:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Conan was an Idiot before and a bigger one now!
Lose Andy Richter!!! He is a jerk

November 09 2010 at 2:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yo Maureen this was the first show with the new network wasn't it? I found the comments made in your column to very predictable. Maybe you could rewrite this column after a month or so of the new shows. I believe you'd have a much greater sampling of the content of the "new" show & then perhaps you could actually form an educated opinion that someone might care about. Also, the statute of limitations regarding NBC bashing will not be over for some time. Now I know as as a "lead TV critic" that may be hard for you to take; but do your best, and good luck with the diet.

November 09 2010 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Not sure how this guy can stay on TV...he's just not funny as he's as goofy as a high school smart a$$. He's constantly looking into the camera and then looks at the monitor like he's really funny.

November 09 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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