Last night, after spending the better part of a year “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television” (as was the name of his comedy tour), Conan O’Brien returned to TV; still sporting his time-off beard. His new show — airing on TBS — is called Conan, which, according to the host, was to make it harder for him to be replaced. In fact, there were a number of jokes told last night about his brief run as host of The Tonight Show, and made at NBC’s expense.
Ironically — as Conan did not want to do The Tonight Show at midnight, hence his departure from NBC — Conan‘s 11pm timeslot means that TBS’s other late night show, Lopez Tonight, was bumped from 11pm to midnight. However, George Lopez has been warm towards Conan since the announcement of the new show, and seems to harbor no ill feelings. In fact, having the more famous Conan as an opener will likely help Lopez’s ratings.
Everything that fans love about Conan has come back with him. NBC allowed him to take his characters, and so the Masturbating Bear made an appearance in last night’s premiere. Andy Richter has returned as sidekick, and most of the show’s creative team has moved over from NBC with the host. The glaring exception is the departure of long-time bandleader Max Weinberg, who has been replaced by Jimmy Vivino. Max has recently suffered health problems, and his family stayed in New Jersey when Conan’s crew moved to California. The band is now known as The Basic Cable Band, or BCB on certain logos.
Long-time fans of Conan should have few complaints. The new series sticks to the brand of humor viewers are familiar with; TBS even allows Conan to push the envelope a little further in terms of content than network television. It’s a comfortable gig that will hopefully last a long time. It should be helped along by the flight of many television viewers from network into cable.
Last night’s premiere featured guests Seth Rogen and Lea Michele (Glee), as well as Jack White, whom Conan sang with. There were also cameos by Ricky Gervais and Don Draper (the Mad Men character portrayed by Jon Hamm).
Conan airs Monday through Thursdays on TBS at 11pm.