"You have taken the chat-show format and blown it out of the water," Tom Hanks told Conan O'Brien tonight.
He said it with that Hanks-style tone of sarcasm. In truth, tonight's episode -- the second night of "Conan" on TBS -- was standard, old-school talk. Hanks was great; the rest was so-so.
O'Brien did venture into topical humor: Apple was selling its computer in China, he said; that offers "an exciting opportunity to sell i-pods to the very kids who make them."
But he abandoned that after three jokes and instead showed a long film in which he chats with the TBS censor. I'll be blogging about the show's first week, which continues through Thursday; here are a few of my comments, please add yours:
1) The censor film was fun, at least by late-night standards. In primetime, it would have driven people away. Back in 1993, in the debut of the primetime "Paula Poundston Show," Paula talked to the network ratings guy; a week later, the show was cancelled.
2) In many ways, this second round was disappointing. The opening segment -- a few OK jokes and a fairly good film -- was unexceptional. The second segment, sitting around the desk with Andy Richter, was brief and unhelpful. Jack McBrayer was an OK guest.
3) In between all of that, however, was Hanks, with his dry wit. He was just there for fun, with nothing to promote; his next movie doesn't open for eight months. O'Brien reminded him that this was the guy who gave him the nickname Coco. "It's a sample of my power," Hanks deadpanned.
4) Hanks did briefly tell about the movie, in which he's out-of-work, goes to community college and has Julia Roberts as a teacher. "You can guess the rest," Hanks said. So Richter guessed: "She's a vampire?"
5) In general, it's good to have Richter there, with his sly one-liners. For now, he's the only talk-show sidekick; sometimes, that's as far as O'Brien goes in blowing the format out of the water.