Now it's pause-and-reload time for Conan O'Brien.
If you've read my previous blogs, you know I thought it was an up-and-down first week for "Conan." Now here's an overall commentary that I sent to papers; it repeats some of the points (and some of O'Brien's jokes) from the blogs, but also ties things together.
Here it is -- please add your comments -- and I'll be blogging anew on the second week. Meanwhile, I'm also reading "The War For Late Night," the terrific new book by "Late Shift" author Bill Carter. More on that when I finish:
By MIKE HUGHES
On the first day of his new life, Conan
O'Brien talked about his odd transition.
Once called “the new king of late
night” by NBC, he'd gone to TBS, an oft-overlooked cable channel.
“It's not easy being on a channel
without a lot of money, that the viewers have trouble finding,”
O'Brien said. “So thats why I left NBC.”
On the fourth day of his new life, he
brought other basic-cable stars to welcome him. There was Bruce
Jenner from “The Kardashians,” an angry hoarder and some monster
crabs from “Deadliest Catch.”
Both bits helped mock the bizarre move.
Once a star at the former home of Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill
Cosby and Bob Hope, O'Brien was in a basic-cable world filled with
hoarders, bounty-hunters, pawn shops, pitbulls, tattoo artists and
sexy rich kids.
“I have dreamed of being a
basic-cable talk show host ever since I was 46,” deadpanned
Now “Conan” returns Monday with LL
Cool J; the week ranges from Harrison Ford to Russell Brand.
That makes this a good time to look
back at that first week. Here's one view of how it went:
– Monologs: These have never been a
strong point for O'Brien, who wasn't a stand-up comic.
At first, his only sharp lines involved
his new status. He had named the show “Conan” because “that
would make me harder to replace.” Other proposed titles included
“Plan B With Conan O'Brien.”
It wasn't until the fourth night that
he reminded us he can whip out sharp monolog jokes.
Prince William reportedly has a
fiancee, he said. Until now, her title was “peasant with benefits.”
California had been named one of the
states with the lowest intelligence. Residents were angered by this,
“once it was slowly explained to them.”
And Wolf Blitzer had accepted a “Soul
Train” award for Eminen. It was the show's “prestigious All You
White Folks Look the Same to Us award.”
– Other humor pieces: The long,
opening-night film was masterful. Another film, visiting the show's
actual censor, was OK; so was a bit with O'Brien and Andy Richter
giving a generic local newscast.
O'Brien also likes quick, one-laugh
bits, some involving his ocean mural. One night, Tom Hanks was
sprayed; another, the Carnival cruise ship sank. These were quick and
– Sidekick: As the one true sidekick
on latenight TV, Richter is helpful with quick one-liners.
Hanks, for instance, explained that in
his new movie he's an out-of-work community-college student, Julia
Roberts is his teacher and “you can guess the rest.” So Richter
guessed: “She's a vampire?”
– Guests: “Conan” works well when
the first guest keeps the humor flowing. The first two nights, Seth
Rogen and Hanks were excellent; the next two, Jon Hamm and Michael
Cera struggled. The second week's most promising moment is Wednesday,
with Russell Brand.
The problem came with the second
guests. Only Julie Bowen was at ease and entertaining. The others –
Lea Michele, Jack McBrayer, Charlyn Yi – were mostly scattered and
– Music: This is an O'Brien strong
point. His band is excellent; so were the first-week guests – Jack
White, Soundgarden and Fistful of Mercy.
For the second week, it had sounded promising to have Kid Rock on Wednesday; alas, that has now been changed to The 88.
Also, some nights have a comedian instead
of music. Jon Dore was OK; coming Tuesday is Reggie Watts.
– Overall: “You have taken the
chat-show format and blown it out of the water,” Hanks said.
That was a joke that O'Brien chose to
ignore. He has kept the talk format unchanged, simply making it a tad
quicker, more youthful, more Conan-esque. It's pretty good now and
could get a lot better.
– “Conan,” 11 p.m. Mondays
through Thursdays, TBS; George Lopez follows at midnight.
– Guests: Monday: LL Cool J, B.J.
Novak, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings; Tuesday, Harrison Ford,
Rosario Dawson, Reggie Waltz; Wednesday, Russell Brand, author Susan
Casey, The 88; Thursday, Jesse Eisenberg, Venus Williams, The