New Conan is Old-Fashioned TV Talk Show

It’s a talk show.

Conan O’Brien’s ballyhooed comeback show just finished and it’s not revolutionary. Nope. It’s just another talk show with a desk, a monologue and Andy Richter.

The carrot-topped comic had a lot of material to work with tonight, and he milked getting canned by NBC for a bunch of good laughs. In a filmed opening, O’Brien told NBC to go to hell when asked to move the Tonight show to midnight. Then he tries to find a job–advised by Jon Hamm and Larry King. He winds accepting the “much less” TBS offers to bring the show to cable.

Then there’s a monologue. As he waited for the studio audience to cease applauding and chanting “Conan,” he  urged them to hurry. “We don’t know how much time we’re going to get here.”

He continued to mine his Tonight show experience for laughs. “Welcome to my second annual first show,” he says. “People ask me why I named the show Conan. I did it so I’d be harder to replace,” he continued. “I’m really excited to be on cable. It’s not a joke. The truth is I’ve dreamed of being a talk-show host on basic cable ever since I was 46,” O’Brien says during his first monologue.

The masturbating bear that had been a part of Late Night on NBC made an appearance, perhaps as a way to tweak his old network.

But then the show moved into talk show territory. There was a tour of the set, with its oceanscape in the background and moveable 3D moon hanging over head. And the showbiz guests: film star Seth Rogan and Glee’s Lea Michele. And the musical guest: Jack White (though it was pretty cool that Conan strapped on a guitar and jammed with him).

And of course there were the commercials. Plenty of them. Which is good for Turner. But maybe not so good for viewers.

TBS promoted Conan extensively through social media, so here’s what a couple of TV writers had to say about his first show via Twitter.

Said Newsday’s Verne Gay — Like: Fake seascape, movable moon, host, band, and #conan. But commercial load is suffocating. Hunch - more than 20 mins non-program time.

Added the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal — “Glad Conan is back, but I’m not sure this is going to keep me from The Daily Show.”

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.