Conan’s highly-anticipated TBS show debuted last night.
The first ever episode averaged 4.2 million viewers for the 11pm telecast (quite a feat for a basic cable channel). TV By The Numbers reports “2,451,000 adults 18-34; 3,285,000 adults 18-49; and 4,155,000 viewers” watched the opening show on Monday night. Conan came out top – compare Conan’s 4.2 million viewers with The Tonight Show With Jay Leno’s 3.5 million viewers and the Late Show With David Letterman’s 3.4 million viewers.
The show started with a cold open (fact fans – all of Conan’s talk show debuts have started with a cold open – i.e. Late Night With Conan O’Brien and The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien), which poked fun at him being forced out by NBC and being left jobless having to support his family, and his apparent rise to success again when he discovered he could be on a basic cable channel instead of network TV. Larry King even makes a surprise appearance as Conan’s guardian angel:
The show format is quite similar to The Tonight Show and Late Night, but as TBS is a basic cable channel it will mean he’ll be able to do more things and not be constrained by strict network TV rules. I really like the new set – the view out to sea with the moon that Conan was moving by remote control. There’s also no barrier between the audience and the stage, which makes the audience feel closer to Conan, Andy and the guests (interesting to note Conan went and shook hands with some of the audience members – something Leno is well known for).
The opening monologue in the first show was strong, I thought. He paid particular attention on NBC saying he named his new TBS show ‘Conan’ so he couldn’t be so easily replaced, and that this talk show debut was his second premiere of the year (pointing out his short tenure on The Tonight Show before the return of the chin). He also tried to summarise all of the news that’s happened since he’s been off-air in one joke:
The old Late Night / Tonight Show band is back but this time they’re known as Jimmy Vivino And The Basic Cable Band. Max Weinberg doesn’t feature in the band this time (as decision made mostly because of Max’s recent health problems). Andy Richter has returned as Conan’s show announcer and sidekick like he was on The Tonight Show and during the earlier period of Conan’s tenure on Late Night.
Popular character the Masturbating Bear made an appearance in a taped segment – he’s got himself a new job. Also, Conan wonders whether NBC owns the intellectual property rights to these old characters from his old NBC shows (a popular subject Letterman pointed out when he left NBC’s Late Night programme to go to CBS):
Ricky Gervais also sent a good luck message to Conan (or so Conan thought):
The first guest on the show was Arlene Wagner (the curator of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum) who won a fan vote on the Team Coco website (Conan joked it’s a “rigged” vote). The main guests on the first show were comedy actor Seth Rogen (technically the first guest interviewed on the programme if you don’t count Arlene Wagner’s walk-on beforehand), actress Lea Michele (from the popular show Glee) and musician Jack White. Seth Rogen revealed his engagement to his girlfriend exclusively on the programme. The song Conan performed with Jack White (from an album they recording together during the live theatre tour) was fantastic.
If you live in Ireland you can watch ‘Conan’ on a one week delay from the US starting next week at midnight on 3e.