Originally published November 12, 2010
In general, the transition from network to cable is an indication that your show has either gotten raunchier or been beaten by ratings.
For Conan, the show and the man, the switch to TBS was a mix of both. His debut cable show was creatively coined “Conan,” supposedly to prevent an easy replacement of the host.
The show featured a soap opera -like opening, featuring Conan’s life during the past nine months as a Burger King employee with 14 children. In his “second annual show premiere,” he managed to poke NBC in the eye a few times and make some basic cable jokes.
His guest V-card was taken by some random nutcracker lady who did a drive-by appearance and was immediately followed by Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”) who discussed his recent engagement and his upcoming movie “The Green Hornet.”
Lea Michele from “Glee” was also featured, discussing the ins and outs of high school and her provocative GQ photo shoot.
Conan showed off his musical prowess when he rocked out with Jack White of The White Stripes and featured random side gags on the show, like material about a Halloween mask made to look like him entitled “ex talk show host.”
Overall, the show was structured pretty similarly to his late night precursor, even including Andy Richter in much of the dialogue.
O’Brien joked on Twitter that more than 4 million people watched the first episode of “Conan” while another 5 million were probably trying to figure out which channel TBS was. The show will fall between “Family Guy” and George Lopez’s talk show on the weekly line-up, both of which have seen surprising success on the station.
For the debut episode, the monologue material, the guest selection and the quirky side material (where did that nutcracker come from?) were not impressive.
That being said, given the option of taking Leno or Conan on a deserted island to entertain me, I will always choose Conan. Maybe it’s how his hair overshadows his brow in a way Leno’s can’t or that cackling laughter that escapes him every time an Irish crack is made.
Although it seemed Conan was not exactly thrilled about the new gig on cable, I think he will be able to have more fun with his guests and take more risks than he could when he was sucking on the teat known as NBC.
“Conan” is on weeknights on TBS, channel 23 in Peoria at 10 p.m.