After nine long, tragic, sleepless months without my Conesy fix, tonight marked the return of television's most recently screwed former late night King to his rightful throne...or rather, to a much lower paying basic cable semi-equivalent. The bright side of this tragic turn of events is that TBS won't expect high ratings for the show, and will give Conan all the freedom he wants to go a little crazy.

And that's exactly what he does tonight, opening with a "Last Season on Conan" montage that summarizes his battle with NBC, complete with the full hit squad that brutally attempts to assassinate him, and a look at his rock bottom job search that takes him from the office of Don Draper circa 1965 (where he's told he has no experience, and is two), to Burger King, a short stint as a party clown, and finally to near suicide before he is rescued by taking the advice of his still living Guardian Angel, Larry King. The bit is vintage Conan, and is every bit as funny as any opener I could have hoped for.

The rest of the episode falls a little flat by comparison, though to be fair pretty much anything would. The monologue was mediocre, and the "Completely Rigged First Guest Contestant" was a funny bit that was a little rushed for my taste. Seth Rogen was very fun to watch, and Lea Michele was very fun to look at, but neither interview sizzled like Conan at his best. That's not to say either was anything short of very entertaining though, full of the absurd asides and hilarious interplay that Conan brings to every interview. And watching Conan perform with musical guest Jack White was nothing short of stupendous. Conan is an incredibly talented individual, and where The Tonight Show squandered his best qualities, it looks like Conan will let him put them on full display.

The new set is a little blah, with a mediocre painting of a shockingly flat ocean, but it has a moving moon, which I hope will be used for jokes for a long time coming (after prognosticating that I'd be watching Conan on The Tonight Show for years to come last June, I think I'll stay vague this time), but Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band are solid, and Andy Richter is as hysterical as ever, with a much better first outing tonight than he was given by the Nazis in charge of NBC last year. I'm sure there will be criticisms of the show for not reinventing the wheel now that Conan has more freedom, but I never expected Conan to be anything other than a less controlled replica of his other shows, and I'm satisfied just to have him back doing what he does best. At the end of the day this was a very solid premiere to a show that seems primed to showcase the multi-talented, completely insane, always hysterical Conan Obrien, and hopefully in a place that will appreciate him and treat him with the respect and admiration he rightly earns on a nightly basis.

Grade: B+


-Obviously I won't be covering Conan on a nightly basis, but I may check in on it a few months down the road to weigh in on how its developed, especially considering most late night shows get much better after they find their footing. If this idea interests you, please feel free to comment and let me know.

-A very funny Ricky Gervais cameo as he recorded various messages to document his predicted downward trajectory for Conan.
Tags: Conan
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