New Adventures of Old Conando

Like a scarlet coiffed phoenix rising from the ashes, Conan O’Brien is taking another go at late night television on a new channel with Conan. And in case you missed it, yes, he made the obvious joke of naming the show after himself so he’s harder to replace as the host.

Now that we’ve had a full week of everyone’s favorite late-night red headed step-child, what’s his new show like? A lot like his old show, and frankly, that’s a good thing. Sure, he has a new set and kept his “vacation” beard, but it’s clear that O’Brien and company are getting back to the creative comedy that allowed them to reforge the 12:30 a.m. time slot for NBC after the departure of David Letterman.

Strutting onto a deliciously retro stage, Conan seems more comfortable than he ever did during his stint at 11:35 p.m. Maybe it’s because this is his show from top to bottom. He’s not taking over a show that has a legacy and an expected brand of comedy. He’s not doing a show while keeping Jay Leno’s fans in mind. The Conan cast and crew are now performing for their fans only; fans whose fingerprints are all over this new show.

Some could make the argument that Team Coco, as fans of the host have come to start calling themselves, is the difference maker in this new show. The moment O’Brien walks out, there is an energy sparked between him and the audience that is palpable even to those viewing at home via their televisions. Apparently, the remarkable nature of the fan outcry and support over his situation nine months ago was not lost on O’Brien. His sincere appreciation is apparent as he interacts with the crowd before and during the show. One night he gives an audience member a piece of his beard, and the next he hugs two men in the front row that were wearing Team Coco shirts. The months of vocal support, touring and online interaction has galvanized this host and his fanbase. The result is something that seems to have even infected his guests.

The show’s first week was filled with high profile stars that have supported Conan through this ordeal. Seth Rogen, Jack White, Jon Hamm, and Jack McBrayer all appeared with Conan during his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour and seem more than happy to support the host’s new show. Strangely, none of the guests really have a project to promote, which seems to be the only reason most stars even bother to appear on most talk shows these days. Tom Hanks even jokes that by the time his next movie comes out in July, Conan will likely be hosting a new show on Univision. It seems that everyone truly wants to be a part of this show, and are there for more than just a cheap plug.

Now that O’Brien has returned to TV, the big question will be the ratings. How will Conan fare on TBS? Being on a cable network, one would think the show will easily bring in the ratings traditionally needed to stay on the air. Perhaps the more interesting question is how will the ripples of Conan’s arrival affect other shows in the late night pond? Will Comedy Central’s The Daily Show feel the sting? Will NBC’s The Tonight Show continue its ratings descent? Will Lopez Tonight see a bump having a new high profile lead in?

The Conan premiere brought in over 4 million viewers and beat every other show that it went up against. The second episode pulled in 2.8 million, but most importantly, 2.1 million of those viewers fell into the key 18-to-49 demographic with an average age of 30. Even if Conan loses overall viewership, it’s very likely that advertisers will begin throwing large buckets of money at the show as long as it can keep the demographic sweet spot .

For the time being, it seems that order has been restored in the universe. Everyone that wants a show, has a show. In the end, only time will tell what will happen next in this unusual story. Until then, I will continue to watch Conan and hope for a rare glimpse of the elusive Masturbating Bear.

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