|Index||7 reviews in total|
What is a guy from Argentina doing, reviewing this red haired freak
talk show? Good question. I got to know Conan in 1996, thanks to an
overseas life I was living, somewhere in Europe. I didn't speak that
land's language but I did understand somehow a little English. So, I
had no option. Gotta watch cable. MTV, NBC... Then one night I saw this
weird guy (it came right after the funny looking guy with the big
chin). I think his hair hypnotized me. I spent one year living there,
and, seriously, I didn't have the best of times, I was only 17, far
away from my family and culture, without the ability to speak or
understand well, but every night Conan got me laughing. And every night
it worked. Conan was actually important for me and when I came back to
Argentina I missed the show. Internet wasn't such a useful tool those
days (almost 15 years ago). Years later, a cable channel here started
to show some Late Night with Conan O Brien and I was the happiest man
on earth but then, like just one or two months after it started, BAM,
Late Night was over because Conan was going to replace Leno. What the!
I was so angry. Late Night was perfect and I didn't think Conan needed
to do that. He is different to the other "important" talk show hosts
and that is what we all like about him. I lost track of his new show
and a couple of weeks ago I saw this funny image of Conan and an Owl
and the TBS logo... Now, thanks to the internet, I'm watching his new
show. I'm aware of what happened and I think it's sad that NBC did what
it did and I have to say Leno I don't like your chin anymore and I'm so
glad Conan's hair is still red and moves like a salsa dancer. I also
watched his goodbye speech on youtube and I think Conan was a gentleman
and I loved that. I've seen all the shows, with the moving moon and Tom
Hanks getting wet and stuff and it all makes me feel so good, like when
I was 17 (I'm 31 now) and I needed company and a good laugh. Thanks
Conan. I'm also amazed with the quality of guests he's having. TBS,
take care of him (and off course of his sidekick Andy... and the
band... and I do miss Max Weinberg). Please excuse my poor English...
no wonder, I learned it with TV and CoCo.
EDIT: I just one to add that's been 2 years since I did this review. I watch now the show every day on my Ipod, while doing a 1 hour bus ride to work... And I get there smiling. Thanks again Conan!
I have been a huge Conan fan going on ten years now. Ever since I was
in high school and I started watching Late Night. He pretty much had me
in stitches every night. The only time I'd check out the competition
was if Conan was a repeat, yet I never felt the others really matched
up to him.
When Leno announced that he would be giving the Tonight Show to Conan to avoid any confusion as to who was going to succeed Leno, I had a lot of respect for him doing that. (and I could never stand Leno) So then Conan gets the Tonight show and Leno precedes him with a poorly thought out prime time show. We all know what happened next so I won't bore you with the details. I like most people, completely sided with Conan and felt awful that my favourite TV personality was getting a raw deal.
But now Conan is back and it has been close to a year since his new show started airing. I have to admit the first two weeks seemed a bit shaky. Almost like all that was going through Conan's mind was "I don't feel like I should be back on the air. What's going to happen this time?" and I'd say a good chunk of the monologue jokes for the first two weeks were taking jabs at NBC and so on. It was expected of course but it got very tedious and sounded much more like bitterness and complaining and by the end of the first week I was getting sick of hearing it. I kept watching however, remaining hopeful and sure enough, once they got over the initial jitters things started improving greatly, Conan seemed comfortable in his new digs and was back to his old self, almost with a new found confidence that he doesn't have to worry about pleasing anybody but without the arrogance that would lead to laziness. Andy is also much funnier too. I have to admit that I didn't really like him on The Tonight Show (I started watching Conan after Andy had been gone for a while) so my only impressions of him were from Tonight Show and he wasn't really allowed to do much except pipe in with a stupid joke from his podium. Just seemed forced and annoying. Yet now that he's back to his co-hosting duties, I can see why Conan and him are best friends. They have great chemistry and Andy is just as funny as Conan.
While it sucks that Conan had to get screwed over, and that the two-faced, giant-jawed Leno is still allowed to keep the Tonight Show; I must say I like Conan's new show much better than the Tonight Show. While Conan vowed he would not change his style of gags and skits on Tonight show, it was clear he was forced to tone it down and now on TBS Conan seems to have free reign to do the show how he wants and I will continue to watch!
"Conan" has been on the air now for almost nine months and 100+ shows,
so I think a relatively accurate picture can be painted of the future
of Conan O'Brien's new venture. As a fan, that picture is regrettably
not the masterpiece I was hoping for.
When it was announced that he would be moving to TBS, I had hopes that Conan would do something radically different; re-invent the genre as it were. I was, therefore, sadly disappointed when the first few episodes felt not just like retreads of his "Tonight Show" (which I felt had been lackluster), but lacked the freshness and spontaneity one might expect from being freed of the shackles of broadcast TV. I watched fairly religiously as time progressed, in large part because any Conan is better than no Conan at all. But after a while my viewing tapered off and now I watch it irregularly.
The fundamental problem is that the once wholly original beast of Conan has become the well-oiled machine of Conan. While creativity is still apparent, the surreal nature of his early years where guests would perform in regular skits and odd, strange things happened throughout the entire show have been replaced by "sanctioned" times of zaniness. The show follows such a rigid structure that it feels like a conveyor belt of hilarity where pieces are assembled according to order and design.
And that design is what, in my opinion, inhibits this show from reaching the heights of genius that the old "Late Night" program had. There is a lack of energy and commitment to the sketches that are detrimental to the fun. Add to that that the sketches and characters have become half-baked retreads of old gems (Minty the Candy-cane and Ted Turner excluded) and a seeming desire NOT to break new ground and what you have is a third-generation copy of a once great show.
The technical elements are decent but obviously cheaper. The new theme is catchy but unremarkable. Honestly, the two best ideas have been to make Andy more active and put the desk in the center of the stage. Aside from that, this Conan fan is disappointed. It's not a train wreck of network mandated mainstream mush like his "Tonight Show" was, but it simply cannot reach the heights of it's original predecessor.
The sad reality is that after almost 20 years of this, I doubt Conan would want to change his well-oiled (but less original) machine. And given that he's now on TBS and capable of doing basically whatever he wants, the desire not to embrace change is the most disappointing fact of his new show.
A quick qualification: I have watched Conan regularly since his Late
Night days (prior to that I was not interested in the genre), including
seeing every episode of his Tonight Show stint and then about half a
year into "Conan". While not extraordinarily original in content and
getting less so as the years pass, it still gave me enough laughs and
grins to keep watching as a sort of nightcap before bed. I've also
given the other Tonight and Late Night show hosts a fair chance as
well, but none meshed with my sense of humor as well as Conan. If I
were to rate the show itself, I'd probably go with about 7 stars.
Reasonably above average but significant room for improvement.
However, for the past several months I have opted to no longer view Conan as the experience became overly tedious due to the nature of the advertisements included in its streamed broadcast. To put it simply, there is more time for advertisements during the streamed show than most hour long shows have for TV broadcasts. Given that the online market will feature more people viewing for convenience/expedience, that there are less overhead costs broadcasting online vs televised, and that similar streamed content features less advertising time, it seems reasonable to me that these factors ought to be reflected in the streamed show. I understand that there are fiscal concerns, and aside from cutting costs I would suggest allowing online viewers the option to pay for an advertisement free subscription. For the time being though, Turner Digital and Team Coco's advertising staff have made an otherwise worthwhile show simply not worth my time.
I'll admit-I love watching late night talk shows. My average bedtime
last year was 2 AM just because I wanted to stay up and watch them all.
Personally, my favorite is Craig Ferguson, who just seems so
spontaneous and genuine. I like Leno because I'm a traditionalist. I
can't stand Letterman, or Paul Shaffer (who knew you could shave a
parrot and teach it to be your bandleader). Kimmel is OK, but does he
have to keep looking at Cleto to get a laugh?
And now we get to Conan.
In my opinion, this tonight show conflict is total bulls**t. Don't blame Jay Leno, don't blame Conan, blame the executives at NBC. Plus people, is it really a stab in the back if you're given $45 million to walk away? All business aside, I'll admit I watch Conan out of sympathy. I always hope that one night Conan will have jokes flying this way and that...to this day I'm still hoping. True, Conan does occasionally tell a good joke or two, but that's it. Now I'm not saying Conan O'Brien isn't funny. Indeed, when I saw him on Inside the Actor's Studio he was hilarious. He was being himself! Conan the show does not equal the wit and humanity of Conan the man. When I watch Conan, I always get this feeling that Conan would rather be anywhere but there. He always appears nervous, and his self-deprecation and weird bumpkin dances do more to enhance his stick-bug physique than his comedic talent. His mad scientist voices are just, well, weird. His interviews are awkward, mainly because of this nervousness. Any transition to another question is a very sad-sounding "um." To add evidence to this assumption of Conan's anxiety, I'll recount to you an episode where Conan had a martial arts expert as a guest. When the stunts required Conan to take his jacket off, he revealed his underarms, which were drenched in sweat. I'm no comedian (professionally), but I always learned that one of the top 10 rules of a comedian is that they should never laugh at their own jokes more than the audience. Evidently Conan left the rulebook back in New York, because he does it all the time. My mother stated, and I would have to agree, that Conan looked better with bangs. Now it looks like the Lorax is living on his head. Andy Richter doesn't help either. Again, probably a very decent, humble man, but not fit for the comedic podium. Still, a sight better than Paul "I'll just repeat what Dave said so it's funny" Shaffer. I rate Conan a 7 out of 10. Truth be told, it should be a 6, but I really feel bad for Conan. The show's format and expectations of the audience don't allow him to be himself, a genuinely funny man. He is a better man than a talk-show host, but unfortunately, you don't get paid to be a decent man. It's not my favorite late-night show. Still, I'll watch it just to hope. Hang in there Conan.
I suppose you can call this a review of Conan O'Brien's new series, the
audaciously titled Conan. I mean, I watched the first episode and here
are some thoughts on itbut how am I supposed to review a talk show
based on one episode? To me it's only seems feasible to review a series
after it has finished its run, so without further ado here are my
thoughts and observations on the new Conan in this
not really a
review, but you can think of it that way if it's easier for you.
Right off the bat we are treated to a prologue that's intended to setup the show by giving a comical account of O'Brien's fall from grace at NBC. Everything about the production of the sequence looks and sounds like a show on its last leg on Comedy Central (think, Important Things with Demetri Martin, or its replacement, the god-awful Nick Swardson's Pretend Time). It's not the production we have come accustom to seeing with Conan, and by contrast makes me yearn for the value found on something as technically precise as Conan's last gig. What caps it off is the absurdly amped up studio audience. I get that it's not a huge crowd, but it's no good to crank up the crowd volume to enhance the jokes.
Once the show gets underway in the traditional sense we can expect to see on a regular basis, we are greeted with what looks like a rushed animation sequence for the titles. It's a simple style with silhouettes against bright colors, slowly v/o'd by our old pal Andy Richter. When all is over we are finally revealed the set, a budget conscious interpretation of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The overhead is filled with lights meant to be unseen by the TV audience, making for a low and intimate set. The stage is flat, no stairs or steps leading from one section to the other. The guest entering current is an off-brown champagne color and unfortunately doesn't have the impact or complexity of his Nintendo inspired design from Universal. The band is off to their usual side, Conan's right, and their region of stage space again reflects their pre-Tonight Show landscape. When attention turns to the musical guests, we see a very Tonight Show style presentation with blue and red lights illuminating concave cube. The last point I want to get to on stage design is Conan's backdrop. It's a vast, blue, moonlight view of the ocean. For years talk shows have shown cityscapes in the same way, and the change here isn't unwelcome. If it were a city, it would bring to mind Conan's original gig just a little too much. The remote controlled moon is a nice touch, but I doubt its on-air functionality can keep audiences tuning in. Another unfortunate change is the lack or Pierre Bernard graphic art to serve as a placeholder for the TV audience after the commercial breaks. Instead of listening to the Basic Cable Band wrap up their song while scoping out a pasta Conan, we get some thrown together backstage footage.
So what does the show offer? Well, if you've seen Conan's prior work, then you can only hope for an encore of his trademark creativity. For the time being many of his signature sketches are being held captive by NBC and the only to reach bond are the String Dance and a bear whom shall go nameless. The formula on his past shows contained a lot of re-used material. It seemed that Monday or Tuesday would start out with a hit sketch, and Conan would have to milk it throughout the week. For example, he would start the week off with the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever and ultimately turn to it throughout the week. I would attribute this to lazy writers. For this new show to conquer, the next hit sketch or character needs to be right behind the corner, and this time he can't allow anything to catch moss.
At the moment we don't yet know what's in store. I for one hope to see plenty of man-on- the-street segments. Jay Leno's, Jaywalking is predictable and Jimmy Fallon doesn't even attempt them. The comparative efforts of the interview packages on The Daily Show are becoming short in number, and though they are good, no one has ever been as consistent in engaging a crowd on the street as the man with the red pompadour. They are always something new and exciting, and they break up the monotony of choreographed sketches.
The first guests are not really household names, but young stars. This is surely an attempt to please the Twitter and Facebook crowd. I guess the thought of a man in his late '40s is more appealing than the men on the network programs in their '60s. This is supposed to be the young show, and yet the talent will be aging with the audience. I can't see an early '20s crowd ditching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for something that just isn't as good as of this moment.
I see a lot of cut corners that make Conan look like the red-headed stepchild of Lopez Tonight. By contrast Lopez's set looks like the Bellagio and his format more innovative with less calls to a former program, and this coming from the show following Conan on the same network. If Conan is to be a flagship for a reshaping of TBS, then the station needs to make some immediate changes. Chances are that the low ratings expected of a cable late-night talk show will keep Conan on air for a number of years, likely enough to assume that the show is a success. But smart viewers will have the old shows to look back at as reference points, and when they do the difference may be substantial.
Lorne Michaels has a novel marketing idea. Put a guy on TV who has
never been seen by the public, and he promoted the first Conan show
exactly like this. Michaels set very low expectations including having
Conan seen riding a bicycle in New York street traffic. It got so, when
you didn't know what was part of the act of lowered expectations, and
when he simply wasn't able to delivery on a funny and entertaining show
left to him by David Letterman when went to CBS. Conan tried a few
skits, mostly immature high school level comedy that never hit it's
mark. If you stayed up that late in those days you had little choice to
watch anything on TV except Conan. Each time, you always hoped it would
turn into the show which David Letterman left behind, but it never did.
After Letterman left NBC, NBC never recovered from the embarrassment and the loss in revenue from it. In a very typical brilliant agent move, Conan demanded the Tonight Show from Leno to take it in 5 years or he too would leave the network just like Letterman did. The execs at NBC went into a panic and agreed to this, simply not to repeat their mistakes of the past. It was entirely a bad move though. Conan was no David Letterman, and most certainly never for an instant had earned a chance at the Tonight Show. But the execs at NBC couldn't back out on it now. Conan took over and the ratings simply fell, and so did advertising revenue and for the first time since the history of the Tonight Show it was losing money.
Not wanting to look like they have had a huge mistake, they decided to move Conan back to his old time slot and have Leno take over the 11:35 PM time slot. The had writing was on the wall, Conan was in trouble and he knew it. He had no place else to go. In order to safe face Conan came up with a story which slackers could related to that he was leaving the Tonight Show. Of course, he was doing so with millions of dollars in his pocket. The poor staff who left their homes, friends and families in New York City area followed him to the the West Coast only to find themselves out of a job. While getting a typical severance agreement for the employees not unlike any larger corporate employer would offer, they were still out of work and very soon.
TBS had nothing to lose. They were mostly a forgotten network amongst the sea of thousands of cable channels. It was worth it for them to pay whatever small amount they came up with for Conan to do a show there, just to get the publicity and remind the public that TBS was still there. Even if Conan failed, it would take a while and meanwhile they would attract a new audience to watch the other shows on their cable channel.
The TBS show is the same lame attempt at entertainment that Conan had been doing for years which led to his failure on the Tonight Show. When experienced producers and advisors tried to help Conan do the Tonight Show properly, he refused their help thinking he knew better. He ignored the sound advice of seasoned professionals.
For those high schoolers who enjoyed Conan, they should set their DVRs up to watch the show now before it too fades away without notice.
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