28 July 2011 | kubrickfan93
A good, but not great, successor to "Late Night"
"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years where guests would perform in regular skits and odd, strange things happened throughout the entire show have been replaced by "sanctioned" times of zaniness.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.