It didn't take long for people to decide if Conan O'Brien's new show on TBS would be a hit or a miss.
After big ratings Monday, they have dropped, as expected. It happened when he took over The Tonight Show. In the long run, he did pull in a bigger audience than Jay Leno, but NBC wanted that "comfort midnight snack" that carried the show since 1992.
After three days, USA Today is saying the show is just like the one he had on NBC, which is both good and bad. Entertainment Weekly, for some reason, is upset he makes fun of TBS a lot. Yeah, and why shouldn't he? The other hosts mock their networks,. It's kind of like federal law.
I think I know the problem: everyone wants Conan to be the TV version of the Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on TV Tour. They expect that because they think cable can allow it.
You know, they may be right. I'd like to see Conan go free-form a bit more, and maybe involve his guests in comedy bits, make it more of a variety show with interviews. Tuesday's whale-watching bit with Tom Hanks proves that. Imagine what they could do with Jon Hamm, the most handsome SNL host in years, and damn funny to boot.
Maybe Conan isn't sure what he can do or get away with right now. He's starting the new era with what he knows best, which is the show he's been doing since 1992. Then, he can decide what walls he can remove.
Here's another idea: bring back the characters he had in the NBC days, and say, "OK, NBC, I expect your gun-toting lawyers tomorrow. Come and get me!"
That would be worth it, to see Triumph, the Masturbating Bear. the Preparation H guy, S&M Lincoln, and the like. Heck, bring back Amy Poehler as Andy's little sister Stacy. This time, since she's grown up since then, we can see if she still has a crush on Conan or is dating a Jay Leno clone.
Also, with the Conan Blimp being grounded by winds, why not do a bit about that? Conan can say the Blimp is grounded because those assassins who shot him in the first show now want to blast the blimp out of the sky. However, you get the pilot armed with a "say hello to my little friend" rocket launcher, and he blasts the assassins away. Then, the blimp flies again, and finally starts its West Coast swing.
The point is this: we shouldn't say if Conan has succeeded or failed after a week. We shouldn't complain about his choice of jokes. Let him spit out the last of the NBC-caused venom. Let him mock his new surroundings, even if they're nicer than the old set. Let him admit his new situation. he'll know that after a week or two, he'll tell the crowd that he's gone through the Seven Stages of Grief, and from now on, it's gonna be Conan time every night.
If there is a time to make any judgement, it should be during the holiday break. Then we can decide what works, what doesn't and what changes can be made.
Heck, he had a hard enough time trying to keep his job at NBC during his first year. Let's not be hasty. That's too prime-time. It's also too much like pro sports.