'Conan': Live-blogging Conan O'Brien's TBS debut
11 p.m. ET: The show cold-opens with a "Last season on 'Conan'" montage of Conan O'Brien getting axed from NBC, Sonny Corleone style, rejected by Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce (Hi, Jon Hamm!), a short stint at Burger King and Larry King saying the two words that save his life: "Basic cable." Plus, more shooting. Pretty good stuff.
11:05: Really like the graphics in the opening titles -- very clean and sort of '60s-vibing. Theme song? Nothing special -- a driving, horn-heavy tune with less emphasis on drums now that Max Weinberg is no longer the bandleader.
11:06: We have our first string dance. Those of you who had 6 minutes in the pool, congratulations.
11:07: "This show is called 'Conan' ... people asked me why I named the show 'Conan.' I did it so I'd be harder to replace."
11:08: And the first direct NBC joke -- "It's not easy doing a late-night show on a channel without a lot of money and that people have trouble finding. That's why I left NBC." He'll be here all week, folks!
11:10: Conan tries to sum up all the news he missed during his time off in one joke, managing to stem-wind through the Icelandic volcano, Lady Gaga's meat dress, Chilean miners and the BP oil spill -- "comma, Brett Favre's penis." Best one so far, actually.
11:11: O'Brien just found out NBC has been re-using old characters -- cut to the Masturbating Bear giving lottery numbers in Maryland. Ick.
11:13: Jack White gets the biggest applause when Conan announces the night's guests. Hipsters unite!
11:18: And we're back, with Andy Richter on the couch. Conan gives us a quick look at the set, which has a big moon and an ocean view. He has a remote control for the moon to move it around the screen, but apparently not change phases. Richter: "There's Mayans watching this, freakin' out!"
11:20: O'Brien shows us the Conan Halloween mask. "Normally I'd love it because I'm so self-involved," he says. But because the mask-maker couldn't use his name, it was sold as "Ex-Talk Show Host." Now that's funny. Richter is bringing it: "Inside it smells like tears. ... I so badly want to work out a deal with your wife where I come into your room at 3 in the morning..."
11:22: Ricky Gervais gives a taped message welcoming him to TBS ... and the Food Network .. and "Good Morning, Dayton" ... and satellite radio. "It'd be better on radio -- he's sort of got the looks. Although his voice is a little annoying." Well done, Mr. Gervais. Host the Oscars this year, 'K?
11:27: The winner of the first-guest contest is revealed. Ladies and gentlemen ... the rigged results: It's Arlene Wagner, curator of the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum. Band: "You're the first guest on 'Conan,' the most important person in history ..." She does a walkthough and is gone out onto the Warner Bros. lot. Conan gets a leprechaun nutcracker.
11:29: The actual first guest: Seth Rogen, suited up for the occasion.
11:30: Rogen says what most of us we're thinking: "I'm so glad everyone else more famous was busy."
11:30: TBS won't let Conan's guests say "s**t" freely. So there's that.
11:32: Note to Seth Rogen: If you want your engagement/marriage to last, maybe don't tell the story about how she was topless when you proposed, and joke about putting the ring on her nipple.
11:33: Rogen is upset that Prop. 19, the pot-legalization initiative, didn't pass in California, but relates how ridiculously easy it is to get a medical marijuana card. This probably won't help the legalize-it cause in the state.
11:35: Something I learned watching "Conan": Michel Gondry directed "The Green Hornet." Which is opening in the dead-zone time of January. Hmm.
11:38: For those of you wondering, "Bezzerwizzer" is a board game from Mattel.
11:40: Lea Michele is VERY happy to be here. "And your hair looks amazing," she tells Conan.
11:42: Here come the GQ photos. Conan doesn't think they're too sexy. "We were just having fun," she says.
11:43: O'Brien has devised a way to make the GQ shoot less sexy: Inserting a shot of himself in high school into the shot.
11:46: Anyone else think the Lea Michele interview felt a little rushed? Like Conan was more excited to get to Jack White (not that we can blame him) and just took her through a couple perfunctory talk-show anecdotes and sent her on her way.
11:49: Conan is sitting in with Jack White -- which is no gimmick. The two recorded together during the Conan tour, and O'Brien is a pretty fair guitarist.
11:52: We'll let you decide whether you like the Conan-Jack White collaboration, but the sound quality in the studio is excellent. Very well-mixed.
11:57: Jack White gets a little couch time, and they reminisce a bit about the first time they met in Detroit, "and we've been on the same bowling team ever since," White says. "If you know what I mean," Conan winks. No one actually does.
And that's that. Pretty decent first effort from Team Coco -- we detected no major production glitches (there was a weird clatter during Michele's segment that they both joked about), and O'Brien didn't dwell too much on the NBC saga, which is good. He definitely didn't reinvent the talk-show form, either.
What did you think of "Conan's" debut?
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Photo credit: TBS