Monday, November 8, 2010

Conan First Show Liveblog - Team Coco on TBS!

It's finally here, Team Coco fans, the day we've all been waiting for! After Late Night with Conan O'Brien's strong 16-year run from 1993 to 2009, NBC - now rightly less one Jeff Zucker - pretty much threw Conan under a bus with the tonight show to keep Jay Leno around. Conan's Tonight Show tenure having abruptly concluded back in later January, he only got to host the show for a little over 7 and a half months. Highway robbery.

Of course, they also pushed Conan and his staff to effectively tone down their trademark strangeness that made their Late Night years so amazing. The Jay Leno show poisoned the ratings of everything that followed it - the Tonight Show included - as Leno's audience flat-out refused to accept Conan and many of Conan's fans were undoubtedly less than happy with how much more vanilla the show was than Late Night. Of course, once the controversial second "Late Night War" of sorts began, the Tonight Show writing kicked into high gear without any concern for appeasing the disinterested oldsters and the ratings exploded again as the Team Coco phenomenon was born on the internet. Now Leno's ratings are worse than Conan's were - the base that stopped watching the Tonight Show after Conan took over only held brief interest in the show again after Leno's return before they stopped watching again. Just desserts.

Since the show ended, Conan gave an exasperated interview and went on his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television tour with Andy Richter and Reggie Watts over the later spring and into the summer. On the tour, classic sketches and characters were rebranded and could potentially all appear on the new show. The Masturbating Bear returned as the Self-Pleasuring Panda and the Walker, Texas Ranger Lever became the Chuck Norris Rural Policeman Handle. And of course, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog showed up too - as he also did on Night of Too Many Stars last month - and since he looks to be owned by Robert Smigel, not NBC, he should be back in true form on Conan. I'd be surprised if he didn't make at least one appearance in this first month, if not possibly this first week.

Over the summer and fall, Team Coco provided some more comedy content for the internet on their site, eventually putting up video promos starring Conan and videos of Conan answering a question a week from fans. All this led up to the Live Coco Cam two and a half weeks ago, 24 hours of Team Coco comedy run by Aaron Bleyaert, interns, and other assorted staff, with appearances by Conan, Andy Richter, LaBamba, Pierre Bernard, and others from the show, along with some cameos including George Lopez and Dog the Bounty Hunter. A week ago tonight, they posted the special 5-minute Show Zero online as well - Conan doing an entire show from a conference room in five minutes, humor all in top form, still with the beard he's often been seen with this year, previously seen as his protest during the 2007-2008 WGA strike (Which I covered quite a bit on this blog back then), the eponymous strikebeard.

We lost Joel Godard in the move from New York to L.A. for The Tonight Show, and now we're losing Max Weinberg, who led both The Max Weinberg 7 during the Late Night years and The Tonight Show Band on the Tonight Show. The band - save for Max - went on tour with Conan as the Legally Prohibited Band, and now they are officially The Basic Cable Band! As expected, they're being led by Jimmy Vivino, who always led the band when Max went on tour with Bruce Springsteen, and James Wormworth - who always filled in for Max when he was on tour - has fully replaced him as the drummer after moving to L.A. and joining the Tonight Show band, only having been a guest member in New York with the Max Weinberg 7. The rest of the band - Jerry Vivino, Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg, Mark Pender, Scott Healy, and Mike Merritt - are still around, so musically, we'll have more of the same fantastic sound from the house band so vital to both Conan's Late Night and Tonight Show years. And knowing Conan and the writers, after they didn't get much screen time on the Tonight Show, I'm betting we're going to see the band participating in a lot more comedy sketches again like they used to on Late Night.

Over these recent turbulent years for Conan and fans, we've watched Conan now go from living one dream to the next. He'd always aspired to host the Tonight Show, and the terrible leadership at NBC unfortunately cut his time living the dream short. But as mentioned before, there's an upside - he'd always dreamed of his own show, which he completely owns and controls. And now on TBS, he has just that - a spiritual return to what made the Late Night years so amazing. A potential game-changer for TBS and cable TV in general as the era of TiVO/DVRs and TV on the internet has begun to change the television landscape and reduce the power and influence the networks once held. Now, not quite 9 and a half months since the end of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, in roughly 18 hours from my writing this, Conan finally premieres on TBS!

From here on, I'll be liveblogging the big premiere tonight as it happens, starting at 11 PM EST. Til then, enjoy the breakout star of Live Coco Cam, the Dancing Taco!

11 PM - let's go!

(11:00) Last season, on Conan - opening Godfather spoof with NBC getting rid of him, and oh, hey, there's Jon Hamm, in character from Mad Men as Conan looks for a new job and works a variety.

(11:02) Conan working fast food; as a creepy clown; and now Larry King saving him, It's A Wonderful Life style. Two words: "Basic cable." TBS's terms? "Much less." More Tommy Gun death.

 (11:03) New opening. Andy announcing! Seth Rogen, Lea Michele, and Jack White. Guest contest winner. And of course, Andy and Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band. The episode? Baaa Baaa Blackmail. Actual show names. Interesting.

(11:05) The crow goes wild, and - the string dance! Back at last! "I know what you're all thinking - 'Hey, it's the guy from Twitter!'" "Kanye West?"

(11:06) "I named the show 'Conan,' so I'd be harder to replace." "I have dreamed about being a talk show host on basic cable since I was 46." Number one in TBS's main demographic, "People who can't afford HBO." "It's not easy being a talk show host on a network without a lot of money on a channel viewers have a lot of trouble finding. So that's why I left NBC."

 (11:08) Conan noting that he went through this big ordeal to avoid going on at midnight, then after Daylight Savings Time ended, now he's basically on at midnight.

(11:09) Conan summing up everything that went on while he was off the air in a single joke - that's a lot of references in one joke. And now there's no barrier between Conan and the audience anymore.

(11:10) The question of whether Conan can use his old characters from his NBC years. A clip of NBC using one of Conan's old characters - a Mega Millions drawing with, THE MASTURBATING BEAR! Though not mentioned by name. And Andy's still bantering with

(11:11) Guest announcements at the end of the monologue. Seth Rogen's promoting The Green Hornet, which hits theaters in January. Then Lea Michele from Glee. And lastly, musical guest Jack White. Plus, the winner of the rigged first guest contest! A strong opening show lineup.

(11:12) And now Conan biting the hand that feeds him, making fun of the internet for saving him. Fantastic, haha. Throwing to the band, and the first commercial break at 11:13!

(11:17) Back with Andy on the couch again, fully Conan's sidekick again as he was largely becoming later into the Tonight Show, and the first of their new bumpers. Tomorrow? Tom Hanks, Jack McBrayer from 30 Rock, and musical guest Soundgarden.

(11:18) Then a look around the new set, the first talk show with a view of the ocean. Conan using a remote control to play with the moving moon over the ocean in the background, including attacking Andy with ti. Amazing. Andy noticed its incredible "lunar wobble." "Just like the real thing!"

(11:19) Conan addressing his highest highs and lowest lows this year. His lowest? The Conan Halloween mask. As Andy put it, "It's kind of an Asian Val Kilmer." They couldn't legally call it a Conan mask, so what is it? An "Ex-Talk Show Host" mask. "What the hell? Why don't you just put a cigarette out in my eye?" "What are you?" "I'm an Ex-Talk Show Host." "Who are you supposed to be?" "Who cares?" As Andy put it - "It's very authentic inside - inside it smells like tears." Andy's jokes are definitely getting dirtier tonight already, too. Nice.

(11:21) A well-wishing video from Ricky Garvais, wishing Conan luck with his new TBS show, uncomfortably. And now additional messages, expressing lament over what happened at TBS - then on to the Food Network, Good Morning Dayton, and satellite radio, which no one has. "He'll be better on radio. He's got the looks."

(11:22) And that's all the opening bits for this first show. Commercial break time again, next up, Seth Rogen!

(11:25) I love how Microsoft goes after people desperately attached to their phones in their commercials, then tries to sell them their Windows phone. (Ow.)

(11:26) Back from commercial! Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band! And now the fake first guest contest results. The deliberately rigged results are in, and the first guest? Arlene Wagner, the Nutcracker Museum curator, who gave Conan a nutcracker and walked off. "Off into the mountains," as Andy put it.

(11:28) Second guest, time for Seth Rogen, promoting The Green Hornet! "Thank you for having me! I'm so glad everyone more famous is busy now."

(11:29) Noting that since Conan last saw him, Rogen's now engaged to be married, and now Rogen's musing on how much he doesn't care about the wedding preparations - how his girlfriend's always wanted to get married but he never thought about it at all until he asked her. And in no time, the first bleeped cursing of the show, breaking the rules already. Though of course, they can get away with more on TBS than NBC. Seth now comparing getting the engagement ring to someone giving him a truckload of heroin. Then as soon as he got it, he proposed to her in an awkward state of undress in the closet, not every little girl's image of how they want to be proposed to.

(11:32) Now discussing the failure of Prop 19 in California - which would have legalized pot. Seth pointed out that virtually anyone can get a medical marijuana card there, though, and how even he has one. His very specific ailment? "I ain't got no weed on me right now." The lady there? "We actually have just the thing for that!" Then worries that the weed doctor would actually find something wrong with him.

(11:33) The Green Hornet talk. It hits theaters January 14th, 2011. Talking about how Seth Rogen is not really someone you think of when you think of people out there kicking ass. "If Matthew McConaughey looked like this - he'd murder himself. He'd literally kill himself. But for me it's pretty awesome." And Michel Gondry directed! Weird and eccentric. "You kind of think he's a French genius and you think he's gonna take things like this and make art out of it, and instead he puts them on his crotch and pretends it's a penis." My time to note how awesome Michel Gondry is as an aside. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is amazing, and The Science of Sleep is a lot of fun too.

(11:35) Next commercial break. Next up, Lea Michele. Not a two-part interview like many of Conan's Tonight Show ones were.

(11:39) Back from commercial! Lea Michele from Glee now. A good choice to round out the first show lineup. Immediately into talk about the moving moon. She noted that his hair's reaching new heights.

(11:40) From there, into talk about Glee and the fact that Lea's parents didn't know she could sing for a really long time, though Conan had assumed she'd grown up a prodigy after seeing her performing on Glee. She hadn't seriously until her first Broadway audition.

(11:41) Now discussing a recent cast photoshoot in GQ that drew some controversy, the shoot deemed 'too sexy' by some. Conan's come up with a way to make the photos less sexy - inserting a photo of him from high school into each of them. Lea's shocked by how pale he is.

(11:43) The first awkward moment of the show with an odd background noise. "Basic cable." They had a lot of odd technical moments like that on NBC too. Then, another Lea Michele magazine cover story in the past - the October issue of Glamour she'd appeared on poured out all over the highway in L.A. when a truck carrying them got into a wreck and turned over, spilling out magazines everywhere. And this after she'd been drilled repeatedly not to show the cover to anybody.

(11:45) Commercial break. Up next, Jack White!

(11:49) Back from commercial again. The bumpers are all fun - different from the NBC days, more kinetic. Conan now introducing Jack White. He hung out with him in Nashville this past summer and they recorded an album this summer - they're performing a song from it together now. The Basic Cable Band's all in the background supporting them. Ah, it's great to see the gang all back together on TV again. Max Weinberg's loss is even less felt than Joel Godard's since he barely got to do anything in comedy bits on the Tonight Show. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the rest of the band in sketches. The song itself? Catchy stuff. This is possibly the most elaborate musical performance Conan's ever done on air, too. Fantastic way to end the first show.

(11:52) Last commercial break!

(11:56) And back again! The band's back over at their stands, and now Conan's back at the desk with Jack White. Talking about when they first met, shooting a remote for Late Night at a bowling alley in Detroit in 1999, back before Jack White and The White Stripes were exactly all that well known. And of course, they've worked together a lot since. He produced this album with Conan and the band, and a spoken word album, with a depressed Conan image on its cover.

(11:58) The show's over now. Conan thanked everybody. Ricky Gervais'll be on in January and he has a new special airing December 18th. I wonder if it'll be an HBO one - I'd assume so. His standup's great stuff. End credits, new Conaco logo, Conan getting shot up by Tommy Guns a second time. On to Lopez Tonight, Conan over.

All-in-all, a strong first show. Looking forward to the rest of the week. It's damn nice to have Conan back on TV again. Also really glad to have DVR access now so I can record the Daily Show and Colbert Report and watch those afterward. Whew. Gotta support Team Coco. Great job, everybody!

1 comment:

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Tamahome No Miko