Conan’s return effective but stale

Chris Kirk

Conan O’Brien’s return to television Monday night in the premiere of his new TBS talk show, “Conan,” was entertaining but a little too familiar.

The show started well with a hilarious video documenting his time since leaving NBC, including being gunned down on his way out of the building in an allusion to “The Godfather.”

After Conan took the stage, the show became gradually more disappointing. He opened up with potshots at NBC and self-deprecating jokes about his new job. Though these remarks were well formulated, they persisted throughout the night and were perhaps overdone.

As the night continued, it became clear that Conan was not reinventing anything here, or inventing anything new at all. The “Conan” was typical Conan – effective and funny Conan, but still typical. It was like an episode of “Late Night” but with slightly more effective jokes, a puzzlingly tamer act and a conspicuously unfunny Andy Richter in the place of Max Weinberg.

Take the Masturbating Bear, who made a brief appearance in the premiere, for example. The character is glorious in its crudeness and absurdity, but frankly I feel like I’ve seen the bear a hundred times. I don’t see why Conan was so determined to bring him back. I would have been happier if Conan had left the character frozen in carbonite forever.

I want to see Conan invent something new. It can still have his trademark stamp of silliness on it, but I want it to be new. On Monday, I didn’t see much that was new.

Then again, maybe Conan was just playing it safe for his first show. At least, that’s how I console myself.

What did you think of the premiere? Share in the comments below.