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Conan O'Brien's new late night show debuts on TBS

Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter perform during the

Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter perform during the debut of O'Brien's new TBS show "Conan," Monday. (Nov. 8, 2010) Credit: AP

Beard? (Check.) NBC joke? (Check.) Gratuitous and somewhat dated references to Lady Gaga and Brett Favre? (Check. Check.)

Conan O'Brien is officially back. "Welcome to my new show, 'Conan.' People ask me why I named the show 'Conan.' I did it so I'd be harder to replace."

So far, so good. No late night talk show has ever been canceled after one edition - not even Chevy's - while first albeit abbreviated impressions of "Conan" are promising.

"This is an exciting night. I'm glad to be on cable. The truth is, I've dreamed of being a talk show host on basic cable ever since I was 46." (He's currently 47.)

And this: "I'm going to be honest: It's not easy doing a late-night show on a channel without a lot of money and that viewers have trouble finding. So that's why I left NBC."

Ba dum. Bad dum. And baaaa DUM.

After weeks of promotional pumping and primping - even a well-timed American Express ad campaign that launched Monday, too - O'Brien found himself on a smaller stage with diminished expectations but hardly a diminished sense of whimsy or the absurd. (The per-credit open was most amusing - a sort of Conan specialty as he has jumped from job to job - with a "Godfather" riff and cameo by Larry King, who talked him out of Ending it All with a reference to "The Graduate": "Two words . . . basic cable.")

Professional life and expectations are clearly going to be a bit downsized at TBS - "Conan" originates from a 250-seat studio on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank (comparison, Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" studio has about 400 seats) and the band is now led by Jimmy Vivino, not Max Weinberg.

Conan even had something to say the illogic of a 10 p.m. start: " . . . The weird thing is this: I put myself and my staff through a lot because I refused to go on at midnight. So I get this job at eleven. Then, [Sunday], Daylight Savings Time ended - so right now it's basically midnight. In fact, it's 12:05."

But unless I miss my bet, "smaller" will be perfectly fine with his longtime fans, and so will basic cable. Adios, NBC . . .

Watch videos from the first "Conan" episode, below.


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