The late-night television wars have dissipated because David Letterman and Jay Leno are no longer relevant, owing to their lack of being on late-night television being a lack of a reason to actively hate each other, plus, nobody cares anymore! We all time-shift and watch clips on our Devices or at the office in a little window while we’re multi-shirking on The Man’s time.
Jimmy Fallon does his college drinking games with celebrities and cuteness and has his audience, Stephen Colbert is on top right now with a mostly politics monologue that eats up a third of the space in his clock-holster, the English guy on after him has a chat show and karaoke star-fucks in cars, the guy who used to sit behind a desk and do the news on Saturday Night Live sits behind a desk and does the news at 12:30 p.m., and Jimmy Kimmel is doing just fine and might have mild contempt for them all because they aren’t David Letterman, or even Jay Leno. Carson Daly doesn’t count because he folded his on-so-late-it-seems-like -tomorrow 1:30 a.m. show into a chill pre-recorded magazine-style chill-fest shot on chill locations at various chill bars and clubs and hotel lobbies. He must have a great contract. [UPDATE: Mr. Daly’s show Last Call will be ending so the host can spend more time with the other shows he’s on; The Voice and Today, and also spend more time with his family.]
Anyway, then there’s Conan, who materialized on Cable Television after a long run and a leap off a cliff for the brass ring of NBC’s Tonight Show, which, we learned from David Letterman, does not exist anymore, in that “there’s no The Tonight Show there there,” in that The Tonight Show way. Jay Leno got the show, Conan tried to take it from him, missed, then fell or was pushed off the NBC network, and ended up muscling George Lopez out of the 11 p.m. slot on TBS. Conan was still on Television for an hour a show, and now it’s 30 minutes.
TV people can never say out loud in public what they’re doing, because it’s business, and the one thing they wanna do is stay on the TV, any way possible, so when Conan talks about scaring himself and the new creative direction for his show, starting with making it 30-minutes instead of an hour, it’s hard to believe it’s nothing beyond a publicity interview. The channel got rid of his show’s band and chopped his show’s budget to save money, and he went along with it to stay on the air. To stay on Television! What’s the alternative, podcasting? Conan has already prepared his Escape Pod, but he wants to stay on Television. He’s good at it!
We sampled the first three episodes of the new and improved Conan. It’s the same show. They made fun of the new length of the show, they made fun of what Conan was wearing, they made fun of the fact that they did not have a band, and they made fun of the set. Then they made fun of their new camera angle.
Five minutes of monologue, a three minute sketch with celebrity pop-in Milo Ventimiglia, in which they made fun of celebrity pop-ins and deployed a plug for NBC’s hit family drama This Is Us as the punchline.
Wardrobe-wise, it’s Casual Friday every day now on the new-look Conan. Andy Richter is still with us, and he’s basically just not wearing a tie anymore. Conan wears a tie, but now sports the kind of jackets that do not complete a suit, running the gamut from denim Half-Leno, to 1950’s Filling Station Attendant, to the Pleather Principle, which is to say, even if it’s leather, it looks faux. OK.
At around 11 minutes human dad-joke Tom Hanks was the first guest, and he amiably bumbled his way though to the end of the half hour. The show closed with Conan mouthing “We did it” and the old closing music.
One episode was a whole bunch of people from the popular show The Good Place, everybody lined up on stools trying to be good Television. Blergh. It was a drag, but it’s early days in this iteration of Conan, right? Soon he will start scaring himself, unless doing panels with sitcom casts is what truly terrifies him.
A bright spot was Conan using the fulcrum of his goof-on-everything personality to bully the show’s associate producer and culinary prig Jordan Schlansky into eating at The Olive Tree, or The Olive Garden, one of those Olive places.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that this was Native Content or Embedded Brand Content or whatever it’s called for the Olive place, but this was solid Conan on Conan, loading up on all the breadsticks he could eat while his guest deadpan informed the waiter about the inconsistencies in the Italian terms on the menu. Look for the clip on your phone or wherever, it’s solid. Conan is still on Television.