Change is fascinating — its origin, its application, the reaction it inspires, and above all else, its lasting impact.
Born from a want to shake things up and create something new, Conan re-introduced itself with a trimmed down 30-minute runtime, an intimate new set, and the absence of late-night staples like the desk, the suit, and the band on Tuesday night. These changes felt like the culmination of a lot of hard work and careful consideration. And, after a three-month hiatus, it was. But this is also the start of something that isn’t so easy to define yet.
For the first show back, with a blank canvas, Conan O’Brien and sidekick Andy Richter did the necessary work of introducing the new version of the show which felt not dissimilar from the old version outside of those more superficial changes. People expecting karaoke Twister or Andy to eat fire may have been disappointed. But Conan fans doubtlessly saw the appeal of what seemed like a longer and more relaxed interview with Tom Hanks and O’Brien and Richter’s easy banter. The question is, what will the show have in store for them tonight and the next night?
To fully get arms around the more fundamental changes at Conan, you have to let go of the premiere as the final word and the show as a solitary thing. On the business side of things, this leaner show is also cheaper. And that means money that went into a bigger production can, theoretically, go to the creation of bits that can have a double life on TV and online, propelled by TeamCoco’s massive YouTube and Twitter following. Or maybe it’s more travel episodes. O’Brien’s new podcast (Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend) and recent tour are examples of that spread. But despite the attention and a healthy marketing campaign around the show’s return, we’re all sort of in the dark as to what, exactly, this all looks like in a few months when everything is running full speed at the same time. And that’s sort of exciting.