It was a long 290 days for fans of Conan O’Brien.
There were 290 Conan-less days between his final night hosting NBC’s “The Tonight Show” and his first night hosting “Conan” on TBS, leaving fans with no late night entertainment worth watching. Sure, there have been other late night comedians on TV but none that could satisfy fans of Conan’s red swirl of hair.
From the first seconds of his cold open, it was clear Conan was back to form. After a fictitious story of how he spent the months since leaving NBC, featuring appearances by Larry King and John Hamm, viewers got their first glimpses of the new set, seemingly bigger than those he had at NBC.
Conan used his first monologue to make lots of jabs at his NBC gig, do some dancing and show what the fan-favorite “Masturbating Bear,” a popular gag he was able to retain from his time on “The Tonight Show,” had done over the hiatus. Clearly, Conan’s time away did not manage to decrease his entertainment value.
Back with Conan were announcer Andy Richter and Conan’s house band, minus former leader, Max Weinberg. Richter not only played announcer but also joined Conan on the couch while Conan played with the remote control Moon that graces the background behind his desk.
The band, formerly “Max Weinberg and The Tonight Show Band,” was back in form as “Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band.” Not only did they provide music periodically throughout the show, they also backed Conan and musical guest Jack White, a highlight of the show.
After honorary first guest, Arlene Wagner, the curator of Leavenworth, Washington’s Nutcracker Museum, Conan brought comedian Seth Rogan, and “Glee” actress Lea Michele.
Rogan, famous for stoner comedies, unsurprisingly talked about what it was like to legally buy marijuana with a medicinal marijuana license, his weight loss, and his upcoming film, “The Green Hornet.”
Michele discussed “Glee” and the recent controversies surrounding her racy Maxim photo shoot, fueling one of the many great gags of the night.
Conan showed one of the Maxim pictures but with the addition of an awkward photo of himself in high school awkwardly inserted.
Compared to “The Tonight Show,” “Conan” is actually quite a bit funnier and more entertaining, judging from the premier episode. With the promise of some of Conan’s old gags coming back, the show can only get bigger and better, something Conan could not achieve at his time at NBC.
“Conan” is on TBS every weeknight at 11 p.m.