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November 09, 2010

Conan returns. Gloriously.

Please excuse the exclamation points in the headline of this post. But c'mon, this is the moment we have all been waiting for. So let's get right to it. Here's the cold open.

Yes! Jon Hamm! What an attractive cameo!

Okay, so that was pretaped. For all we know they spent the last 9 months working on that. (I kind of hope they did. If anything it would go with the self-deprecating "we'll be canceled at any time so we might as well blow our budget on something random" theme they've been going with.) Anyway, on to the real deal. The monologue.

So that was great! And what a pretty backdrop. Something always felt off about The Tonight Show set. I know this might sound ridiculous, but I always thought it was too bright. The light blue background made me feel like I was watching a syndicated midday chat show for the ladies. Not an edgy comedy with masturbating bears. Midday masturbating bears do not make sense. When the lights go down, the bears...well, you know...


Good to have you back, old friend.

Back to nitpicking the old set (NBC obviously should be hiring me as the network's production designer), The Tonight Show studio felt overly-spacious, distancing the audience from our hero. And let's face it -- the string dance needs to be seen with your own eyes, not on some giant monitor. Fucking Hollywood, right? The bottom line is the set did not feel like it belonged to him. It felt like he had to play a part on a TV sitcom called The Tonight Show.

Not this set. The moment he strutted out to a loving applause, with the moon hanging behind him, you knew he was at home. He hopped around and snipped his strings with the comfort and glee that we hadn't seen since he left his 12:35 time slot. The show's called Conan for a reason. It's his. And he deserves it.

And it wasn't just Conan who seemed more at ease. I think it's safe to say that Andy absolutely killed. He may have even had the line of the night during the desk bit:

"Inside it smells like tears." Gold.

The interviews were fine. Seth Rogen was Seth Rogen. Enjoyable, and you know what you're going to get. The other girls exists. But it probably would've been weird to open the show with guests with dominating personalities. Monday night was about Conan.

In the months preceding, there were was a curiosity as to what he would do with the freedom of basic cable. Would there be a change to the format? Would he reinvent the talk show? Didn't happen. But it doesn't matter. What happened last night was a return to form. The return of the Conan we all missed. Time columnist James Poniewozik summed it up perfectly in a line that I totally wanted to steal, but alas will just repost:

"So it turns out if you give Conan cable freedom to do whatever he wants, what wants to do is Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

Fine by me.