Television review: ‘Conan’

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Conan O’Brien’s contractually mandated wandering in the wilderness that is Everything That Is Not Television came to an end Monday night with the premiere of his new TBS late-night show, ” Conan.” Technically, it came to an end the previous week with a three-minute walk-on to new late-night neighbor George Lopez’s “Lopez Tonight,” which “Conan” has bumped to midnight; a sexy mock-sexy promo involving a garden hose; and an impressive American Express commercial in which O’Brien travels to India to buy, weave and dye the silk for the curtain for his new show. But those were just appetizers: This remains, for the indefinite moment, the story of a talk-show host and his still unpredictable future.

The first lines of this new chapter were promising, if not quite the fulfillment of his last wild nights at NBC, when caution was thrown to the wind. And except that it was a constant subject of discussion and scripted humor, the shift from broadcast to basic cable had no obvious effect on his presentation; it neither inhibited nor liberated him. (They do still bleep the bad words.)

His new set, which is dominated by a background seascape and a big moon that O’Brien can move by remote control (“It cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars and we’re using up a lot of fossil fuel”), is actually better looking than his “Tonight Show” set, and the smaller size suits him — less a comedown than a welcome adjustment. The last frame felt too big for the picture.

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