The year is 2010. Fresh off of a debacle that resulted in his public departure from his dream job at The Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien is suddenly on top of the pop culture world. He departs upon a multi-city tour during a forced television hiatus, and follows it up by signing on to take the 11:00 spot at TBS, then on a surge thanks to its arsenal of popular sitcom reruns. The hype is building, Conan is about to hit the airwaves.
And then, suddenly, nothing. Conan opened to good (if somewhat lukewarm) reviews, but never really did much to build off of all that hype. The show, as well as its funnyman host, seemed to slip into the background.
Now, in 2015, Conan (and Conan) seems like an afterthought in the late-night landscape. The show is still going, but as a shell of what Late Night once was. Once considered innovators in the genre, O’Brien’s team was the only major late night show left out of the Emmy nominations for that category.
Of course, it doesn’t help that that team has thinned out vastly over the years. Once home to talents like Louis C.K. and Robert Smigel, the staff now is composed of much younger and less prominent names. To add insult to injury, the show was recently served with a lawsuit over allegations of stolen monologue jokes.
All this aside, though, it just doesn’t feel the same. O’Brien, who was always known for his zany antics and sophomoric nature, looks beleaguered. This is a man who had his dream stolen from him, and as a result has lost his passion. The monologues are weak, the recurring bits either fall flat or take too long, and the guests are B-listers at best. Conan in his prime was the king of late night, the Letterman for those of us who knew only the later, more complacent Dave. It’s a shame that things worked out the way they did.