It’s been a long wait since Conan O’Brien went off the air, but the so-called three-month Conan shutdown finally came to an end last night when the TBS host debuted the new, slimmer version of his late-night show alongside Andy Richter and his first guest Tom Hanks. This time around, O’Brien dropped the suit for a much more casual look that he describes as “hip biology teacher,” and he reassured longtime viewers that all the changes actually aren’t that big of a deal: “We’re back with a 30-minute show. I don’t want you to worry about that. It may only be 30 minutes — I assure you it’s gonna feel like two hours.”
O’Brien and Richter followed up the monologue with a This Is Us parody featuring Milo Ventimiglia, in which the big shift in the show is addressed further. What happened to the band? “The band lives on a farm in upstate New York. They’re very, very happy!” Why is Conan dressed differently? “This is what the focus group liked the best!” Why does the set look like “a strip club in Grand Theft Auto”? “Andy, we’re still working out the lighting! Would you just get off my back?!”
“It’s still me being funny, so this is not ‘Check out the whole new Conan,’ because there’s no such thing as the whole new Conan — until I’m medicated,” O’Brien said about the new show last year. In a more recent interview with the New York Times, he added that if he hadn’t decided to mix things up, “I can’t say how many more years I could have done it the same way, every night.” Still, the debut of the reworked Conan feels very much like the previous show, and instead of multiple bits or sketches, O’Brien’s chat with guest Tom Hanks took up the majority of the episode — and the majority of clips currently available on the Team Coco website. Perhaps things will get more experimental as O’Brien and crew continue to work out the kinks, but one thing’s for sure: The show might look different, but Conan is very much the same late-night host we’ve been watching for over 25 years.