Conan O'Brien is a very likable man. A little hyper, sure, but he seems like a good guy and lots of fun, and that's why he gets millions of dollars to appear on late-night TV, or to not appear on late-night TV, either way. If NBC gave me 32 million bucks, I think the only place I would be regularly appearing would be at my lovely beach estate and shoe stores. Not Conan. He is not a sloth. He wants to work, and he wants to keep being what he's been for close to 20 years: American Icon/Talk Show Funnyman. It's a mighty high mountain he's scaled, but the peak is extremely tiny. There's only room for a handful of those folks. How do you stay up there when the others would really rather have you tumble off in an avalanche of fail, and your audience has the distracted, overwhelmed-by-choices attention span of a girl in a shoe shop with 32 million dollars to spend? Last night, Conan made his first TV pitch to 4.2 million faithful and curious viewers after his infamous and well-publicized departure from NBC's "Tonight Show," with "Conan," on TBS.  I'll say it again: Conan O' Brien is a very likable man, and I like him, and I think you probably like him.

But I was bored. And disappointed. And worried that his show simply isn't going to be able to pull in enough viewers if it remains as predictable and -- I say this with a literal cringe and with reluctance -- stale as I felt it was last night. Oh, Coco. No no.

From the already-tired-looking set to the done-it-to-death format, "Conan" seems dated from Day One.  It was a...pleasant show, fast-moving but almost completely devoid of anything memorable, which to me is a spectacular puzzlement. Your first show, you've had months to prepare and make it want you want it to be, and it might as well have been any regular offering from any of the late-nighters from ten years ago. This was essentially the same frustrated feeling I had when I saw Conan on his live tour here in Seattle a few months ago. It was fun, but terribly tame, and I felt it was a wasted opportunity to do some really funny comedy. Instead, we got a bit too much of Conan singing and playing guitar, neither of which he is brilliant at. God, I don't like saying this. I like Conan, I do!

I am in complete agreement with Kyle Buchanan's New Yorker piece in his assessment of Show One:

O'Brien will never be given a better chance to blow up the musty formula of late-night, but in his premiere, he didn't even tweak it. Taped segments, interviews, and musical guests arrived exactly when you expected them to and looked no different than they did during O'Brien's tenure on NBC; in fact, the only atypical thing about the show was where and when it was airing. Will that be enough for Conan to cut through the competitive clutter? The late-night hosts who've succeeded in basic cable are the ones who've toyed with the format, from Jon Stewart to Chelsea Handler, and O'Brien is apparently disinterested in going down that path. 
At the end of the show, Conan once again strapped on his guitar to play and sing with Jack White. This might be something of a fun novelty for some viewers, but other than "Oh, there's Conan O' Brien the comedian playing a Les Paul with the famous rock star Jack White, how 'bout that?" it was just OK. White seemed musically constrained, his style out-of-place, and O' Brien out of his league.

This musical pairing was in very stark contrast to the excellent performance given last week by Stephen Colbert and Elvis Costello last week on The Colbert Report.

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It's crossed my mind that perhaps "Conan" would always have been designed to be likable. It's hard to please anyone, isn't it...he's heard he's been too stodgy and too freaky, costing him viewers. What are you supposed to do and who are you supposed to listen to? Does it all come down to viewer numbers and sponsor cash, trying to hit that sweet spot in your targeted demographics? Does it come down to enjoying your work and who you work with? Do you reach a point after so many years in the business where it's hard to innovate? Does Conan simply want to hold on at his safe place at the peak long enough for some of the others doing the same thing to retire? I mean, I like the Masturbating Bear as much as anyone, but maybe it's time for him to hibernate and let another woodland creature explore its carnal lust on basic cable.

I'm not writing "Conan" off after one show. It will be interesting to see how the show evolves over the next few weeks and months, and if it can hold on to all those Team Coco fans who love the guy and are rooting for his success. Dude's likable. I truly wish him well.