OK, OK, congrats and everything to Conan O'Brien, who returns to late-night TV in just a few hours. But we greet TBS' "Conan" with more than a twinge of sadness, because it means saying goodbye to Unemployed Conan.
This is the bearded fellow who transformed a humiliating "Tonight Show" ouster into a creative rebirth. He embraced the glories and terrors of Twitter, making us giggle all the way. He crisscrossed America during his sold-out "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour." He popped off a killer promo effort for his new show — filled with wacky YouTube videos, a 24-hour live "CoCo Cam" and a big, shameless orange blimp — refashioning himself as a kind of renegade presence within the entertainment mainstream.
So we bid adieu to this CoCo and look forward to a fresh, basic cable phase in his career. On that note, with "Conan" about to air tonight on TBS, here are six things we're hoping to have answered about the new show.
Who Won the First Show Poll?
Last month, O'Brien announced the identity of his guests for the first show (Seth Rogen, Jack White, plus Lea Michele), but left unnamed the winner of his "First Guest Poll." Fans had the honor (and the awesome responsibility) of selecting the very first guest, choosing among folks like Justin Bieber, Pope Benedict XVI and Vladimir Putin. Recently, Conan narrowed the field to Jack Nicholson, the Sultan of Brunei and Arlene Wagner, who opened the Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum.
So who will it be? Well, Nicholson apparently hasn't appeared on a late-night show since Nixon's first term. And TMZ is reporting Wagner will get the honor. Nothing's official yet. And listen, no one wants to see Nicholson plop down on Conan's couch more than us. Yet as a pure production matter, it just doesn't make any sense, no matter how cool it'd be. O'Brien's already got a full slate of guests, and Nicholson's return to late-night is the sort of once-in-a-pop-culture-lifetime event that would easily require three full segments. That's just not gonna happen with Rogen, Michelle and White waiting in the wings. One day, God willing, Jack will be seen again on late-night TV, but it seems like we're all going to have accept the fact that Conan's mystery guest will have him chatting about big wooden dolls that break nuts with their teeth.
Where Will Andy Be?
We loved seeing Andy Richter, Conan's long-time "Late Night" sidekick, back in the mix when O'Brien shifted to "The Tonight Show." There was, however, always something a little odd about Andy relegated to a podium on "Tonight," rather than bantering back-and-forth from his familiar spot on CoCo's couch.
According to an Ain't It Cool News reader, though, Andy has been joining Conan on the couch for guest interviews during TBS test shows. Still, it should be noted that during their low budget, YouTube-enabled "Show Zero," Andy was standing up with a mic stand just as he was at "The Tonight Show." Which format will stick? We'll be pulling for Andy to get a seat on his pal's comfy couch.
Will the Signature Bits Be There?
Following Conan's acrimonious departure from NBC, there was a lot of boring talk about intellectual property rights related to the comedian's ability to bring his signature bits to a new channel. All we wanna know is will the Masturbating Bear live to wank another day? Have we seen the last of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog? Can CoCo still pull off some Year 3000 conjecture on TBS in 2010? The appearance of any of these skits on the first show will put a lot of nervous minds at ease.
Wither Twitter Tracker?
One of Conan's best new bits on "Tonight" was "Twitter Tracker," a segment that had the host interacting with a monster truck-style voiceover and generally mocking the banality of celebrity Twitter-hood. O'Brien, though, joined the social networking service in March. Can "Twitter Tracker" survive in a world in which Conan has embraced the very thing he mocked so successfully? We hope so.
Will He Keep the Beard?
He wouldn't shave, would he? He couldn't, could he? That orange facial fuzz has come to typify everything we love about the new Conan. Alas, last time he grew out his beard, during the 2007-08 writers' strike, he eventually opted to drag a razor across that pasty face of his. Not cool! Here's to hoping Conan has learned his lesson and will keep rocking the beard.
Will He Mention Jay Leno, "The Tonight Show" or NBC?
He has probably turned the page. He's probably done with all that. But we can't be the only Conan fans hoping he's got one last zinger left for the dude and the network that screwed him. How satisfying would it be if, in the midst of his triumphant return to TV, Conan takes one last opportunity to say, "Eff you!" to his enemies going on the air half an hour after Coco's debut?
What other questions need to be answered now that "Conan" is on the air? Let us know in the comments!