November 9th, 2010
11:34 AM ET
Battling with Jay Leno is so last season.
Conan O'Brien's competition this season is Jon Stewart and so far things couldn't be more pleasant between the two – at least on Stewart's part.
As "Conan" kicked-off on TBS last night, Stewart was pretty welcoming to his fellow 11 p.m. slot dweller. “I want to congratulate Conan O’Brien and his crew,” the "Daily Show" host said. “They are back on television tonight. I don’t know when.”
“I just want to check and see when because I am excited,” he continued before exclaiming, “Son of a [expletive]! Same time as me? Now I’ll never be able to watch me!”
Stewart is not the only one finding himself in that quandary as as O’Brien’s new late-night TBS show will be competing with “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” for audience share. Not only are the pair of late-night host occupying the same time slot, but the are both also aiming for the same demographic – that advertiser friendly group known as adults ages 18 to 49.
And Stewart wasn’t the only one talking about O’Brien’s return.
Time magazine’s TV critic, James Poniewozik, said in his review that the debut “was exciting because of everything it promised.”
Poniewozik continued, “It was Conan making his act literally bigger, big as America, it was Conan — in his own words — taking the wheel of the 'Ferrari' that was the 'Tonight Show' and showing what he could do with it,” Poniewozik wrote.
The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove noted that O’Brien “didn’t lean on desperate gimmicks or overwrought pyrotechnics; he was content for the most part to stick to his knitting.”
Robert Lloyd of The Los Angeles Times wrote that O’Brien appears to have recovered well after the debacle at NBC, which resulted in Leno being given back “The Tonight Show” after O’Brien had replaced him.
“It is probably too much to say that leaving 'The Tonight Show' — which is to say, appearing to have been fired from 'The Tonight Show' — was the best thing that could have happened to O'Brien, but it made him interesting and topical in ways that he would not have been had he stayed on NBC,” Lloyd said. “[O’Brien] toured like a rock star, graced the cover of Rolling Stone, gathered close to 2 million followers on Twitter, and, as a victim of corporate incompetence, became a most unlikely thing for a person in his line of work: heroic.”
The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik theorized that O’Brien’s more relaxed vibe could have been a result of the “outpouring of affection from his fans last year has made him feel less insecure.”
“Whatever the case, he and his show are easier to like,” Zurawik said. “The hour flew by, and it seemed much looser, organic and easy-going than anything I saw last year by him on NBC.”
But not everyone loved O’Brien’s debut.
Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly termed the show “so-so” and said, “Really, the funniest moment was the use of one of O’Brien’s old stand-bys, the Masturbating Bear, who was wedged into a taped bit in which lottery balls were pulled from his, um, sack.”
Hank Stuever from the Washington Post agreed that the debut was a bit of a bore – especially in light of the marketing blitz which preceded it. “You can't hype your first episode that hard and then expect a pass,” Stuever said.
Ultimately, the audience will decide whether the show is hot or not, and for the first show it appears to be the former. Entertainment Weekly reports that based on early ratings released by TBS, the debut show earned a 2.8 rating among Nielsen’s 56 metered markets, which translates to an average minute of "Conan" being watched by 2.8 percent of the homes in those markets.
What did you think of the show? Let us know with an iReport video or with a comment below.
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