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The Conan Finale: A Fun Yet Sad Reflection of Conan’s Time on TBS

Photo Credit: TBS

Conan‘s final episode was a fun, yet sad reflection of Conan O’Brien’s time on TBS. 

As a final episode, the Conan finale was unsatisfying and felt inconsequential as this was mostly a clip show and it’s coming at a time where clip shows have become completely irrelevant due to YouTube allowing you to watch late night clips ad nauseam. 

The little new content consisted of a cold opening for the Conan finale featuring Homer Simpson, an appearance from Will Ferrell, and an interview with Jack Black, and Conan’s farewell speech. If you weren’t already a huge fan or intimately familiar with his career, the in-jokes and references would go over your head. If you love Conan, the content felt a little stale and existed solely for clapter. We get that Conan wrote for The Simpsons and that he wrote the monorail episode, which is beloved by Simpsons’ fans, we don’t need to be reminded for the sake of a mildly funny gag.

The Conan finale, also, wasn’t as poignant as David Letterman, Johnny Carson, or even Conan’s Late Night finale. We’ve been here before: twice. Fans also know that this isn’t goodbye. Neither Conan’s mini podcasting empire or Conan Without Borders is going anywhere. This time Conan’s reinventing himself with a weekly show on HBO Max. 

What makes Conan’s latest farewell sad is that, even diehard Conan fans, know that the man isn’t leaving on top. The Wrap reported that Conan’s  ratings had decreased 29 percent in one year and that they were low compared to the show’s nearest equivalent The Daily ShowTherefore, Conan may be leaving on his own terms to avoid TBS unceremoniously axing the show. 

Additionally, the final episode’s references to unboxing videos and Logan Paul demonstrate how much the world has changed in Conan’s almost 30 year long career. 

By focusing on the TBS years, Conan does his storied career a disservice. The last 11 years may have been the most rewarding for Conan personally, but the years where he was banished from network television were the least interesting of his career. Conan was best when he was relegated to 12:35 am and a legitimate afterthought on NBC’s schedule. At TBS, Conan could do whatever he wanted, so he didn’t bother pushing boundaries.

The truth is that Conan hasn’t been the scrappy underdog since he lost The Tonight Show in the second Late Night War. Once Letterman and Leno retired Conan became the longest serving late night talk show host. With that distinction comes a reverance that never suited Conan, who nonetheless embraced it. While Conan’s changed and seems happier than he’s ever been, it’s a shame that one of the most admired talk show hosts in history quietly moved on from the job that made him famous. 

Allison Lips
Allison Lips
Anglophile, Rockabilly, Pompadour lover, TV and Music Critic

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