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Image: Conan O'Brien
Art Streiber  /  TBS
Conan O'Brien has been offering up hilarious gag after gag in the form of promos for his new TBS show, "Conan."
By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/5/2010 6:11:38 PM ET 2010-11-05T22:11:38

In the nine months since Conan O’Brien’s take on NBC's “The Tonight Show” closed shop, loyal fans have waited patiently for his return. That wait is about to come to an end as “Conan,” the funnyman’s new TBS talk show, is on the way.

(TODAYshow.com is a part of msnbc.com, which is a joint venture between Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

Monday, Nov. 8 marks O’Brien’s third late-night launch. Of course, there’s no denying that this one stands apart from his previous premieres. All eyes will be on “Conan’s” opening effort.

Why wouldn’t they be?

Sure, there might be some viewers who were less than thrilled with O’Brien’s seven-month “Tonight Show” tenure, but no one can deny his absolute gift for hosting his own hiatus hype machine.

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Coco Nation saturation
Well, in fairness to O’Brien’s devoted and conveniently plugged-in enthusiasts known as Team Coco, he had a lot of help.

In fact, the second late-night war was barely underway before Team Coco was on the job with graphics, slogans and meet-ups geared toward keeping O’Brien on the air. When their “I’m With Coco” efforts failed to save his seat, it left O’Brien with a sense of his place in the off-air, online community. Not such a bad place, as it turned out.

It wasn’t long into his hiatus before Conan took advantage of that obvious opportunity with his own witty Twitter feed, now 1.8 million followers strong. Shortly after the Twitter takeover, a new Team Coco, this time made up of O’Brien’s official promotion department, hit the Web with their suddensocialmediaomnipresence.

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That was just the beginning of the barrage.

In order to keep fan interest at its peak and make the most of a contractual clause that prevented him from returning to television prior to September, O’Brien — as well as a slew of his old on-air pals — embarked on the 30-city “Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television” tour.

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O’Brien announced his upcoming and then-untitled TBS show just before performing his first off-air gig. Cue the viral-video style ads. A lot of them.

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The all-new old Conan
All of that promo action has set the bar pretty high for O’Brien’s return to television. After all, those ads and 140-characters-or-less snaps promise a certain kind of humor to come. And it’s a style the host’s longtime fans know very well.

That’s not “The Tonight Show’s” tamed down O’Brien writhing on his desk or cracking “Conosexuals” jokes. “Conan” gives fans hope for the return of “Late Night” Conan — Conan 1.0. There’s an important distinction between the two versions of the same towering redhead. One tweaked his comedic gift to suit the somewhat more conservative, mainstream style of the legendary show he inherited. The other was all about making a name for himself and making his own rules.

The latter led to classic sketches, such as Celebrity Secrets, and the creation of uncomfortably loveable characters, such as Pimpbot 5000 and a certain self-satisfying bear. In other words, it was O’Brien at his best.

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Just how much further the envelope can be pushed on basic cable is yet to be seen, but given the fact that O’Brien owns his upcoming show, he’ll gain a creative control and freedom he never had on broadcast television. A freer, less censored O’Brien can’t be a bad thing.

The great unknown
But it can be one big question mark. O’Brien has stated he hopes to infuse his upcoming late-night show with the fresh feel of his on-the-road show. Beyond that, even he seems unsure of what the future holds.

When Entertainment Weekly recently asked if those old aforementioned characters that viewers know and love will make an appearance on “Conan,” O’Brien revealed that even he doesn’t have the answer to that yet, thanks to who-owns-what concerns.

Conan promises to 'sink to a new low'

“You could see me get arrested on the air,” O’Brien said. “We’re not sure yet exactly which character in the past can and can’t show up.”

So new characters are likely on the horizon, as are new skits. Not unexpected news — certainly not bad news — but not tried-and-true material, either. It’s uncharted territory. It’s what makes the wait for “Conan” that much more exciting.

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But will the wait be worth it?
Of course, that’s the inevitably tricky part of creating the perfect hype storm. There’s the need to one day live up to it. Can “Conan” fulfill nine months worth of buzzed-about potential? Can O’Brien bring back the magic that once made him the obvious successor to “The Tonight Show” throne? Can his legion of loyal followers find TBS in their cable listings? Who knows?

No matter what happens with the ratings or the critics in the weeks to come, it seems a safe bet to say the premiere night of “Conan” can’t lose. Even if the experiment in shifting the late-night landscape bombs (perish the thought), the hype itself is all it takes to sell O’Brien’s first hour in the basic cable biz.

Ree Hines has Coco faith and totally believes the hype. Follow @ReeHines and chime in with your own “Conan” pre-show opinion.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Explainer: The top 10 ‘Conan’ teasers

  • TeamCoco.com

    Former “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien returns to television Nov. 8 in his new TBS talk show “Conan.” Of course, anyone with access to basic cable or the Internet likely knows all about that.

    For the last three months, “Conan”-related television ads and online teasers have been hard to avoid. Not that would-be viewers would want to avoid them. Fans of the late-night funnyman have had a unique opportunity to enjoy O’Brien’s signature style in the rapid-fire series of video shorts before his official relaunch.

    Before the last-minute ad efforts come to an end, take a look at the best “Conan” promos released so far.

  • Talkin’ ‘bout the desk wash

    O’Brien got in touch with his inner beefcake and gave the traditional T-shirt-soaking car wash a twist in “Conan Washes His Desk.”

    The somewhat absurd, somewhat hilarious and yes, genuinely sexy clip teased fans with what they have to look forward to when the host returns to late-night television — sponge-chewing, bubble-blowing and shirt-tugging set to the tune of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Or you know, just more of his sly send ups.

  • Private dancer

    The first entry from the “Missing You” series of promos to make the list is “The Stripper.” Like the others from this collection of fan fables, it’s set to a single refrain from John Waite’s '80s hit.

    “The Stripper” tells the tale of a sad and weary fan wiling away his Coco-free time by watching a pole dancer do her thing in an empty club. Of course, the fact that the man happened to be an O’Brien fan became evident only after he whispered a special request in the stripper’s ear. Her knowing smile followed by a perfect performance of the redhead’s now-famous string dance filled in the details.

  • Big-budget blockbuster

    Guess what happens in “Conan O’Brien Drives an Explosives-Packed Car of a Cliff”? Chances are you’re not wrong.

    In an effort to deliver “top notch entertainment,” a leather jacket-clad O’Brien pledged to drive a 1969 Dodge Dart off a 900-foot-high precipice. To up the action ante, he added a trunk full of C4, an interior stuffed with fireworks and a whole lot of popcorn to the mix. Of course, in reality, there was no daredevil act, but the bad CGI, good humor-filled fantasy is even better than it sounds.

  • Rubber Ducky, you're the one

    “Bathtub” is another offering from the equal parts stalker-creepy, funny-cheesy “Missing You” set.

    In this tub-time offering, a middle-aged man enjoys a weepy soak while staring longingly in the face of his favorite rubber ducky. The O’Brien-loving twist being that rather than the face of a duck, the tiny toy sports the red-bearded mug of TBS’ newest star.

  • That's gotta sting

    Ever hoped for a guided tour of each and every injury to mark O’Brien’s 6-foot-4 frame? If so, the “Grievous Bodily Wounds” edition of “Conan Takes Your Questions” is for you.

    This fan-query promo leads to a scar-for-scar rundown. There’s the little-too-low appendectomy mark, the seriously painful-looking tuna-can cut and the less said about the broken nose bit the better. Ick, but oddly interesting.

  • Cocomotion

    “Conan’s Got Dance Moves!” has a simple premise, and it’s right there in the title.

    As anyone who’s ever watched one of his monologues knows, O’Brien can dance — or at the very least, he can do one heck of a mockery of moves. From a go-go swing to an abbreviated string dance, the song-free routine highlights the host’s willingness to “look like an ass” for a laugh.

  • Wilson O'Brien

    The last example from the “Missing You” series (the last to make the list — there are actually six more bizarre gags out there) is “The Island.”

    A Chuck Nolan-like castaway, with some amazingly white Chiclets, fought off the banality of island life and kept the crazies at bay with his very own seaside entertainment center. His remote control was a conch shell and his tricked out TV flotsam, but more important, thanks to one well-decorated volleyball, the set was always tuned to “Conan.”

  • Talking heads

    In “Live Coco Cam News Coverage,” O’Brien took advantage of media interest in his promo-packed hiatus. After announcing there would be a limited-time-only live webcam in the stairwell of the new “Conan” headquarters, Team Coco created a montage of all the talking-head coverage.

    There’s nothing like watching various local news gangs tackle the blow-by-blow action of on-camera characters such as the Dancing Taco and Aerobics Bears.

  • Nom nom nom

    This time a fan question led to a “Cooking With Conan”-style promo called “Conan’s Ultimate Sandwich Recipe,” wherein everyone’s favorite host-in-exile created his own gag-inducing hoagie.

    While fans of extra mayo, extra salsa, extra gravy and chicken nuggets won’t be disappointed with the creation, all others should follow the always appropriate viral video advice: Don’t try this at home.

  • Look! Up in the sky!

    Representing the entire 10-episode run of blimp-related promos is “Conan’s Unhappy With His New Blimp.”

    Much like the other offerings in the airborne set, this one featured O’Brien cracking wise and generally annoying his blimp pilot. Where this one differs is in said pilot’s well-finessed “your mom” joke response.

    Ree Hines gives honorable mentions to “Bus Stop,”“Bedroom” and “Conan Helps With Astronomy Homework.” Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and share your favorite Coco promos.

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