Conan O'Brien Returns to TV with Strong Ratings

Debut on TBS beats Jay Leno. Plus, watch Conan and Jack White cover Eddie Cochran's 'Twenty Flight Rock'

November 9, 2010 10:05 AM ET

Just nine months after getting yanked off the air by NBC, Conan O'Brien debuted his new TBS talk show Conan last night to massive ratings: 4.16 million people watched the show, with an average viewer age of just 30. The Daily Show, which regularly averages 1.8 million viewers and airs at the same time, was down to 1.3 million. In the coming days and weeks O'Brien's numbers will almost certainly come back down to earth, at which point he will go head-to-head with Stewart. Jay Leno and David Letterman both air 30 minutes after Conan begins, making direct comparisons between their numbers mostly meaningless.

Read Rolling Stone's October interview with Conan

The episode ended with a musical performance by O'Brien's longtime friend Jack White, who performed Eddie Cochran's "Twenty Flight Rock" with the newly christened Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band, and Conan himself on guitar. (E Street drummer Max Weinberg has been replaced by James Wormworth.) Tonight Soundgarden make their first TV appearance since re-forming earlier this year.

Reviews were mostly strong. The AV Club gave it a B+, saying that it "felt very much like a blend of his work on Late Night and The Tonight Show except finally free of any big bullshit from bosses or affiliates." The Los Angeles Times awarded it four out of five stars: "The first lines of this new chapter were promising," wrote. "If not quite the fulfillment of his last wild nights at NBC when caution was thrown to the wind."

The Washington Post 's Hank Stuever was a rare dissenting voice. "Conan's" debut seemed like it had been written hastily on Post-it notes, rather than the showing off the under-appreciated genius that its host has been fostering during his temporary television exile," Stuever wrote. "He's not the future of comedy or the savior of all hipsterdom. He's a man at a desk, making jokes about himself while making chitchat with other famous people. Is it possible we have too much collective cultural energy invested in this strange art form?"

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories


Nelly Furtado with Timbaland | 2006

This club-oriented single featuring Timbaland, who produced Nelly Furtado's third album, Loose, was Furtado’s sexy return after the Canadian singer's exploration of her Portuguese heritage on Folklore. "In the studio, initially I didn’t know if I could do it, 'cause Timbaland wrote that chorus," Furtado said. "I'm like, 'That's cool, but I don't know if I'm ready to do full-out club.'" The flirty lyrics are a dance between a guy and girl, each knowing they will end up in bed together but still playing the game. "Tim and I called it 'The BlackBerry Song,' she said, "because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody."

More Song Stories entries »