Friday, August 13, 2004

Incredibly Unwatchable

Conan O'Brien had another gimmick episode tonight. Some may remember the "claymation" episode, in which a rerun of Late Night was rendered entirely in clay. This was funny for about two minutes, fascinating for ten, and excruciating for forty-eight. I didn't make it to the second guest. Then again, one seldom watches through the second guest on an ordinary episode, so maybe that doesn't mean anything.

Tonight's gimmick was that the entire show was an infomercial called "Incredible Viewables" devoted to selling the Conan 10th Anniversary Special DVD and the Best of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog DVD. It's an infomercial parody, but also a real infomercial in that it aims to sell you things.

They had a new "infomercial" set and a tiny audience clapping with exaggerated enthusiasm right on cue, and Conan wore an ugly sweater and turtleneck. Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner joined Conan in co-hosting the infomercial. They made cheesy jokes and forced banter and would cue the audience to clap. Interestingly, since the audience was fake, they weren't actually cued to laugh. This meant that after jokes, Conan and Bruce Jenner would pause for laughter and get painfully dead silence, an unsettling effect that was presumably intentional. Nevertheless, it made it difficult to watch, because it really made it feel like uncomfortable, failing comedy.

At one point Triumph really lays into Jenner, who is apparently an amazingly good sport in addition to being good at sport. After a series of insults like "You look as good as you did on the Wheaties box...if it was run through a shredder!!" Triumph says: "Hey, all you Olympians in Athens. Take a look at this guy. This is where you'll be in thirty years. And that's if you win the gold!" There's also an amusing running joke where Conan and Bruce Jenner are caught making bizarre small talk each time they comes back from commercial.

It does get old, though, not at all unlike watching a real infomercial. There's even a commercial bumper in the form of an ad for the DVDs that gets used twice, in identical form. I get the feeling I was the only person in America dumb enough to watch it to the end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was, like you said, amusing for about two minutes, and then got sort of tiresome. I stopped watching about ten minutes in. I mean, huzzah to the new set, and putting so much effort into an infomercial parody, but the end result was still an infomercial. I guess it's hard to retain any high comic ground with a program that legitimately is trying to sell things via an 800 number.

When they did a preview of the infomercial the night before, I thought it was just a joke. "Wow, kind of an elaborate two-minute joke there," I thought to myself. "Bruce Jenner is sure a good sport. And hideous."