Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Whinin'

O'Brien Conan can't stop complaining about losing his NBC show

About the movie
Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
Genre:
Documentary
MPAA rating:
R
for language
Running time:
01:29
Release date:
2011
Rating:
Cast:
Conan O'Brien
Directed by:
Rodman Flender

When CBS got rid of Charlie Sheen, it was like a fed-up landlord evicting a bad tenant.

There was some chest-puffing on both sides, an exchange of dudely insults, and Sheen got to stomp back in and get his gas grill and his record collection.

When NBC got rid of Conan O'Brien, the tone was much different - this was a messy romantic catastrophe, made worse by the fact that the jilted redhead never saw it coming.

Miss Peacock didn't cancel Conan, she ditched him. For another guy. An old flame. And even though he kept saying he'd moved on, you knew he hadn't, because everything he said was couched in the language of spurned lover.

He told NBC she was making big mistake.

He kept making fun of NBC's new boyfriend.

He insisted that NBC would miss him when he was gone.

He said NBC would wake up one day and realize how stupid she was.

I'm sooooooo over you, NBC, he said. You should see my new girl, TNT. She lets me do whatever I want, say whatever I want.

And on and on.

You can see this psychodrama play out in the new documentary "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop," whose title is more revealing than the filmmakers realize.

O'Brien can't stop obsessing about his NBC gig, and is even seen moaning about it in his kitchen, halfway through a bottle of red wine. All that's missing is the Kleenex, the dog-eared copy of "The Notebook," the open box of chocolate.

There is, thankfully, more to "Stop" than whining. The doc follows O'Brien as he commissions, creates and performs a traveling variety show while he waits for the opportunity to return to television.

O'Brien makes a big deal in "Stop" about how NBC has legally barred him from moving immediately to another network. But the movie, unforgivably, makes no mention of the $45 million O'Brien was paid on his way out.

That would make it harder for O'Brien to play the victim, especially in a country with recession-level unemployment and chronically depressed wages.

When the show opens in Eugene, Ore., there's a shot of a terrified O'Brien staring out from his chain hotel at an empty commercial district, wondering if he's made a huge mistake.

It may be nerves, or it may be the terror one of society's elites feels when he steps off his gilded perch and glimpses, even for a second, what life is like for the masses.

The movie is self-pity disguised as self-sacrifice (he'll do anything for his fans) but it's also, by any measure, often funny. O'Brien needs laughs to salve his wounded soul, and is happily willing to embarrass himself to get them. And the movie is full of cameos by celebrity friends who rally to O'Brien's cause.

These cameos are amusing, but also pointed.

Another posting on O'Brien's "I'm Not In Love With NBC" psychic Facebook page.

You may not love me, NBC, but Eddie Vedder and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Jim Carrey still do.

So there.

Gary Thompson Daily News Film Critic
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