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DEBUTING

"Welcome to my second annual first show!" So declared Conan O'Brien, a man who embraced unemployment lustily when NBC gave The Tonight Show back to Jay Leno (a $30 million-plus payout helped) and came back Nov. 8 with Conan on TBS. His first two shows were heavy on the I-got-canned jokes as well as his trademark absurdity. He interviewed old stalwart Tom Hanks ("By the way, what time are you on?"); he strapped on a guitar and jammed with Jack White; he plucked a beard hair and gave it to a fan. The question after O'Brien signed with TBS: Free from big-network restrictions, what kind of show would he make? The answer: more or less, Late Night with Conan O'Brien. That's not a bad thing. Over 16 years on Late Night, he went from awkward tyro to confident host, and it's good to have that guy back. O'Brien was disappointed trying to make a mainstream Tonight for NBC; he returned joking about the experience for Team Coco. Now to see what kind of show he makes for himself.