I dropped my Max subscription — will Conan O’Brien’s new show make me get it back?

Conan O'Brien plays soccer in Argentina
(Image credit: Conaco/Max)

In comedy, timing is everything. And the arrival of "Conan O'Brien Must Go" on the Max streaming service on April 18 proved to be excellent timing indeed.

It's not because the show debuted on the same day as its host's birthday (though that fact does happen to be true). Nor is it because the show delivers some needed laughs in these, our especially fraught time (though it does that as well.) 

No, I'm happy that "Conan O'Brien Must Go" showed up when it did because it was a couple of days before our Max subscription was about to lapse. And that gave me just enough time to binge the four-episode first season of the show.

My wife and I settled on dropping Max from our slate of streaming services last fall, and since then, we've been biding our time until our annual subscription ran out. When we signed up for the service originally, it was to enjoy a vast library of movies and HBO originals, but after an ill-conceived rebrand, we found the stuff we wanted to see was playing second fiddle to the reality TV programming that the Warner Bros. Discovery media conglomerate insist we watch instead.

In an ironic twist, "Conan O'Brien Must Go" likely landed on Max because it was more in the vein of the Discovery Channel content that Max loves to shove down your throat in lieu of older HBO series that have ceased to be profitable. The key difference is that unlike most reality programming on Max "Conan O'Brien Must Go" is actually entertaining.

'Conan O'Brien Must Go' — what you need to know

Conan O'Brien in traditional Norwegian clothes in Oslo

(Image credit: Conaco/Max)

The premise of the show is dead simple — each episode features Conan O'Brien traveling to a new part of the globe and immersing himself in the local customs and culture of the country he's visiting. Think of the remote segments O'Brien used to do on his late-night talk show, particularly the iteration that ran on TBS from 2010 to 2021. It's a lot like that, only the celebrity guests and banter with Andy Richter has made way for 100% of Conan O'Brien acting like a goofball in a foreign land.

Do not head into "Conan O'Brien Must Go" expecting to discover something new about the places O'Brien visits. You want that sort of thing, stick to "Rick Steves' Europe." Instead, an episode where Conan O'Brien visits Argentina reveals that country feels very strongly about soccer and tango — things you probably knew about ahead of time. Instead, the goal here is to get a camera trained on O'Brien and see if he can do anything silly.

And it works, precisely because O'Brien is not afraid to look foolish if it means getting a good laugh. If you were to visit a Viking village recreation in Norway, you would probably not show up in full Viking gear — Conan O'Brien does. Or when practicing with an Argentinian soccer team, you might be tempted to make a joke about falling to the pitch in dramatic fashion, as some soccer players are wont to do. But I doubt very much that you'd work blood capsules, dramatic music and slow motion into your joke the way O'Brien does.

Not every segment lands, but the nice thing about the structure of "Conan O'Brien Must Go" is that you don't stay in one place for too long. Conan's conversation with a Scandinavian dating expert not really tickling your funny bone? Well, just wait a few minutes until he's off visiting a fish farmer in the far north of Norway.

It helps if you've been a fan of O'Brien since his talk show days — I'm old enough to remember the very first episode of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" on NBC, so I'm a fan. But even if you're not familiar with his previous work, "Conan O'Brien Must Go" is a nice introduction to his particular brand of comedy. This is a guy who doesn't mind being the butt of the joke and gets a kick out of people joining in on the fun.

'Conan O'Brien Must Go' outlook

Conan O'Brien meets with a Scandinavian dating expert in Norway

(Image credit: Conaco/Max)

There are just four episodes in this first season of "Conan O'Brien Must Go" — along with Norway and Argentina, you get stops in Thailand and Ireland. That's an easy number of installments to knock off in an evening or two of viewing, whether the clock is ticking on your Max subscription or not.

There's no indication at the moment if there will be a second season of "Conan O'Brien Must Go." Guessing what Warner Bros. Discovery executives might do from one minute to the next is an exercise in futility. But would another batch of episodes of this travelogue make me reconsider restoring my Max subscription? Green-light that second season of "Conan O'Brien Must Go" and we'll talk.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.