LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Audiences for Conan O'Brien's much-hyped new TV talk show dropped by one-third on his second night out and some critics began to tire of jokes about his bitter departure from rival NBC.
Some 2.8 million people watched Tuesday night's "Conan," down from 4.2 million viewers for the red-haired comedian's debut on TBS one night earlier, the cable network said on Wednesday.
Audience figures for NBC's "The Tonight Show" -- which O'Brien quit in January in a showdown with veteran comedian Jay Leno -- were not available but Leno has been averaging 3.6 million viewers nightly so far this season.
O'Brien's return to late night television after a nine month absence had been hotly-anticipated, particularly by his younger fans. The average age of the "Conan" viewer is 30 years-old.
But many critics said the same old late night format put on by O'Brien in his early shows -- opening monologue, desk, guests and banter -- was uninspiring.
By Wednesday, some were already bored with O'Brien's jokes about his split with NBC and his new home on cable television, and they hoped for more humor directed at current events.
"Conan O'Brien just won't drop the NBC thing", said the headline on the Los Angeles Times showtracker blog.
Entertainment Weekly's PopWatch writer Jennifer Armstrong said she was "looking forward to...a time when he (Conan) dispenses with the self-reverential humor about losing his NBC gig."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)