Monday, April 12, 2010

Why Conan O'Brien's TBS move was the right one: Sepinwall on TV

Just as a Very Desmond Episode of "Lost" briefly pulled me out of my family time cocoon, I couldn't not weigh in on Conan O'Brien's decision to do a talk show for TBS, rather than Fox, starting in November. Click on the previous link to NJ.com and you'll see why I'm with Coco on this decision.

47 comments:

Aaron Riccio said...

It hardly mattered where he went. He could've pulled a Tom Green and broadcast straight to the web from a basement in his house and viewers would have tuned in. People who like him will tolerate TBS for him, so it's a win for them. Not yet convinced it's a win for him, though he's right to argue for an 11:00 start.

Anonymous said...

Good for Coco, but I still would have preferred seeing the Stewart-Colbert-O'Brien Comedy Central trifecta.

Zach said...

Agree wholeheartedly. Was very surprised with the move, figured he would do what Bill Simmons said and move to midnight following Stewart and Colbert on Comedy Central.

I like the move though, he will have more freedom and less pressure on him than network television. And if these Leno dominated months have taught us anything, its that we need more Coco in our lives.

Tassoula said...

Couldn't agree more with all of your points and look forward to Conan's new show. I would've followed him wherever he went, but I'll admit it's a relief to never have to turn the dial to FOX.

amysusanne said...

This is great news and I'm happy for him, especially regarding the ownership factor. It makes a lot of sense and, frankly, I'm less puzzled by the idea that Conan would move to TBS than I am by the weird "is that the channel that runs Beverly Hillbillies repeats?" nonsense I keep seeing on twitter and gawker.

Impaler General said...

I'm so excited about this I'm already making my own t-shirt plugging Conan's arrival to TBS. If I am lucky, I'll show it next week when he comes to San Francisco

cadfile said...

Good on him and at TBS he won't have the Chevy Chase taint following him either.

It also shows TBS wanting to spread out from being the Tyler Perry channel.

LA said...

Cogent analysis indeed. I'm thinking this is a strong union. Conan will get the creative freedom under which he will thrive and TBS will get a higher profile than ever before, win-win.

Any word on whether he's staying in LA or heading back to NY?

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming at TBS Conan will get to own his own show (ala Letterman) which is something Fox wouldn't have let him do. Definitely a smarter choice.

Still, how many late night talk shows does America really need? Are Leno, Letterman, Ferguson, Fallon, Kimmel, Lopez really not enough??

Anonymous said...

For the last few weeks, Fox in Philly has been advertising the local 11pm Seinfeld re-runs with a "King of Late Night" promo.

I'm sure it completely unrelated, but it's interesting considering the news that Conan isn't going there after all.

Ben said...

Sounds good to me, though I'm probably going to keep watching Jon Stewart regardless.

As Bill Simmons, who now has two references in this post today, mentioned already, isn't Conan doing to George Lopez what Leno did to him?

Ben said...
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Dani in NC said...

I imagine that another reason George Lopez may be fine with being pushed to midnight is that he may want to have the freedom to be even bawdier. I've watched his show a few times, and I got the sense that he was holding back because of his time slot.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ben, it depends on whether you believe Lopez really did offer to go to midnight to bring in Conan (which Simmons doesn't). If he was on board with it (either because it gives him more long-term security, because he can be raunchier, or because TBS sweetened his own deal to make it happen), then this isn't the Conan/Leno situation all over again. Conan at no point wanted to go back to midnight; TBS and Lopez are saying that he did.

BigAppleChannel said...

Luv Conan! Did you see Conan's comment on Twitter? http://bit.ly/d89nLk

Josh said...

I don't know. This move bugs me. I loved watching Conan on Late Night when I could in college. But I feel like his audience overlaps with Jon Stewart's a lot, and anyone watching the Daily Show right now will tell you that it's making a resurgence into brilliant territory after the post-Obama slump. I love Conan, but I'm going to have to stick with Stewart at 11 PM.

Honestly, I wish they'd put Conan on after Lopez, even though I know that makes no sense to TBS in terms of ad sales and generating a strong potential lead-in.

Alf said...

For the cable-free among us, will his show be available on the web?

Brendan K said...

Here's my question: Assuming Conan becomes the biggest show on TBS (a fair assumption, I think) and combined with the ability the network has proven to sell successful shows (two Tyler Perry sitcoms, Lopez- I said successful, not GOOD), what are the odds that this marriage means TBS starts filling out its lineups with a few original shows that are both profitable and good?

If they can develop nice-if-unspectacular shows like My Boys (shut up, I like it), why won't Conan legitimize the brand further? Could they do, say, a somewhat less raunchy/edgy/whatever version of what FX is doing in basic cable comedy?

What do you guys think?

Brendan K said...
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Mark S. said...

I'm buying the lead-in story for Lopez moving to midnight. With Conan leading in and promos for Lopez and Conan signing off with "Stay tuned for George Lopez", he's in a better situation than he is now.

Jennifer said...

Alf said...For the cable-free among us, will his show be available on the web?

Probably not legally, which is why I'm kinda bummed by this.

But then again, that's how the world rolls. We're the lameasses because we won't pay $50/month for it, after all.

Zach said...

Hoping he starts his first show calling it "Welcome to my new TBS show, henceforth named as Tyler Perry presents Conan O'Brien!"

Tom said...

The big question: How does Colbert respond to the prospect of going head-to-head with the Masturbating Bear?

Anonymous said...

As someone who was not in love with Conan's shows, but thinks Conan can be really, really funny (his recent Twitter material), this saddens me.

It saddens me because I'm afraid of The Stern Effect - that he'll be freer artistically, but will diminish into utter unimportance in the media landscape - as has Howard.

And this is doubly sad because we really, really need a network comedy alternative to the smarmy, unfunny, juvenile Leno product.

It's nice for TBS subs and all, but not everyone has TBS, just as not everyone has Sirius...

Schmoker said...

All that matters to me is---is the show good? If he can make a good show, then what do I care if he's on Ukrainian public television (assuming I can get UPTV)? As a viewer, this junk about where and when is meaningless to me. All that matters is that NBC tried to make him into something bland and boring that would appeal to everyone, and it only meant he appealed to almost no one---whereas hopefully his next network will let him do what he wants. If they do that, and if the show is funny, then it's a win for me the viewer AND Conan.

But nothing is a win right now. Only once the show is on is anything a win or a loss.

BigTed said...

I wonder if TBS will repeat each episode of Conan's show several times, the way Comedy Central does for "The Daily Show and "Colbert"? It makes a lot of sense for a basic cable network -- especially because they have one feed for the whole country, which means 11 p.m. shows air at 8 p.m. on the West Coast.

I can watch new episodes of "The Daily Show" at 8 if there's nothing else on, but if there is I can still catch it later that night or the following morning. But if "Conan" only airs at 8, I probably won't watch it when there are new network shows on.

amysusanne said...

I'm not sure why it's assumed that there'd be no legal way for those without TBS to view Conan. Even if full episodes aren't available, I can't imagine that they wouldn't be working on a serious web presence. I don't watch any of their original programming beyond "My Boys", but I know they stream those. I'd guess they'd want to get Conan out there in some way, even if it wasn't full eps right out of the gate.

Simmons seems to have gotten more cynical lately. Or maybe I've just started noticing more moments of cynicism. I believe Lopez is sincerely down with the move. It's basic cable in an newish area for them. It's not *that* important what time he's on, as long as it's in the late night window. And while he's not doing terribly, a buzzworthy lead in can only help him out. Being on after Conan is a really good place for him to be. Conan gets what he wants, Lopez gets more exposure as well as more freedom and, probably, a little bit of security from the network. I think everybody's going to come out well in this.

Anonymous said...

I just wish TBS/TNT would bring back Joe Bob Briggs - now there was a comedy genius!

Anonymous said...

I'm still surprised that cable hasn't had a "hit" show that went directly against a similar network show and beat it. At some point, the ability to do quality television on cable has to outstrip the cheapness of network TV, right?

I watch a lot of TV (and maybe I'm odd) but I don't watch a single show on Fox anymore and only one or two on the other networks. There's just nothing there engaging.

BF said...

Remember during the baseball playoffs a couple of years ago when those ubiquitous Frank Caliendo ads made your eyeballs bleed?

Get ready for the sequel...

Anonymous said...

I think this event ensures there's a podcast this week.

If Conan didn't want midnight then Comedy Central was not an option. They're not moving TDS and Colbert.

I think I assumed he'd go to Fox because he'd want to stick it to NBC and he'd need network backing. But I guess vengeance was no such a motive afterall and he decided on something which would have time to grow and stability for him and his staffers.

Anonymous said...

On Simmon's tweets. There's hardly any similarity between bumping George Lopez on TBS and getting the Tonight Show stripped from you by your network to be replaced with your predecessor.

On the other hand Simmon's called the TDS audience "eggheads" which I think is definitely a euphemism considering Bill O'Reilly's goading "stoned slackers". I happen to also think it's inaccurate: you don't need to know or care about the news to get the jokes on TDS/Colbert. You just have to have a sense of humor.

VisionOn said...

This move just cheapens the Conan brand.

TBS is one of the worst cablenets available. From their exceptionally cheap and mediocre output to their over zealous use of onscreen snipes and clutter, advertising interruptions and marketing devices guaranteed to ruin any show they bring in from another network. It's junk food without the food.

I would rather watch an infomercial than anything on TBS. At least an infomercial doesn't ruin other programming to sell their own product.

I stopped watching TBS years ago and now I don't even think about it when I'm looking for something to watch. After a few days of his new show I doubt I'll even remember Conan is on the air again.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure him and FOX would have met on the same page creatively. Besides, despite this NBC situation, as he explained in his final show, he worked there for a long time and the majority of it wasn't sour apples. So, I was never convinced he wanted to stick it too NBC.

I'm excited he'll be back on but am disappointed because I don't have cable.

Jeff said...

I think he might be biding his time until David Letterman retires.

J said...

It's a smart move, because TBS now has a late night talk show block, and because Conan can work with low expectations (after the initial curiosity, he'll never match Tyler Perry's numbers). But I totally agree with the folks about TBS allowing him a strong web presence. Does TBS do Hulu? This younger demo that they're chasing, they're abandoning cable, too. They're going to the web.

Matt S said...

Conan to TBS makes more sense the more i think about it---i guess i just wanted him to stay on network tv just cause he's always been thus far...but yeah the whole we here at fox don't want you to even think about owning your own show prob soured that situation no matter how much mr. o'brian might have wanted to remain on a network.

If he is waiting for Dave to retire--this will set up a nice little showdown between him and Stewert for the Letterman crown. (doesn't stewert's contract correspond with letterman's at cbs???)

Either ways Kudos Conan for emerging a winner in this---in retrospect i can't believe i didn't think of him at TBS before. i guess i too was prejudiced against ol tbs.

Also him at TBS---you know he's gonna have to start appealing to the Southern demo now right?

Jeff Kelly said...

If Letterman retires, his job will most probably go to Craig Ferguson.

He is generating more and more buzz, his show is produced by Letterman's production company and CBS viewers are already familiar with "the scottish Conan guy".

Also his humour is not too edgy to be in need for dumbing down for 11 o'Clock.

Letterman is already grooming his successor and it won't be Stewart or O'Brian both being a much greater risk (finacially and ratings) for CBS

Anonymous said...

I don't know how much Letterman is "grooming" Fergy. He seems very hands off, it's mostly the producers running the shows. Fergy's got some people in his corner but CBS will ultimately make whatever decision and they might rather go with an American for the 11:35 audience.

But it's way too early to speculate.

J said...

Things change, but I think Ferguson's said before that he's not interested in the earlier slot. Especially after The Late Night Wars II, he said he was happier not worrying about numbers and serving as a lead-in to the Sham-Wow guy.

Wylie said...

Ferguson also does a more unorthodox type of show than the rest of the late night bunch and I really wouldn't want to see him doing a more tradtional show like Dave does which I think would be required of him by CBS if he gets Dave's spot.

But regarding O'Brien this seems like a great move for him. Less pressure, more freedom and his own show to mold as he sees fit.

Anonymous said...

Conan edgy? Sophomoric, smutty and occasionally clever yes. But his awkward interviewing skills and sad-sack narcissism leaves our house cold. His Tonight Show was painful to watch. Ferguson is the most nimble, outrageous and entertaining late night host alive. Stewart and Colbert are smart,inventive and rarely disappoint. NBC's incompetence gave Conan a cachet he never really earned.

Anonymous said...

Just want to say that if you don't notice the not infrequent use of dirty jokes on Jon Stewart or Colbert's show then you're not watching enough.

Some of the better ones in my opinion: John Oliver - Bill Clinton bit during primaries. Stephen Colbert talking about salad in a plastic bag using the obvious but still funny metaphor.


The "smutty"-charge is garbage, imo.

Anonymous said...

Conan is relentlessly puerile . Comics from Lenny Bruce & Mort Sahl to George Carlin & Eddie Murphy have been blue on TV, and brilliant at it. The charge isn't unwholesome, it's unfunny. Modern standards have made more things possible, so it all comes down to what you laugh at. I think of smut as lacking cleverness and wit - just dirty for the shock or giggle factor. Raunchy without witty gets tiresome fast. But then again, so much of entertainment is dumbed down and adolescent. Agreed: Stewart & Colbert are often off color, but they're lightweights compared to Ferguson, who's often plain filthy. It's just that I laugh at him more. And though every talk show is an exercise in subscribing to the neuroses and vanity of its host, I do like to enjoy the guests too. I used to think Coco was just nervous with others, but after all these years I realize that's his style.

TomV-PiscatwayNJ said...

I know this probably won't happen but I wish Conan could do this show from New York again. It always had a great feel to it, and he seemed very comfortable. I doubt TBS would do it, and Conan probably wouldn't want to go through the hassle of moving everybody on his staff again.

I like the move. I always felt that if he signed with FOX, eventually they would screw him somewhere down the line. Conan and Lopez one, two punch could be good.

Andrew said...

"Still, how many late night talk shows does America really need? Are Leno, Letterman, Ferguson, Fallon, Kimmel, Lopez really not enough??"

Conan was doing his own show before four of those guys (Ferguson, Fallon, Kimmel, and Lopez). Also, none of those hosts (with the exception of maybe Kimmel) have yet to really pull in a younger audience, which is Conan's main demographic.

Anonymous said...

Bad Move for Conan. The only night I see him getting decent ratings is Tuesday, because he'll follow "The Office" marathons. People seem to forget that besides going up against Stewart/Colbert, he's going up against Chelsea Handler for his first 1/2 hour. Its a shame NBC screwed up late night, Conan will bomb on TBS, which is a shame, because he & the show are funny. As far as Lopez "happily" going along with his move to midnight, what's he gonna say? "I hate the move"? He's lucky TBS kept him on, he's not funny.