In surprise move, Conan O'Brien takes his brand to TBS
Fans are with Coco, and now TBS is joining them.
In a surprise move, Conan O’Brien will host a yet-to-be-named show on the basic-cable channel weeknights at 11 p.m. beginning this fall. And he’ll bring his legions of loyal young fans with him to the channel, now known mainly for sitcom reruns, media experts predicted.
“The good news: I will be doing a show on TBS starting in November! The bad news: I’ll be playing Rudy in the all new Cosby Show,” the carrot-topped comedian tweeted Monday.
O’Brien had been in talks for a show on Fox. Instead, he’ll go head-to-head with “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on cable. O’Brien’s show also will compete with the first half hour of “The Tonight Show,” the show he briefly hosted before NBC gave it back to Jay Leno in a feud that led to O’Brien’s departure.
Neither TBS nor reps for the funnyman would release the details of his new contract, but O’Brien will not return to New York from Los Angeles, the channel told amNewYork.
O’Brien, 46, can and likely will remake TBS in his image, media experts said Monday.
“TBS, which we sort of identify with the cable revolution, hasn’t broken many barriers lately. Now they have,” said Ron Simon, curator of TV and radio at The Paley Center for Media. “They’re trying to get a more contemporary feeling.”
Many of the nearly 1 million members of the “I’m with Coco” Facebook page rejoiced at news of O’Brien’s return to late-night TV.
New Yorkers on Monday were similarly reenergized.
“I didn’t really care what channel he went on as long as he got on. Young people need someone like him instead of Jay Leno,” said Ippolita Di Paola, 24, of Lower East Side. “I’m super stoked … because his tweets have been so sad lately.”
O’Brien is to precede “Lopez Tonight,” which stars funnyman George Lopez, pushing it to the midnight time slot.
O’Brien, who left NBC last January after 17 years amid the very public feud with the network, wanted to make certain Lopez wasn’t similarly knocked around, TMZ.com reported. In fact, Lopez personally contacted O’Brien to convince him to sign with TBS, the network said.
“We’ll have the best hair in late night,” Lopez, 48, joked in a statement.
The shift to cable will help O’Brien’s brand, which he has been building in recent months on Twitter and with a comedy tour, said Hilary Rothing, TV editor at UGO.com.
“Even though it’s basic cable, there’s more freedom there,” she said. “The best stuff that’s on TV right now, in my opinion, is on cable.”
Rothing called the TBS decision “out of left field,” but noted it followed a trend of cable networks trying to capture the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, which advertisers seek. AMC, as an example, was known for classic films before it make the lucrative call to take on original programming such as “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” Rothing said.
“I don’t know if TBS is the best fit for his type of humor, but if he gets to do what he wants to do, it could be a win for him,” she said.
Robert Levin contributed to this story.