Monday, April 12, 2010



Well, the Late Shift has happened. To cable.

Conan O'Brien today signed the deal to put him on at the 11pm timeslot on TBS, bumping George Lopez to the next hour. Apparently it was George's own stamp of approval with the whole arrangement that was key to getting the deal done -- George phoned Conan personally to give it his blessing.

So Conan goes to TBS, which shocks a lot of people who thought a deal with FOX was all but wrapped up.

But we should have known from that report a couple of weeks back where O'Brien's manager Gavin Polone was telling the press that he didn't know where the stories were coming from about a deal with FOX being done -- that things were far from settled. Anyway, here's what Nikki Finke had to say about the negotiations. She seemed to imply this was the game plan all along, to go to cable. I don't know how much truth there is to that; I think he would have jumped to a network if he could have.

My sense is that Conan probably would have gone to FOX, but FOX dropped the ball in their dealings with him. Who's to blame for this? Why, the usual suspects: these FOX affiliates who were waffling on carrying his show!

These bloody affiliates were still wanting to call the shots and schedule lucrative sitcom reruns in time slots that would have been perfect for Conan's show. Of course, it was the affiliates who caused Conan to be canned by NBC to begin with, because they were the ones demanding Jay Leno's removal from prime time!

I think what had to have been lurking at the back of the minds of Team Conan was the possibility that Conan might get network clearance initially, but that the affiliates would turn on Conan and put the sitcoms back on in his place if the ratings weren't what they hoped for initially. I don't think Conan's people trusted the affiliated stations anymore or had any confidence these local stations would be in their corner if times got rough again. Look what happened when the going got rough at NBC: these affiliates were absolutely the ones who helped throw Conan overboard! The NBC affiliates were responsible for getting him knifed; the FOX affiliates could easily do the same thing in the future.

I would not be surprised one bit if Conan's people were fed up with these f***ing local stations and had the attitude of "f*** the affiliates! We'll go to cable and do our own thing."

Another thing about this TBS deal is that Conan will own his show, much the same way Johnny Carson owned his. But I think the key in this deal is that by going to cable, which is known for looser censorship and more creative freedom than at the networks, Conan will be free to be himself once again. No more trying to be the King of Late Night -- he tried that routine for seven lousy months at NBC. Now Conan can stop tailoring his humor to these morons in middle America who have no taste in comedy, and he can go back to being a wild and crazy cult comedian playing to the only audience that counts: his fanatics.

I think we'll end up with a better show as a result of it. Really, do you want to see yet another watered-down Conan network TV effort? No! At the Tonight Show, Conan got good only by the very end, when he was free to be the rebel trashing the powers at be at NBC. And by going to cable, Conan can keep on being a rebel and help bring network television to its knees.

All I gotta say is that this is yet another instance of network television dropping the ball yet again, losing another quality piece of programming to cable television. All the best shows on TV already seem to be on cable anyway, and now so is Conan O'Brien. The man too funny to be allowed on television is now, officially, too funny for network television.

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