We’ve got a new home for Coney!
Conan O’Brien has announced he’s going to TBS in a five-year deal at the network starting in November. He’ll start at 11 p.m. and George Lopez, the newest late-night show that started in November, will move to midnight. It’s the rarest of rare deals in Hollywood, where everyone wins. EVERYONE.
CONAN WINS: For all the talk about how in-demand he was, it sure didn’t seem like Conan’s phone was ringing off the hook, did it? It was noted his new tour schedule made sure to keep the day of the Fox upfronts open, but it never seemed like Fox was going to be the right fit. I’m not sure how much money local affiliate Fox 56 makes off Seinfeld reruns, but I know they’re on my radar every night as they are for my friends. I kept meaning to call Jon Cadman, the Fox 56 head honcho, to see what he thought about Conan, but never got around to it. But the word seemed to be that the Fox affiliates were pretty happy with their 11 p.m. and didn’t really want to fail at another talk show after the Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers and Magic Johnson debacles. The last thing Conan needed in his life was another battle with affiliates.
The one major criticism of Conan’s time on The Tonight Show, the one even he or his people or his fans didn’t dispute, was that his style just wasn’t a good fit for the 11:35 time spot. At 12:35? No problem, people love it, and his ratings were always good enough to justify his slightly off-kilter brand of humor. But 11:35 just didn’t seem to work for his sarcastic, self-deprecating, sometimes raunchy, thinking-man’s comedy. No one disputed the 11:35 vs. 12:35 claim because it was completely valid. Then reports started coming out about TV god Dick Ebersol saying he tried to help Conan essentially dumb down his show for the 11:35 time-slot, and Conan refused his help. So if the show didn’t play to an 11:35 audience, and if Conan had no intention or inclination to even try and make his show more accessible for an 11:35 audience, then why would he want to try 11 p.m.? That’s the wild-card of cable. People normally don’t stumble onto something on cable — they go there for a reason. At least that’s what the theory always was, it may have changed by now. So the people tuning in for Conan will want to be there and the ratings he is expected to bring seem to be enough for TBS.
GEORGE LOPEZ WINS: George Lopez has been completely off my radar. The only reason I was happy his show started back in November was because it took off the Seinfeld/Friend/Family Guy/My Name is Earl 11 p.m. spot TBS had been filling, allowing me to catch up on my DVR’d shows from earlier in the night and not tempting me to watch TBS. I seriously doubt that was the intention when the Lopez show started. He was brought on specifically to give minorities a sorely needed voice in late-night talk, and he’s done that. Now with the Conan lead-in to his show at midnight, he just may get people like me to watch. Watching the end of Conan and then happening onto Lopez would be the only way I would watch, I’m pretty sure. TBS must be happy with Lopez’s work. The network will have gone from having no late-night talk shows to two hours of it in a year. And if they didn’t like Lopez or been disappointed with his show, they would have just canned him when they signed Conan. Obviously, TBS thinks niche late-night talk shows are profitable, and that Lopez is a big part of that. It’s very smart of him to embrace this:
TBS WINS: When I was growing up, the only reason I watched TBS was for the Atlanta Braves. Nothing more or less. Now, it’s basically the repeat station. That’s good for me — I will always, always, always watch reruns of Seinfeld, Friends, Family Guy, Saved by the Bell, Fresh Prince and The Office. They’re just great shows that make me laugh no matter how many times I’ve seen them. But every now and then, reaching a new market isn’t a bad thing. And unless you wanna keep paying Tyler Perry a kagillion bucks, you have to figure out other ways to have original programming. Talk shows are a perfect way to do that. They’re cheap, don’t require that much commitment and don’t fill up a lot of time on the schedule. If TBS wants more original programming that doesn’t include My Boys, this is a good way to go about it.
FOX WINS: They keep their affiliates happy, they let everyone else duke out the late-night fight and they concentrate their money where it belongs, in prime time. When the NFL contract comes up in 2013, and NBC wants to bid for the NFC games but then looks at the books and says, “We can’t go higher than such-and-such, we’re still paying off Conan,” Fox might be able to come in and say “We can go over such-and-such, because we didn’t pay Conan $20 trillion to scratch by with a 1.8 rating.” Sometimes just staying out of the fight is better than winning it. This is probably one of those times.
NBC AND JAY LENO WIN: When you look at the total amount of viewers, Leno is going to trounce Conan because that’s how it goes. Network TV still can’t compare with cable TV, for the most part. So that’s the spin you’ll be seeing next year coming out of NBC’s press office — “Leno still late-night champ!” even though they’ll gloss over the fact that he’s doing the same routine he’s been doing since the 80s, which, coincidentally, is the last time he said anything funny. Although he’s losing his bandleader, the last person that found Leno funny.
Some extra links to catch up with:
If you asked me this question before the first Iron Man came out in 2008 — would Iron Man 2 have a chance to set the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time — I would have laughed you right out of the theater where I saw Iron Man a good three weeks (at least) after it came out. Now? It’s got so much working for it, I think it could, could, be possible. I just don’t think it will. But since then, Robert Downey Jr. has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world, the movie is a viral darling and it’s releasing on what is now “Marvel Weekend” — the first weekend in May, where Spider-Man 3, Iron Man and Wolverine have thrived the last three years, where Thor will be successful next year and where Avengers will be possibly the biggest movie ever in 2012. That’s six straight years of huge Marvel comic book movies on that weekend. It’s worth $100 million this year, easy. When you take into account everything else — Downey, the Web love — it really does have a chance to make that kind of money. If it would be a 3-D movie, then it would be a no-brainer that it would be the best opening weekend ever. Plus, I like the trailer more and more.
Speaking of 3-D, I’ve yet to see a 3-D movie because it really doesn’t do that for me. I mean, after you’ve seen The Drew Carey Show in 3-D with Oswald and Lewis starting a food fight, what else is there? So for now, I’m going to shy away from movies that weren’t shot specifically in 3-D because word is it looks like poop. Good for Jon Favreau, director of Iron Man 2, who probably had to move heaven and earth to keep the studio from converting it to 3-D to make a couple extra bucks. Every director in Hollywood will be going through that same thing in the next couple months/years.
Good to see Tim Riggins is getting some Hollywood love. I didn’t think he was that good as Gambit — and apparently neither did Marvel since there don’t seem to be any plans for a Gambit franchise — but he’s done enough in Friday Night Lights to warrant a gamble. I’m pretty surprised though that the initial stories about him getting one of the leads in Battleship doesn’t mention his relationship with Battleship director Peter Berg, who was the executive producer of FNL. Homework, people, you gotta do it!
If you’re looking for the end dates of your favorite ABC shows for the season — or for the series — here it is. Nothing that surprising, we already knew most of it. I’m still shocked the network is moving Lost from its normal spot to a Sunday airing. But it’s probably the perfect show to do it with, if you’re going to move a finale around. The average person who’s never watched Lost isn’t going to say all of a sudden, “You know, I don’t know squat about this show, I have no idea who Matthew Fox even is and can’t even spell ‘Oceanic,’ but what the heck, let’s watch the finale on Tuesday!” only to find out it already happened a couple days earlier. People looking for the Lost finale will know exactly where it is.