Watching the classy late-night transition from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman to Stephen Colbert, it is hard not to feel a little badly for Conan O’Brien and the way he was set on fire several years ago when Leno grudgingly handed off the Tonight Show torch to him — and then refused to go away. NBC’s unwillingness to commit to O’Brien despite his lengthy tenure in the 12:30 slot created the biggest bungle in late-night history. A large financial settlement didn’t ease the sting of O’Brien realizing his dream of filling the seat once occupied by his idol Johnny Carson, only to lose it seven months later. O’Brien’s long past that, now, and comfortable and confident in his 11 PM slot at TBS with a show as strong in quality viral video bits as Fallon’s and Jimmy Kimmel’s, and a mischievous spirit that seemed to have gone missing when O’Brien tried catering to the masses from that cavernous Tonight Show set. His show is as sharp now as any time since the lanky redhead came from The Simpsons writers room to NBC in 1993 and honed his distinctive, self-deprecating style for the college and insomniac crowd. Here, O’Brien talks about his place in the shifting late-night landscape, and how social media has played to his strength.
DEADLINE: Your TBS show recaptured something lost during the Tonight Show stint, that “I can’t believe we’re getting away with this, don’t tell the grown-ups” vibe. What’s the biggest difference between the show you do now and the one you did for so long at NBC? CONAN O’BRIEN: The biggest difference is how much social media has changed the DNA of what I do. I came up in the old system 21 years ago, when Carson had just retired and there were only a couple of us doing this. It felt then like I was the awkward kid in the tree house, looking down on the adults. When we started the show at TBS, I had to jump into social media overnight. I didn’t even have a Twitter account, but it was so important in launching my national tour and how I stayed alive during that down period after The Tonight Show. Read More »
Conan O’Brien launched his late-night show on TBS in November 2010. Fifteen months later, the show was extended though April 2014. Now TBS is making a big statement that O’Brien is there to stay, renewing Conan through 2018. With Jay Leno retiring this spring and David Letterman set to follow him, O’Brien next year will become the new doyen of late night where he recently marked his 20th anniversary. Year to date, Conan is averaging a modest 862,000 viewers in Live+7. His strength is in younger viewers, topping a number of late-night competitors among adults 18-34 including The Late Show With David Letterman, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Arsenio Hall Show, Chelsea Lately and Watch What Happens: Live. Conan also has been a digital juggernaut, with O’Brien counting 10.7 million Twitter followers, more than any other late-night star on cable. Last year, O’Brien expanded his late-night presence on TBS with a companion,The Pete Holmes Show, which is produced by his company Conaco.
From the Interesting Timing department: The same day Craig Ferguson tells his audience he’s leaving The Late Late Show in December, Chelsea Handler turns up a guest on TBS’ Conan. There’s been no shortage of chatter about what the future holds for the soon-to-be-former host of E!’s Chelsea Lately. Several days ago on Ellen, Handler ended her teasing about a CBS late-night gig, saying she “would never be on a regular network”. And when Conan O’Brien mentions the scuttlebutt about Handler being close to signing to do a Netflix show, she retorts, “Everything that’s been printed about me is a lie.” Later, in something of a backpedal/attention getter, she adds, “Everything’s an option, honestly.” But O’Brien gets the last laugh in this clip — literally. Have a look:
Conan O’Brien will devote most of his TBS show Tuesday to guest Mel Brooks, who will talk about close friend Sid Caesar, who died this week at age 91. Brooks famously worked with Caesar on historically significant TV programs including NBC’s comedy series Your Show Of Shows, which aired in the early ’50s and boasted a writing staff that included Brooks, Neil Simon and Carl Reiner, among others. Conan boasts the youngest-skewing audience of the late-night talkers. Back in the fall of 2013, O’Brien did a Serious Jibber Jabber with Brooks about the latter’s long career in film and TV. Watch here:
The classiest anchor in San Diego also happens to be the busiest promoter of Paramount‘s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Will Ferrell has appeared as Ron Burgundy in Dodge ads, is getting Emerson College’s journalism school renamed The Ron Burgundy School of Communication (OK, for one day), and even wrote a book that Ferrell as Burgundy promoted last night on Conan. While it can be debated whether Paramount and Farrell are overexposing themselves in the run-up to the film’s December 20 release, he nailed it last night singing the campaign song for “let’s call him embattled” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford – proving that this style of Sacha Baron Cohen-esque marketing can work wonders when it hits the zeitgeist head-on. Check it out:
An old Conan promo that simulated the nails-on-chalkboard sounds of the Emergency Alert System looks have cost TBS $25,000. The Federal Communications Commission this week alerted TBS it is slapping the cable network with a fine in that amount over a 2012 Conan promo it telecast that used the well-known sounds intended to warn viewers of national emergencies.
The FCC — the government agency charged with fining those who misuse the distinctive EAS sounds — has given Turner notice of the fine for “the transmission of false distress signals,” unless it can dissuade the commission within 30 days.
The FCC this past February launched an investigation into a viewer complaint about a 2012 promo for TBS’s Conan O’Brien late-night show. Turner admitted, the FCC said, that it produced and distributed a promotion, for use prior to April 26, 2012, that included a “sound effect” in part derived from an online source, which the network insisted was not part of the actual EAS code, but did include a prerecorded “sound burst” followed by a “bars and tone” sound. Turner “admits that the promotion was not made in connection with an actual national, state or local emergency or authorized test of the EAS,” the FCC said. Turner also argued the promo was produced within such a “tight timeframe” that the production team never submitted it for S&P review. Since May of ’12, all promos for Conan’s show have undergone S&P scrutiny, TBS pledged, according to the FCC.
SPOILER ALERT! JJ Abrams has taken some heat about a scene in Star Trek Into Darkness where Kirk (Chris Pine) gets a quick look at Dr. Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) in her underwear. Answering to charges of sexism on Conan, Abrams said he thought the scene was a trade-off because Kirk also shows some skin — and then the filmmaker revealed a cut scene of Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays the villain) showering. Check it out:
TBS has renewed Conan O’Brien‘s late-night talk show for another two years.Conan has been picked up through November 2015, when it will mark its fifth-year anniversary on TBS. “When we invited Conan O’Brien to come to TBS, we knew he would bring with him a passionately loyal following of young adults,” said TBS’ head of programming Michael Wright. “We are proud to extend our relationship with Conan as he continues to forge the future of late night. I just wish we didn’t decide to tell him on April Fools’ Day.” While Conan has not been a top ratings performer, TBS touts its median age, which is younger than any other late-night talk show, and the show’s leading online activity and engagement. Conan is produced by O’Brien’s Conaco, which is also behind a new late-night talk show hosted by Pete Holmes that will launch behind Conan this fall.
Conan O’Brien’s late-night TBS show is getting a companion. The network has ordered a four-week run of a new untitled late-night comedy series starring comedian Pete Holmes and produced by O’Brien’s Conaco production company, which is also behind O’Brien’s talker Conan. The Pete Holmes series will launch in fall 2013 and air four nights a week (Monday-Thursday) at midnight, following Conan. Taped before a live studio audience, the new show will combine sketches, short films, live comedy, field pieces and in-studio guest interviews. O’Brien, Jeff Ross, David Kissinger, Nick Bernstein and Dave Rath executive produce.
Conaco has had the right to program the slot after Conan as part of O’Brien’s original deal with TBS, which he signed in 2010, shortly after his exit from NBC. The agreement mirrors that of David Letterman’s production company Worldwide Pants, which owns/produces both Late Show and Late Late Show. Conaco’s initial focus was on getting Conan off the ground, with TBS airing various repeats after it. It gradually began exploring potential companions, with TBS ordering a pilot for a Holmes-fronted talk show in July. “Pete Holmes is an enormously likable performer with an agile and innovative mind,” said O’Brien. “I’m really looking forward to his show, and I’ve already had my son program my DVR.” Read More »
The Disability Rights Legal Center today filed separate lawsuits against Time Warner Entertainment’s Conan and Warner Bros Television Distribution’s Dr Drew’s Lifechangers claiming that the shows failed to accommodate an audience member in a wheelchair. In the suits filed today in Los Angeles, plaintiff Emmanuel Ramirez said he was denied access to both tapings last year, with Lifechangers refusing him tickets outright because the show’s Glendale, CA-based Victory Studios “isn’t wheelchair accessible”, according to the suit. Conan tapes at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank. The lawsuits (read them here and here) assert claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act and related California civil rights laws, and seek policy changes, the removal of barriers, and damages “so that Mr. Ramirez and other people with disabilities can have the opportunity to participate in television show audiences”, the DRLC said today. Warner Bros had no official comment.
The comic’s become a cable industry icon since he moved from NBC to TBS, and he assured execs this morning that they have nothing to fear as new technologies and social media change the rules of engagement with TV viewers. “I was forced to embrace this world” after he lost his Tonight Show gig in 2010, he said this morning at The Cable Show. He discovered that unlike the old days, where the goal was simply to drive people to the tube, getting audiences “emotionally involved” has become just as important. For example, O’Brien says it doesn’t hurt ratings to release clips and other information ahead of a broadcast. When Will Ferrell recently appeared on Conan in character as Ron Burgundy to reveal his plan to make a sequel of The Anchorman, “we chipped his appearance out into bite-sized pieces and put it out everywhere.” That resulted in higher ratings for the night. Even people who already know what’s coming “say, ‘You know what, it’s 5 minutes of 11; I’m going to check out Conan‘.” Unlike his days at NBC, where he says there was “a condescending attitude about the Web,” Turner Broadcasting has been “absolutely a dream come true…They’re up for anything we’re up for.” O’Brien contrasted the new approach to TV to the strategies used when Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show. Audiences used to wait for the anniversary special to see famous clips like the one of actor Ed Ames throwing Read More »
Three years after it first signed former NBC late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien, TBS has extended his late-night series Conan through April 2014. “I am excited to continue my run with TBS because they have been fantastic partners,” O’Brien said. “This means I’ll be taping episodes of Conan well into the Ron Paul presidency.” After a huge ratings start, Conan settled into a modest ratings territory, keeping its appeal to younger viewers. In announcing the show’s renewal, TBS touts a recent streak of 3 consecutive months of audience growth. Year-to-date, Conan has averaged 1.1 million viewers, with 407,000 adults 18-34 and 702,000 adults 18-49. “We are proud to be in business with Conan O’Brien for the long run,” said TNT and TBS’ head of programming Michael Wright. “Night after night, Conan and his team have put together terrific shows that draw a young and fiercely loyal audience. As if that weren’t enough, they have also built a dynamic online presence that keeps fans engaged like no other show in late night.” O’Brien has 5 million followers on Twitter, while video clips from Conan logged more than 83 million views in 2011. Last year, the show traveled to New York. In June 2012, Conan will do a week of shows in Chicago. TBS’ relationship goes beyond the talk show. O’Brien’s Warner Bros. TV-based company Conaco recently produced a comedy pilot for the network. Produced by Conaco, Conan is executive … Read More »
His movie may have ultimately been successful in edgingThe Smurfs for the weekend box-office crown, but Cowboys & Aliens star Harrison Ford still has a lot of rage towards the blue gnomes bottled up and let some of it out on Conan tonight.
Considering how Warner Bros fought me all weekend just because I pointed out that Green Lantern underperformed at the box office, it’s amusing that Time Warner sibling TBS let Conan O’Brien air this on his show Monday:
Two and a Half Men co-star Jon Cryer went on Conan tonight to respond to Charlie Sheen’s recent comments, in which he called him a troll. (Sheen has since issued a “half-apology” or “apol” to his former co-star.) This marks Cryer’s return to Conan. His last appearance on the talk show in January proved ominous. During the interview, Cryer quipped: “I’m checking TMZ, as I do every day, to know if I have to go to work at all.” The next morning, Sheen was hospitalized, leading to the actor’s rehab treatment, subsequent meltdown and firing as well as the show’s cancellation for this season.
On tonight’s Conan, Two and a Half co-star Jon Cryer talks about how it is working with Men star and tabloid fixture Charlie Sheen: “I’m checking TMZ, as I do every day, to know if I have to go to work at all.” To which Conan responded: “I was there once myself.” Other funny stuff.
From Ray Richmond, who is contributing to Deadline Hollywood’s TCA Coverage: Speaking to the media en masse for the first time since landing last fall with his own late-night chatfest at TBS, Conan O’Brien expressed that he’s never been happier – so happy, in fact, that he no longer sees a need to fire shots at his longtime NBC teammate-turned-nemesis Jay Leno.
Meeting TV critics on the Warner Bros. set of his show as part of the semi-annual TCA event, Conan was asked if he ever saw any scenario where he would again speak to Leno. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I don’t think, I mean…there’s nothing to be figured out. We all know the story and we all know what happened. Life is short. I’ve got kids and a family and a life to live and I’m really happy here so I don’t think about it too much. And I’m sure he’s busy.”
Compare that dismissal to Conan’s reaction when it was pointed out he’d received a holiday phone call from David Letterman. “He wanted to know what I was wearing,” he quipped. “Sick man. No, it was just a quick call. We hadn’t spoken for a long time. He just called to basically say I haven’t checked in on you and just wanted to make sure we were good. I said, ‘We’ve always been good.’ I said, ‘You didn’t owe me a phone call, but I appreciate it.’ It … Read More »
According to TBS, Conan got a significant lift from DVR viewing for the period from its Nov. 8 premiere til the end of the year, adding some 361,000 18-49 viewers and 236,000 viewers in the 18-34 demographic. With the time-shifted viewer numbers included, Conan is topping the rankings of all late-night shows on broadcast or cable in the 18-49 and 18-34 demos. (He is behind his broadcast counterparts in total viewers.) Here are the lists: Read More »