I’m anxious to see Conan’s premiere tonight. While I was never a consistent viewer of his NBC efforts, I have long admired him for his drive and bravery.
Remember how he began his Late Night experience? Conan had been a writer/producer on the Simpsons and NBC surprised the business by naming him to their post-Tonight time period back in the early 90’s after Letterman left for CBS.
When first announced, I gave both NBC and Conan credit for taking a shot on the big stage….both parties would allow this talented guy to learn his new craft live, on the fly, in front of all of us, with big money and reputations at stake. As it turned out, Conan was the real gambler here as NBC’s true committment amounted to a series of 6 week contracts, designed to protect NBC’s downside and put real pressure on Conan and his team. We learned, right there, what kind of fighter Conan O’Brien really is.
Tonight, Conan goes on to his next act and I am happy for him. Deserving of another chance and obviously anxious to stake new turf, Conan is ready to fly and all the pieces seem to be in place. Turner‘s marketing efforts have been non-stop and I expect tune-in to be spectacular…..maybe not as large as the 6 million viewers who watched his Tonight Show premiere, but sizable none the less.
Conan fits perfectly in Turner’s drive to establish TBS not only as a place for comedy, but as a younger destination for viewers and advertisers. That effort really began back in the Jamie Kellner era. Jamie always knew the value of the younger audience and pushed Turner execs to buy off-network rights to Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond and the like.
My guess is that this week marks one of those huge turning points for the Turner gang. Conan’s stage, and the young guests he will feature, will enable Turner programmers to begin new and deeper relationships with younger talent and I believe their efforts to build new comedy franchises will greatly improve. In time, TBS will become as viable a destination for comedy writers and producers as TNT has become on the drama side.
Considering the dearth of truly funny comedies on television today, I, for one, am looking forward to their coming efforts.