Conan O'Brien Heads To Cable's TBS Former Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien is headed to TBS for a talk show expected to debut in November. Michele Norris talks to Andrew Wallenstein of The Hollywood Reporter about the surprise announcement.
NPR logo

Conan O'Brien Heads To Cable's TBS

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Conan O'Brien Heads To Cable's TBS

Conan O'Brien Heads To Cable's TBS

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Conan O'Brien has a new gig - well, two new gigs. Tonight, he opens a two-month standup comedy tour in Eugene, Oregon, and cable station TBS just announced that in November, Conan O'Brien will take their 11 p.m. slot Monday through Thursday. O'Brien was, of course, shoved out of "The Tonight Show" on NBC earlier this year.

Well, here to talk about all this is Andrew Wallenstein of the Hollywood Reporter.

Welcome, Andrew.

Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Reporter, Hollywood Reporter): Hi there.

NORRIS: I understand that this took a lot of people by surprise.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Oh, completely. I mean, all the reporting in recent days or weeks has had Conan O'Brien going to Fox. There has been so much analysis of this, and lo and behold, TBS comes out of nowhere and lands Conan.

NORRIS: How did they do this?

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Well, I'm sure money had a lot to do with it. Ultimately, one of the things that was being reported regarding the Fox deal that was in the works was he was going to get less money than he was getting at NBC. And my guess is - although this hasn't been finalized or confirmed - is he's going to get a deal through TBS comparable, if not more so, than he was getting at NBC.

NORRIS: Now, Conan O'Brien has made his own announcement on Twitter. It says, the good news: I'll be doing a new show on TBS starting in November. The bad news: I'll be playing Rudy on the all-new "Cosby Show." Conan O'Brien has built a new persona for himself in the Twitter universe.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Yeah, he has. It's kind of been an interesting thing given, you know, he - this has sort of been his way of speaking to the masses - not necessarily every day - but in the absence of a talk show, it's not bad to do your thing on Twitter.

NORRIS: Now, there's another late-night - or at least not all too late -let's say, evening host on TBS, George Lopez. How's he doing?

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Well, George will still be on TBS. He's actually moving back an hour. And the interesting thing to read about this report this morning was that Lopez was actually instrumental in bringing Conan over. And that's actually smart. Because even though he's moving back an hour, he's going to have a much more solid lead-in. I wouldn't be surprised if he had more viewers at midnight than he was having previous at 11.

NORRIS: Is this the kind of thing that could make a cable network, attracting a well-known personality like this?

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Well, I would hesitate to say make in the case of TBS. TBS is kind of one of cable's best-known secrets. It's this quiet giant that's been doing audience levels comparable to broadcast television for quite a while. I think adding Conan is sort of the cherry on top for them. You know, in the sense that if you were to think of cable as sort of like a classroom, TBS isn't exactly the cool kid, but I think this will go a long way in improving its cool credibility.

NORRIS: So, who's he up against in this timeslot?

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Well, 11 o'clock means--is significant for what he's not up against, which is, you know, the Letterman, Leno, traditional players in the world. I mean, that was also one of the reasons he didn't go with the Fox deal ultimately, was that he would have been on at all different times around the country and he may not even necessarily been on and around the country. TBS levels that playing field - 11 o'clock everywhere.

NORRIS: You know, there is an (unintelligible), a saying in the entertainment world that you have to be present. You have to stay in front of your audience. And he's had quite an absence now from the small screen. That Twitter account that we were talking about earlier, is that what's helped keep him alive and keep him in touch with his fans in that interim period and will it make a difference?

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Absolutely. I mean, let's be clear: a Twitter account is nowhere near the kind of exposure a broadcast late-night TV show gives. But I think that it's a combination of both Twitter and the fact that he's doing these live comedy shows now that - shows that - I mean, Conan, I think, really came out of this whole controversy with NBC with some newfound momentum, and it was key that he continued to ride that, and will continue to ride that until we see him on TBS in November.

NORRIS: Andrew Wallenstein, thank you very much.

Mr. WALLENSTEIN: Thank you.

NORRIS: Andrew Wallenstein is a reporter for the Hollywood Reporter.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.