The Three Strike Rule: Coco Goes to Cable

Written by Television, The Three Strike Rule

Like the rest of the entertainment industry, my jaw hit the floor at the news that Conan O’Brien would be taking his late night talk show to TBS and not the Fox network, as was thought by just about everyone on the planet who cares about this nonsense. Once I closed my mouth, I concluded that this is going to be great for all Conan O’Brien fans.

Conan’s new home will work their asses off to make sure that Conan gets whatever he needs to make his show not just as good as his old NBC endeavors, but better. When interviewed by Entertainment Weekly, Turner Network President, Steve Koonin, said “(Conan) can do whatever he wants to do here. We think he is an incredibly talented artist and we want him to make his show and if he wants it edgier, we are 100 percent supportive.”  Whatever he wants to do? Nice. Remember at the end of his tenure as The Tonight Show host, when his comedy was no holds barred and he didn’t give a shit about NBC? That was some of his best material in years! If TBS stays out of his way, Conan can achieve comedy gold.

TBS (and Turner in general) is one of the best networks at marketing their original series. As the so-called TV critic for Popdose, I get at least three emails a week from the Turner marketing trying to raise awareness and boost the popularity of their shows. They believe in what they’re putting on the air, even if it’s a Tyler Perry sitcom. Come October, when the baseball playoffs begin on TBS, you’ll be hearing plenty about Conan and his new show as TBS will be advertising the hell out of it, just as they did the George Lopez show last year.

As my fellow Popdose contributor (and TV critic for Bullz-Eye), Will Harris, will concur, TBS knows what they’re doing with the Internet. They understand the medium and how to use it to inform and further entertain their target audience. Just who is their target audience? Only the same people who watch Conan O’Brien on a regular basis. Moreover, Conan has embraced the Internet as a way to reach his audience. He was doing it with Late Night and he’s been doing ever since the debacle over The Tonight Show. This is a merger of like minded people and I predict it will succeed.

With TBS, Conan joins a network that has re-branded itself as a comedy channel. Each day, TBS reruns hit sitcoms like Seinfeld, Friends, Everybody Love Raymond, Family Guy and The Office. Additionally, they are one of the few networks to air originally programming featuring predominantly African American casts (two produced by Tyler Perry and one by Ice Cube) and they have had critical success with the hilarious (but underrated) 10 Items or Less and the very fine My Boys. At TBS, Conan will be the equivalent of Letterman going to CBS; the goofy red haired Irish kid will be the crown jewel for the cable network.

One of the issues of going over to Fox was that many affiliates were reluctant to give up the lucrative off network syndicated programming that aired at 11:00 and 11:30 PM. Reruns of sitcoms like The Simpsons and Two and a Half Men bring in a lot of advertising dollars for these Fox affiliates, who air their late news at 10:00 PM. If Conan had gone to Fox, there was no guarantee that his show would have been on at the same time in every market. Making matters worse, he would have been expected to pull in huge ratings comparable to what he was doing at NBC and that just wouldn’t have happened. Thus, there is a chance he could have been cancelled within a year and branded a failure all over again. Who the hell wants that? If Conan delivers the exact same ratings to TBS that he had toward the end of his Tonight Show run, he’ll bring the network some of their biggest numbers ever.

A lot of people have been griping, saying that Conan made a mistake by going to TBS. Really? Why, because it’s basic cable? Seems to me that two of the most critically acclaimed variety/comedy shows on television are on basic cable, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Conan won’t necessarily be competing with Jay and Dave anymore; he’ll be competing with Jon and Stephen. This will only make all three shows sharper and more entertaining.

Finally, once Conan has settled into his groove, he’ll most likely begin developing new content for TBS and possibly the other Turner networks. This means more quality comedy series may be on their way and will be given a chance to find their legs. Think about it, if Andy Barker P.I., the cult favorite comedy that starred O’Brien’s loyal friend, Andy Richter, had aired on TBS, it probably would have lasted more than six episodes.

So, you know what I’ll be doing on November 1st at 11:00. What about you? What do you think?