I was looking for something to watch on Netflix over the weekend and found a show from Conan O’Brien entitled Conan Without Borders. I’ve been a fan of Conan for years. He quickly became my favorite late night talk show host and I was excited when he took over The Tonight Show. I don’t have to tell you how that ended, but the whole experience allowed me to have some dealings indirectly with Conan and his people (I once owned the domain teamcoco.com and sold it to him after he left The Tonight Show).
Conan Without Borders doesn’t have any new footage, that I can tell, but is instead a re-packaging of Conan’s travel segments from his talk show. If you’ve not watched Conan before, oftentimes he goes to another city for several days (if he’s filming the show in said city, then he’ll usually stay the whole week) and each night they will air an 8-10 minute segment of Conan interacting with the people and places of that city. What this show does is takes each of those 8-10 minute segments and combines them into a single episode. There are 6 episodes in the first “season” and he visits Cuba, Korea, Mexico, Israel, Haiti, and Italy.
The idea of the show is pretty smart. It can potentially open up Conan to more viewers who don’t watch his late night show. It also shows Conan at what I think is his best. In these segments he is his typical goofy self, but in many of these places he really shows his human side and there are moments of the show that are quite touching (in the Haiti, Mexico, and Israel episodes for example). He’s having real conversations with real people about real things. They are not the normal 6 minute canned promo interviews that plague late night talk shows. Each episode was really enjoyable, though I think Haiti and Israel were probably my favorite. Those two I think were really impactful, especially in the current ‘America-First’ political climate.
If you are a fan of Conan or travel shows, or both, I suggest you give it a watch. Some of the segments you may have seen before if you are a regular viewer of Conan, but the segments are so good they hold up in repeated viewings.
On Sunday I made the trip to Missouri’s red-headed step-child, Kansas City, to see Conan O’Brien on his Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television tour. In case you didn’t hear, a while back I transferred the domain teamcoco.com to Conan which ultimately resulted in two free tickets to his show in Kansas City. I took my friend Matt, who lives outside of KC. If you are a fan of Conan’s humor you would definitely enjoy this show. The type of show that Conan is doing on tour is not something I’ve seen before (or not seen in a long while) and the whole idea of this tour might solidify the idea that Conan is a genius. Warning, if you are planning to see this show don’t continue reading as you will get some spoilers.
The show isn’t groundbreaking in and of itself. It’s equal parts comedy and music, a formula that has been done before. What makes it Conan (and his staff) a genius is that this 30-plus city tour came about because of the devotion of his fans. He has capitalized brilliantly over a terrible situation. Instead of fading into the shadows after leaving the Tonight Show, Conan turned himself into a complete brand. He is Coco. He is the underdog. He is the people’s champ. But enough about him, let me tell you about the show.
First off, the seats were quite nice. I got the tickets through Conan’s people so we were in row 18. His opening act, Reggie Watts, was really good. The only issue I had with his performance is that sometimes it was hard to make out the lyrics to his comedic songs because of the way the sound was set up at the venue. His set didn’t last as long as I thought it would either. After about 15 minutes or so of Watts, the Legally Prohibited band came out. The only way I can describe this opening act is the movie Blues Brothers. You know the scene at the end when the band starts playing the introduction song. You had some good old rhythm and blues with loud trombones, saxes, and trumpets? That’s what it was like. I half expected to see Donald “Duck” Dunn and Matt “Guitar” Murphy to come out. It was fantastic. The band was lively, ran through the crowd, and got the crowd pumped for Conan’s entrance onto the stage.
Conan came out and talked about his situation, the tour, etc. He did his typical self-deprecating jokes, which were a hit with the crowd. His old pal Andy Richter came out and joined in on the fun. There were appearances by the masturbating bear self-pleasuring panda, a very funny video featuring Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and the appearance of the Walker Texas Ranger Lever Chuck Norris Handle. KC’s own Jason Sudeikis even came out to pull the handle. In between the skits Conan strapped on his guitar and played some tunes. The show really was awesome.
The only downside to the show was the length. Conan was only on for a little over an hour making the entire show last less than 2 hours. If I paid for the really expensive seats I would have been a bit disappointed, not at the quality of the entertainment, but the length. I know that they are hitting a lot of cities in a short amount of time, but I think they could have easily fit another 15-20 minutes into the show. Other than that, the show was fantastic. It made me look forward to his upcoming show on TBS even more, which in the end, is really what this tour is about.
Surprising news broke today that Conan O’Brien’s show will be moving to cable’s TBS. A lot of people, including myself, were shocked by this, especially since news broke late last week that negotiations with Fox and Conan were moving along smoothly and that his tour would be Conan’s way of wooing the affiliates in the major markets. I thought that Fox would for sure be the new home for O’Brien for sure. One reason why this is so surprising is because Conan is going from the premiere late night gig to basic cable. Many people see this as a step down. It might be, but here is why I think it is a better move for Conan than a move to Fox would be.
Many Fox affiliates around the country air shows like The Office and The Simpson in syndication during the time slot that Conan was going after, 11PM EST. Those syndicated shows bring in a lot of revenue for the local affiliates, so they are obviously reluctant to put Conan on, especially when many see his stint on The Tonight Show as a failure. Now, we can argue on whether or not he really was a failure or if that blame should be handed to NBC, but that’s not what this article is about. Even if the affiliates did decide to air Conan’s show there might not be a guarantee that it would air at 11PM. Affiliates will always do what generates them more money. My local CBS affiliate does not air Craig Ferguson’s late night show right after Letterman. Access Hollywood or some other celebrity gossip show airs, pushing back Ferguson’s show by half an hour. I could see many Fox affiliates doing the same thing. Remember, it was the complaining by affiliates about the awful Jay Leno show that made NBC cancel it.
You also have to look at the fact that virtually every home in America now has TBS. There is less of a distinction between network television and basic cable these days. In fact, basic cable is, in my opinion, creating some of the best shows on television. I read somewhere recently, and unfortunately can’t find it now, that only about 60% of Fox affiliates were willing to air the Conan show at 11pm. Conan really would be reaching more possible viewers with his TBS deal. I also think a deal with a basic cable station will relieve some of the pressure to perform well. Cable seems to give shows more creative freedom and longer grace periods in order to grow. Let’s not forget that, according to TBS, the average age of its viewers is 33. That’s a lot lower than the major networks (in fact Leno’s average viewer age went above Letterman’s 54 to 56 since Leno retook the reigns). That will definitely appeal to advertisers looking to capture the younger market.
After hearing about the move I was definitely shocked and thought it was kind of a mistake. The more I think about it the more it makes sense for Conan. I think we all need to stop thinking about television the way we always have. Television is changing just as quick as all other forms of media. I think Conan’s move will be the next big move to take viewers further away from “traditional” television. I just hope TBS capitalizes on it.
EDIT: I also think that the whole situation with NBC has damaged the Tonight Show brand so going from The Tonight Show to cable isn’t really that big of a step. The Tonight Show was once iconic, but with the two fiascos, both involving NBC and Jay Leno, it isn’t what it used to be.
Since I no longer own the domain teamcoco.com (thanks Conan!) I thought I’d post this news here.
Now the latest numbers are out for “The Tonight Show” and they show Jay Leno winning the latest late-night battle while struggling when compared with longer-term views.
“Tonight Show” (4.4 million viewers, 1.2 adults 18-49 rating) led late-night last week among total viewers and the adult demo, compared with CBS’ “Late Show” (3.8 million, 1.0). That’s the good news for NBC and, truth be told, the most important news.
Then there’s all those nattering comparisons which pee in NBC’s breakfast cereal.
For the past couple weeks, Leno is down from comparable weeks last year, off by 13% in the demo and 3% in viewers. This week his median age is older than Letterman’s (56 for Leno; 54 for Letterman and, for the curious, Conan O’Brien averaged 46). Leno is barely topping Conan O’Brien’s average hosting “Tonight Show” (1.1) — and O’Brien had a far inferior lead-in (The Leno Show Which Shall Not Be Named).
So Leno is doing about the same demo rating as O’Brien only with a better lead-in and a decade older audience… The Hollywood Reporter
A few things to point out about these numbers, and the situation in general. NBC knew that Conan would be drawing less viewers when they agreed to let him take over. They also knew that his audience is considerably younger than Leno’s. That was kind of the trade-off, after all, the younger demographic is the most sought-after group in terms of advertisers. When you look back at Conan’s numbers, they were on par of what was expected demographic-wise. They might not have been as high as NBC would have liked, but as THR points out, Conan had a horrible lead-in. Viewers and critics alike hated The Jay Leno Show. In every sense of the word, it was a failure. If Conan was still hosting, without Jay as the lead-in, his numbers would have undoubtedly improved. They didn’t give him time. I hope the numbers continue to get worse for NBC/Leno, and if Conan competes in the same time slot, I think they will. I think NBC is going to eventually regret the stupid decisions they’ve made and I hope it’s sooner than later.
I would also like to point out that I’m still boycotting NBC. I find alternative ways to view the few NBC shows that I enjoy, but have not watched a single live program on the network (Note: I still watch the far-superior programming on USA Network, a subsidiary of NBC Universal).
In the late night debacle that NBC has created I’m siding with Conan. I think it is a huge mistake for NBC to put Leno back to his old time slot. Not only are they screwing over Conan but they are messing with the Tonight Show’s legacy. Leno should have bowed out gracefully. NBC is even worse for allowing Leno to fail at a prime time show, drawing viewers away from the Tonight Show, then telling him he can have his old time slot back. I hope Conan goes somewhere he is appreciated. I will never watch anything with Jay Leno ever again.
Comedian Patton Oswalt recently gave an interview while promoting his new movie on DVD Big Fan and he talked about the situation. He really sums it up quite well in the interview. The YouTube video has been removed but this quote sums up Conan and Leno perfectly.
“You almost want to take [Leno] aside and ask him: Why do you want this so badly?” said Oswalt. “Because you don’t do anything with it. Whereas Conan clearly wants the show because there’s things he’s dying to do with his writing staff and places he wants to take the show … Conan’s way better than he was at 12:30 p.m., so [NBC] keep your hands off.”
He goes on to say that Leno just wants to go and tell jokes. That’s not a bad thing, but he can do that anywhere. Conan actually cares about the Tonight Show’s legacy and wants to push that forward. He also points to Leno’s reputation as a nice guy in public but how he does little mean things when he doesn’t get what he wants and compares him to Richard Nixon. Conan has finally responded to this all. If you haven’t read Conan’s statement, I’ve posted it below. I suggest you read it now.
People of Earth: In the last few days, I’ve been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I’ve been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I’ve been absurdly lucky. That said, I’ve been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.
Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.
But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.
Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.
So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.
There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.
Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it’s always been that way.
Edit: I’ve thrown up a site in support of Conan. Download media to support Conan and contact NBC to voice your opinion. Team Coco – I’m with Coco