Conan O'Brien returns -- to a changed late-night landscape
To the delight of Team Coco, Conan O'Brien returns to late-night TV after his ouster by Jay Leno. But the competition for young viewers has shifted with the rise of Comedy Central.
Conan O’Brien, the red-haired refugee from NBC’s “Tonight Show,” returns to TV Monday night with “Conan,” his first on-air gig since Jay Leno returned to his old seat and ousted him in February. The hour-long show debuts on the cable outpost TBS at 11 p.m.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Conan O'Brien
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So what can we expect from the returning icon, whose diehard fans have had little to snack on since he went off the air, grew a beard and took his comedy show into small, college-town theaters over the past half year or so?
What we know: The first-week lineup is chock full of old friends and big stars such as Seth Rogan and Tom Hanks. And of course, there are musical acts – Jack White, Soundgarden and Fistful of Mercy – and comedian John Dore. And this past week he posted “Show Zero” – a little snack of an online preview that featured a dancing taco – to prime his loyal fans, Team Coco.
What we don’t know: Will Mr. O’Brien shave his beard on-air?
But besides such pressing matters, there is the question of the changed late-night television environment that the former Simpson’s writer and Harvard graduate now enters.
“I don’t know why anyone would even talk about Jay Leno or David Letterman as far as Conan’s competition anymore,” says Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. Younger TV viewers – the under-30 crowd most coveted by advertisers, he points out – “don’t even know who Jay Leno is.”