[Update: Despite what Turner CEO John Martin reportedly told The Wrap, TBS president Kevin Reilly denies that Conan is shifting to a weekly format in a statement to TV Line:
“At this time, we have no plans to change the format or frequency of Conan. In addition to Conan’s daily responsibilities to his talk show, we continue to have very ambitious plans that will further broaden and evolve our relationship with Conan.”
But in speaking with Deadline, Conan executive producer Jeff Ross offered more clarity, revealing that discussions are underway for how to transform the show, but it may not happen before 2018, when O’Brien’s contract with TBS expires. Ideas floated were reducing the show to 30-minutes a night, or fewer shows a week, but a final decision has not yet been made and may not be for some time. What does seem certain is that in the future, Conan will be formatted differently and in a way that plays to what O’Brien and his team most enjoy (like the remote episodes). For now, our original story follows below.]
The late night TV shakeups aren’t over just yet. While 2015 saw a radical shift in the late night landscape, 2016 was the year all the new folks settled into their respective niches. Samantha Bee exploded as a must-watch addition to the genre, John Oliver continued to hone his deep-dives at HBO, and Seth Meyers emerged as the best late-night host as Late Night with Seth Meyers pivoted to a POV-oriented show, mixing up the traditional network late night series. But now Conan O’Brien is due for a shift, and it’s a striking one to say the least.
Per The Wrap, Conan is moving to a weekly format rather than a nightly show, marking a significant shift for the host/comedian who’s been part of the late night TV lineup since carving out his own sense of humor at Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He subsequently took over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno, then NBC panicked about pissing Leno off and swiftly kicked Conan out, put Leno back in, and then replaced Leno once more with Jimmy Fallon. Basically, NBC’s handling of the entire situation was a nightmare, and O’Brien got crazy shafted.
But since his Tonight Show tenure, O’Brien has worked to craft a different kind of show at TBS, and in recent years has really come into his own with regular shows set in interesting locales. He took Conan to Cuba, Berlin, and South Korea, infusing each of these “destination” shows with his sense of humor but also a significant degree of curiosity, almost serving as a semi-travelogue.
It’s unclear exactly how Conan will differ in a weekly format, but it’s one that has served fellow TBS show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee incredibly well. Moreover, O’Brien had trouble contending with the crowded late night landscapes at NBC, CBS, and ABC given that he’s on basic cable, so perhaps the switch will be more tailored to Conan’s strengths (banter with Andy Richter, sobering monologues, fascinating interviews) while doing away with the more chore-ish aspects like a traditional monologue.
This has yet to be confirmed by TBS, and it’s unclear when the change will take effect, but we’ll update this article accordingly if more information arises. For now, this is definitely a surprising twist.