Remember when it was reported that Conan O’Brien’s TBS talk show was going to be switched from a nightly to a weekly format? TBS quickly denied that, but it’s obvious they’ve been looking at ways to tweak with Conan’s format. Today the network announced what they’re going to do: Conan will adopt a new half-hour format in 2019, eschewing the hour-long run time typical of late night talk shows.
Don’t think this means there’ll be less O’Brien on your TV (or whatever device you use to watch TV these days). Alongside the change in Conan TBS has announced that O’Brien and his production company will be developing a variety of new projects “spanning television, digital, social and live events.” Part of the plan is to sign up various stand-up comedians for digital content, with the half-hour Conan show used to promote them and their work. O’Brien will also host a stand-up variety tour in late 2018, with various comedians sharing the stage together. It’s part of Conan’s commitment to stand-up—as we’ve noted before, O’Brien’s show is the most stand-up friendly late night talk show on the air today.
According to O’Brien himself, cutting back on the nightly show will let him and his company focus on other comedy possibilities for TBS, both digitally and on TV. It also sounds like Conan might become more explicitly focused on comedy, and less of a typical celebrity-driven talk show. As O’Brien prepares to celebrate his 25th year in late night later this year (yes, it’s been a quarter of a century since he took over NBC’s Late Night, my fellow decrepit old-timers), it’s clear he’s looking for a change to how he’s been doing his show all the time.
“Since I inherited my Late Night show in 1993, TV has changed exponentially. I’d like to think I have evolved with many of these changes, but now it’s time to take the next leap,” O’Brien is quoted as saying in a press release distributed by TBS. “A half-hour show will give me the time to do a higher percentage of the comedy in, and out, of the studio that I love and that seems to resonate in this new digital world. It’s still going to be me hosting a very silly show, but I want segments on my half-hour program to link to digital content, deepening the experience for my younger fans, and confusing my older ones.”
The format change will come some time in 2019, while the first fruits of the new deal with TBS should start to pop up with that stand-up tour later this year. Meanwhile another O’Brien-produced TBS comedy, the animated sci-fi parody Final Space, wraps up its first season next Monday, May 7.