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It's not hard to notice that the late night talk show game is completely different from where it was a decade ago, with so many changes and new shows popping up. And it's about to go through another major shift, with post-primetime mainstay Conan O'Brien showing up on our TVs a lot less often, as TBS will be cutting Conan back from nightly airings to just one new episode a week. Cue Andy Richter's self-deprecating joke about his own limited appearances being the good news.
A change like this would be massive for any series, but it's an especially noteworthy blow to Conan, whose host has been a major part of the light night TV universe since 1993 (minus his absence during his awkward transitions that caused him to leave NBC). The reason for the change isn't all that shocking, even if it's not encouraging either. According to Turner CEO John Martin, who spoke with TheWrap at the CES expo, the schedule is just too crowded these days. And sad as it is, Conan just isn't able to live up to the ratings of the broadcast schedule, or even The Daily Show, so there's clearly the hope that paring back will help siphon audiences into watching the one weekly episode.
TBS isn't totally going off the deep end with this decision. Last year marked the debut of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which started off as a weekly look at political ludicrousness, and has apparently been something of a success for TBS, if they're willing to bring this format change to one of its longest-running series. Conan isn't the same kind of show in the slightest, without the same kind of social edge or satire, but maybe that will change as well. Conan O'Brien is far sillier than most people in the late night world, but he's proven he can get serious when need be. (Serious about video games, that is.)
Conan has done some interesting things for TBS in the last year or two, especially when it comes to taking the show on the road, which has been a proven ratings-gainer for the network. Most recently, Conan went to Berlin, and the show has also gone to South Korea, Armenia, Cuba, and Qatar (with First Lady Michelle Obama). Not to mention the domestic location changes, including airings from theaters in San Diego, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas. Perhaps the focused episodes will allow for more trips like this.
At this point, there's no news on when we might see Conan pulling back to its weekly airings, so let's do the show a favor by tuning in every night to show TBS that the comedian and host is worth more than one night a week. Conan airs weeknights on TBS at 11:00 p.m. ET. To see what else the small screen has to offer, check out our midseason premiere schedule.