How Conan O'Brien Feels About The Big Changes Coming To His TBS Show

Conan O'Brien TBS Conan
(Image credit: TBS)

Fans of Conan O'Brien have known his TBS show would be undergoing some big changes. Among them, that Conan would go from being one-hour in length to 30 minutes. Opening up on the choice to make the format change and the decision-making behind it, O'Brien said:

There were arguments on both sides. Among the guys in rooms that crunch numbers, it's controversial. You sell a lot of ad time in an hour -- you sell half as much in half an hour. This is where this joint-venture idea evolved: We can scale back the show, but we can make Turner partners. We can develop not just my podcast, but the travel shows and these specials with other comedians. I like to use the Rockefeller oil industry as my model. The octopus, if you will, that strangles America.

Conan O'Brien explained the behind-the-scenes details of choosing to reduce the show's runtime during an interview with The New York Times. The reboot replete with what O'Brien describes in the quote along with Conan's altered runtime was announced back in mid-2018.

Fans of the long-time late-night fixture are about to see the rebooted version of Conan unveiled. With Conan O'Brien having been in the world of late-night for so long, it stands to reason that shaving some time off of Conan could feel like a step back. Responding to whether he feels like it is a "blow," O'Brien said:

It would if I hadn't been around this long. It also would if there weren't shows like The Daily Show, and Sam Bee and all these other shows. I know when I've been feeling like we're padding out the show because I've got to get to the full hour. When I know that the part of the show that has the real protein and that people really want, happened in the first half-hour --- literally the first 21, 22 minutes.

What Conan O'Brien articulates is an essential realization for anyone involved in a creative process. It is a lot better to do away with the padding to reach a pre-ordained goal than it is to bloat something that detracts from the overall substance.

In some ways, Conan O'Brien has broken down his show to build it back up again. He is acknowledging what works to fix and finesse what he already has. It is a sound notion that should not hurt what fans have come to love about his late-night contribution.

Conan's runtime is not the only thing that fans will notice having undergone a reboot. Notable aspects of the series' aesthetic will also be different. There will no longer be a band and O'Brien will not be sitting at a desk. Nor will he be wearing a suit and tie. Why has he chosen to forego them? O'Brien explained, saying:

I grew up revering the format, and then over time, you think, what's feeling like it's vestigial? I really don't miss the desk. It started to feel like I'm doing someone's taxes. None of my guests are wearing suits. I look fine in a suit, and I will wear a suit sometimes. If one of the Obamas stops by, or when Trump comes, as he inevitably will, I'll wear a suit. The most successful things that we've ever done on YouTube are me wearing my Indiana Jones-as-archaeology teacher look. And people accept that.

So, it may not be the last you have seen of Conan O'Brien wearing a suit on his late-night show. That should be a comfort to those wanting to hold on to certain throwback vestiges from the genre. He has an ample point about his attire.

The changes Conan O'Brien has embraced appear aimed at continuing the legacy he has already built for himself. It is a move that seems like a beyond well-advised one.

Why not reboot something before it leaves the air and find out if it has longer to breathe? Instead of cancelling a show prematurely, only to regret it a short time later and present it as a revival.

In truth, Conan O'Brien could have exited and come back years from now with a new show. He would have gotten a lot of fanfare doing it that way. However, this retooled version of Conan seems organic and well-plotted. Before long, everyone will learn if the investment pays off.

Conan returns with new episodes starting on January 22 at 11 p.m. ET on TBS. A lot of new content is set to bow alongside Conan O'Brien's TBS show in January.

Britt Lawrence

Like a contented Hallmark movie character, Britt happily lives in the same city she grew up in. Along with movies and television, she is passionate about competitive figure skating. She has been writing about entertainment for 5 years, and as you may suspect, still finds it as entertaining to do as when she began.