In all the shuffling going on right now in late night talk, Conan O’Brien has become something of a forgotten man. Jon Stewart’s taking the summer off to direct a movie. Jimmy Kimmel’s in a new timeslot. NBC is preparing to replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon, and already speculation has turned to whether CBS will eventually replace David Letterman with Craig Ferguson or try to bring someone in from the outside.
The one guy not making headlines is the one who was at the center of the last late night news eruption – aka the last time NBC tried to ditch Leno for a younger, hipper “Tonight” host. Conan went to TBS late in 2010, has drawn modest ratings (albeit doing reasonably well among young adults) and has gone from being the celebrated rebel to an afterthought. When Ken Tucker recently wrote a 3500-word opus on the state of late night, Conan didn’t even get mentioned until word 3167.
Now, though, he’s back in the headlines, as TBS has renewed “Conan” through November of 2015, which will allow O’Brien to keep making the show he wants to make, even if the spotlight’s not as big as it used to be.
“When we invited Conan O’Brien to come to TBS, we knew he would bring with him a passionately loyal following of young adults,” Turner president Michael Wright said in a statement. “Conan and his colleagues at Team Coco have gone far beyond that by making ‘Conan’ the top late-night brand in the digital arena. We are proud to extend our relationship with Conan as he continues to forge the future of late night. I just wish we didn”t decide to tell him on April Fools’ Day.”
This extension gives Conan some stability, but also takes him out of the running for the Letterman gig, or any other one that might open up as the broadcast networks continue playing musical chairs. Then again, after the whole “Tonight” fiasco, I imagine Conan is perfectly happy to stay out of those waters for as long as he can.