Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This Week In Cable: The Future Is Conan...and Wrestling?

It's been a very interesting week in TV, and it's only Tuesday.

Then again, having Conan O'Brien return to TV in an unexpected place would be the biggest TV story of the year. Nearly everyone was certain he'd return to late-night TV on Fox. After all, it has everything except late-night success during the week. The network itself started with a late-night show with Joan Rivers in 1986, then went on to prime-time slowly. With the prestige of 24, The Simpsons, American Idol and House, plus sports, having Conan would be the final piece of the puzzle.
Sure, the affiliates weren't sold on having Conan at 11 PM, because he wouldn't be as lucrative as endless repeats of Seinfeld, Two and a Half Men and Family Guy. Still, Conan almost had to go to Fox, because it's his only chance to make NBC regret the day it dumped him for Jay Leno. Maybe, if Conan's lucky, all of Fox's stations will air him at 11 PM by 2013. He'll understand. He has no choice.
At least, that's according to entertainment "experts".

Then we find out he has found a new home....on cable....TBS.
Wha? Who? TBS? Didn't they have wrestling at one time? They say they're "very funny", but it's just cable...not Fox, where he's supposed to be.
To be honest, I didn't believe it either, when Conan mentioned it on his Twitter feed. I thought it was a joke.
It wasn't.
So, what does this mean? Has Conan failed? Does this mean he'll never defeat Jay Leno, and make Jeff Zucker weep? Have we, as a nation, failed?
Or maybe we should look at it another way....Fox blew it!!
Or, its stations did.

I can't help but think Fox was too confident Conan would make a deal with them, and get used to the idea that only 70 percent of the nation would want him at 11 PM. This was based on one belief: we are Fox, and Conan going to cable would be a further humiliation that a wildly successful live tour could never erase. Thus, Conan will call us any....
Then, in the words of Homey the Clown, "I don't think so. Homey...or Coco..don't play that"

TBS has a lot to offer: a salary about the same as NBC, 100 percent coverage at the flip of a switch, he owns the show, web presence, anything he likes.
As for the guy who's already at 11 PM, George Lopez, he's all for it, because Conan's fans may stay for his show, too.
Also, West Coast viewers can see Conan at 8 PM, if they have the HD feed.
We sometimes forget cable is beating regular TV in many ways, especially creatively. Mad Men, True Blood, The Tudors and Rescue Me, anyone? While it's also doing well with late-night comedy, especially Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, having someone as big as Conan O'Brien would be...all together now...the final piece of the puzzle.
Conan's tour now serves as the prelude to his new show on cable, while the network prepares to promote the heck out of it. Maybe TBS will even sell ads for the show to Fox affiliates...around 11 PM, during a repeat of Seinfeld.
Now, if only I can get an "I'm With Coco" button and a TBS hat. I do have a homemade t-shirt that will serve the same purpose, though.

Now, the inexplicable....

Syfy will be ending its "reality" wrestling show WWE NXT this fall, which hopefully means SyFy will imagine greater by sticking to sci-fi.
Nope. It will be the new home for Friday Night Smackdown starting October 1st. Thus, Friday nights, the home of Battlestar Galactica, the Stargate shows and Sanctuary, now give way to Jack Swagger, Edge and Beth Phoenix.
Unless you can introduce some wrestlers that look like minotaurs, aliens or N'avi, this is a terrible idea for the network. Wrestling has pulled in a lot of viewers for SyFy, but it shouldn't end its traditional Friday fare for the WWE. Thursdays with a Sunday repeat would make more sense.
Also, what happens to MyNetwork TV now? The only original shows it has are Smackdown, Deal or No Deal, which may be on its way out, and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader. Aside from that, it was reruns and movies. The affiliates would go back to being independents, and no one would notice.
Remember when the channel figured to be something new with tele-novelas in English and reality shows? So much for those days.
The Smackdown move is really a setback for a a network that no longer exists, and cable channel that should be living up to its name.

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