I’d like to say that not having television is the great equalizer, that it no longer matters to me which network originally showed the media I watch, but apparently, that’s not true. My memories of TBS might be rusty, but I remember it as the go-to network for “Saved By the Bell” re-runs and “Full House” marathons, a place where fairly tame sitcoms could retire in multiple-repeat style. (A review of their daily schedule confirms this: They’ve already had four episodes of “Saved by the Bell” on today, and there are two “Home Improvement” re-runs scheduled just before lunch).
Their tagline may say they’re “Very Funny,” but my experience hasn’t exactly proven that true. Right now, their only original program seems to be “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” and “Lopez Tonight,” the Sandra Bullock-produced talk show that’s going to get kicked back to midnight when O’Brien enters the scene. Is this really the right home for Conan O’Brien?
Oh, maybe. He might do well following a three-hour marathon of “Family Guy” re-runs. With the advent of Hulu and DVR and all the fancy watch-on-your-iPad options out there, maybe it really won’t matter that much what network name is stamped on the bottom of the screen — though I can’t imagine this is an easy move for O’Brien and his staff, unless NBC retained all rights to their egos.
I can objectively see the benefit to this move for O’Brien (the benefit of landing someone this currently popular seems obvious for TBS). He was funnier when he was on later, because the censors were less attentive, and the audience was younger, less easily offended, and perhaps less choosy. All of these will be repeated, perhaps expanded, on late-night cable.
To justify this kind of move, though, O’Brien’s got to take advantage of the platform — which is to say, he’s got to return to, and perhaps surpass, Masturbating Bear form. He needs a show that competes not with Jay Leno but with Jon Stewart, half-hearted curse-word bleeps and all. If he recreates “The Tonight Show” on basic cable, it’s a waste of time for everyone involved.