I will have to watch “Lopez Tonight” (for, I admit, the first time) this evening to see George Lopez’s reaction to Conan O’Brien’s announcement today.
Conan’s new TBS show will push “Lopez Tonight” back by an hour. According to Bill Carter of the New York Times, this was originally a deal-breaker for Conan. Conan had been on the wrong end of such an arrangement at NBC, which is why he left, and he — understandably, and to his credit — did not want to do to George Lopez what NBC and Jay Leno had done to him.
But then, Lopez personally called Conan and asked him to accept the arrangement. Lopez probably feels that a 12 Eastern / 11 Central show with Conan as his lead-in will turn out better in the long run than an 11 Eastern / 10 Central show with TBS’s sitcom reruns as a lead-in. I think he’s right, and I think having the two talk shows back to back will be good for both of them.
As I said, I haven’t seen George Lopez’s talk show before, although I’ve seen his standup comedy, and I think he probably likes an atmosphere like TBS where he gets comparatively little interference from network executives and can do his own style of comedy. I think Conan will thrive at TBS for just those same reasons. Conan’s last two weeks at “The Tonight Show” were some of the funniest shows he’s ever done, and it’s because he didn’t have anyone to impress and could just relax and do the show he wanted to do. TBS may give him less of a budget (I wonder if Andy or Max will be there), but I believe he’ll have much more free rein than he did at NBC or than he would have at FOX.
FOX, it is true, has a more free-wheeling approach in general than the three traditional networks, but the network was reported to be bristling at the cost of launching a new late-night talk show and was going to have to please a lot of unhappy affiliate stations from whom it would be forcibly taking an hour of late-night air time. I think FOX would have breathed down Conan’s neck in the same way that NBC did.
Even though Craig Ferguson is on a broadcast network, CBS, he has made the same kind of tradeoff Conan is making. Craig’s show is — as he likes to remind us — run on a low budget, I imagine lower than Conan’s will be at TBS. But the network lets him do his own thing.