In a move that has taken nearly everyone by surprise, former "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien will make his return to television on cable channel TBS. The as-yet-unnamed show will air at 11 p.m. and debut in November, pushing back "Lopez Tonight," hosted by George Lopez, to midnight. Prior to the announcement, conventional wisdom held that O'Brien would sign with Fox. In a press release, O'Brien joked that, "In three months I’ve gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theaters, and now I’m headed to basic cable. My plan is working perfectly." But what do critics think of the move?
At least he won't be competing with Leno: This move is so "surprising," says James Poniewozik in Time, that "I actually mentally checked that it was not April 1." That said, if Conan had gone to Fox, "the story would [have] immediately become: can he get revenge on Jay? Can he beat Dave?" He wasn't going to do either, so going to TBS at least dispels those unrealistic expectations.
"Conan back to late-night — on TBS?"
Great, now he's free to be invisible: Moving to basic cable seems like a dubious choice, says Dan Hopper in Best Week Ever. Not only will Conan lose "casual viewers," but his absurdist brand of comedy — which was a refreshing change on NBC — is "commonplace" on basic cable, i.e. "the home of Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, FX, etc."
"Conan O'Brien moving to TBS"
But you can see why both sides liked the deal: Conan is reportedly "going to own his show, something he wanted badly and obviously wasn't going to get at NBC," says Linda Holmes at NPR. The real winner here is TBS though, which could see a massive jump in viewership. That said, this is uncharted territory, and it's "a big gamble" for everyone involved.
"Conan O'Brien goes to TBS: Now what?"