2010 Cable Upfronts: Conan: On Stage Again For TBS


Conan O'Brien, to the surprise of no one, appeared center stage at Turner's upfront presentation to advertisers, here at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan on May 19.
Things began with a clip of a bearded and fat O'Brien -- to the accompaniment of Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" -- lounging around the home, crunching Doritos in a blender, following his departure from The Tonight Show at NBC. However, the comedian perked up after a second phone call: "Debbie's is not here...my own talk show on TBS? Yes, I'll do it... Am I in shape? Yes, I am."
From there, O'Brien cut his beard, worked out, removing his fat suit and shot a machine gun. As the video ended, Conan told the camera: "I'm ready, let's do this!"
Moments later, he hit the stage, opening with: "Please sit! I love to do comedy at 10 in the morning."
O'Brien noted this was his initial return to Manhattan in a spell. "I realized this morning this is my first time back in New York City since I was here exactly one year ago for the NBC upfront" -- to promote his 25 year run as head of The Tonight Show, he joked.
He also quipped that the plot of ABC serial Lost has been more "plausible" than his life over the past four months. He joked (we think) about his vision for his TBS show is where "Hee-Haw left off," before hailing the man who hired him, Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin: "Steve, thanks for the blank creative check...you fool!" O'Brien's show is set to bow on Nov. 8 at 11 p.m.
Flanked by an acoustic guitarist and upright bass player, O'Brien, with his own guitar, broke into "On The Road Again," morphing into "I Want My Own Show Again," which has been a staple of his comedy tour and was highlighted on his recent appearance on 60 Minutes. Lyrics referred to how he "would do anything to have his own show again... "even do a primetime show at 10 again,"... on NBCU's women's network Oxygen, where he "would change my sex to have my own show again"..."to talk to Megan Fox again."
Another spring purchase by Turner Sports, its 14-year, $10.8 billion partnership with CBS for the rights to the NCAA Men's Division 1 basketball tournament that tips off in 2011, was shown during the opening sizzle reel and touted by Turner Broadcasting System Inc. president of sales, distribution and sports David Levy. The March Madness mention managed just a smattering of applause.
In its third major acquisition act, the "very funny" network subsequently grabbed the exclusive cable syndication rights to The Big Bang Theory.
Levy continued Turner's mantra that "TV is TV," with quality content reaching viewers regardless of the distribution mechanism, e.g. broadcast networks. He said the future of industry is three screens: TV, computer and mobile, while extolling the virtues of "TV Everywhere." Still, TV remains the media vehicle chosen most often, said Levy, citing figures about a three-hour increase over the last five years, with average viewing now at 34 hours per week.
For his part, Koonin talked up why the Turner services make their upfront presentations the same week at the broadcast networks. "This is reach week. We've more than earned our admission ticket," he said.
Koonin also referred to the art and science of TV and how Turner was a hybrid that combined the reach of broadcast and branding capabilities of cable.
Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, introduced TBS's slate and cast members from returning series My Boys, entering its fourth campaign on July 25; and newcomers Ice Cube's series version based on the film Are We There Yet, starting June 2; and the animated Neighbors From Hell, with the husband and wife duo of Balthazor and Tina Hellman, voiced by Will Sasso and Molly Shannon, bowing June 7.
Headed by Tim Meadows (SNL) as a political science professor, the ensemble cast of 1980s' college series Glory Daze, which Wright described as having hallmarks of theatricals Animal House, Old School and American Pie, dragged a keg and held red, plastic cups during their time in the spotlight. The network recently greenlit the series for an eight-installment run late this year.
George Lopez, whom O'Brien has pushed back into the midnight hour, also got to put in more than his two cents in chatting up Lopez Tonight: "...work an hour later, get the same pay. The Latino dream come true."
TBS also has the following shows in various states of development:
*The Wedding Band: a one-hour show from Fremantle Media and South Park writers Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle about married and single friends who play music at nuptial receptions;
*The Rabbit Factory, from executive producer/writer Alan Loeb (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), executive producer Steven Pearl (The Beast) and Lionsgate Television, this one-hour series follows the detective team of Mike Lomax and Terry Biggs, two characters from the book series by Marshall Karp;
*The Catch: This one-hour skein from executive producer/writer Vic Levin (Mad About You) and executive producer and Starz Entertainment CEO Chris Albrecht focuses on a widower who re-enters the world of dating, only to learn that he is quite the catch;
*Good and Evil, an animated series, voiced by Stanley Tucci (Julie & Julia, The Lovely Bones) and Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Boardwalk Empire), orbits around Jack Good, a moral, upstanding family man, and his nefarious twin brother, Bo Evel, a rebel and drunk who's been in and out of prison; and
* The Black Family, another animated project, this one centers on a blended interracial family, The Blacks.