By Lacey Rose
NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – It has been nearly a year and a half since Conan O’Brien was unceremoniously dumped from U.S. network NBC, but that didn’t stop the late night host from blasting his former employer — and for that matter, his current one at cable network TBS.
The comedian was trotted out at Turner’s upfront presentation Wednesday, a repeat performance for TBS’ biggest comedy asset. “I did this last year,” he reminded his Madison Avenue audience. “I don’t know why TBS can’t do what they do best and run that again. Four freakin’ times.”
It’s an easy knock on a network that has historically relied on reruns to prop it up. (Today the net offers such originals as “Lopez Tonight,” “Are We There Yet?,” the Tyler Perry shows and “Conan,” among others.) And those knocks continued as O’Brien joked that he didn’t want to give away any spoilers from the net’s other offerings, “Seinfeld” and “The Office” repeats.
The comedian has been at TBS for seven months, and while some insiders note his viewership has dipped below Turner brass’ expectations -and certainly desires- he has elevated the network as a destination for smart comedy. Similarly appealing to late night ad buyers is his younger-skewing audience. The median age of “Conan” viewers is 32, 16 years younger than his broadcast rivals.
Watch Zach Galifianakis Talk “The Hangover Part II” on “Conan:”
But with a new home comes the new realities of working in basic cable, another familiar topic for O’Brien. “Budgets are a little tighter,” he said, before telling the crowd that he was put up in a hotel in the Bronx. “I forgot that was technically part of New York City,” he deadpanned to laughter.
Of course, NBC wasn’t free from his jabs either. He brought up the current turmoil at his former network, specifically focused on Meredith Vieira’s departure from the “Today” show. But it was Matt Lauer’s response to the rumors that he will leave the morning show as well that has the comedian chuckling. “Matt says, ‘No, I’m staying. I have a long term deal with NBC,'” O’Brien wound up. “All I have to say is welcome to TBS.'”
As for O’Brien’s impact on that network, he quips, “We are No. 1 in TBS’ key demo: people who cant afford HBO.” In fact, the network group’s success is so impressive that O’Brien teased that they’d be making a TV movie about themselves. In true O’Brien form, he suggested some casting options: Turner Entertainment’s Steve Koonin played by Stewie Griffin of “Family Guy;” Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes played by “Toy Story’s” Woody; Turner founder Ted Turner played by cereal mascot Captain Crunch; CNN’s Piers Morgan played by singer Susan Boyle and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer played by an electronic toy, the furbie.
He opted to end there, noting that it would be wise to stop before he offends anyone else. “I’m running out of places to do my show,” he said. “Come with me to animal planet.”
(Editing by Zorianna Kit)