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Sunday, 7 of March of 2021

Double Whammy: Conan on TBS and L&O:LA

In light of April being the cruelest month, I’m taking a small, academically mandated vacation for a couple of weeks. Reviews will still be posted by me (Nick will keep chugging along, I’m sure), just less consistently. I guarantee Lost and probably Doctor Who, but anything else will hinge entirely on my schedule and how well the final push of the semester goes. This week, for example, will be a little sparse. (Maybe HIMYM later in the week; I haven’t even watched the episode yet.)

To make up for it though, I’m giving you some brief thoughts on two things near and dear to my heart: Conan O’Brien and Law & Order.

Conan On TBS: Probably a fair number of you are trying to figure out what the hell TBS is. (You can read about it here.) For most, but especially here in Atlanta, TBS is the place were you watched reruns of old sitcoms, tuned in for Captain Planet, and nearly exclusively watched the Braves. And while it was largely available on a number of cable providers in other markets (but locally here), I imagine that it wasn’t paid much attention to (kind of like I only really pay attention to WGN if I’m really bored).

Well, prepare to watch TBS, People of Earth. I don’t where the hell this deal came from (though, as always, Bill Carter seems to have all the late night answers), but it’s probably a sweetheart deal for Coco, a great deal for George Lopez, and a potentially major shift for TBS. Conan benefits from getting back on the air and he’ll also own his show, a major issue during his departure from NBC. Owning the show and being on a basic cable network that is looking to seriously develop its brand, 20somethings and 30somethings who like comedy, will probably allow Conan a fair amount of creative freedom as he develops the show.

Lopez, who’s doing well enough in the ratings to warrant a renewal, benefits as well. He gets an incredibly solid lead-in, and what’s more, he knows it. Lopez, according to many articles, is the one who convinced Conan to take the deal, and that he was perfectly happy to move to midnight. As for TBS, it’s clear that not only do they want to challenge the broadcasters, but that they’re actually gunning for Comedy Central in a very big way. One of my theories about Conan’s inability to perform well on The Tonight Show was that his audience had established itself to Stewart/Colbert, and wasn’t willing to leave for tamer, earlier fare. We’ll see how things go if Conan re-established his zany roots on TBS.

Equally, this represents a way for TBS to become a player in original programming, centered around their late night line-up. Their attempts at original programming have been mixed, with its only real successes being My Boys, which returns this summer, and the Tyler Perry shows House of Payne and Meet the Browns (though the last two don’t have some of the critical love, or affection, that My Boys has managed to grab). If they can translate late night success into prime time success, it’ll be a major step in the right direction for the network. It’s a smart move for everyone involved.

NBC Officially Orders Law & Order: Los Angeles: I cannot begin to tell you how sad this makes me. First, this show already exists. It’s called Dragnet. And then they called it L.A. Dragnet. There’s no reason to do a LA version of L&O because the LA version of L&O is what gave birth to L&O! You see how this is like a snake eating itself?! Gah!

My sense of morbid curiosity is driving me to figure out what variation the show will engage. SVU is significantly more character-driven (and prone to intense melodramatics (in both good and bad ways)) while CI tackles the detects and the criminal’s perspective, culminating in a psychological interrogation. The defunct Trial by Jury focused on the order part of the equation. But perhaps a variation isn’t necessary. Law & Order: UK follows the stories of original L&O episodes, crafting them into the British legal system (I haven’t seen any episodes myself, though clearly I should check them out) and it seems to doing all right.

Should LA follow the original’s formula to the tee, then it’s going to be a matter of what I’ve been arguing for a while now about L&O: The characters will ultimately be the deciding factor in how well the show works. On top of that, due to the locale change, you’ll need a distinctly new voice for the characters and the city. It can’t feel like you’re transplanting the format to a different locale without making sure you get the locale right (New York is just as important a character in the franchise as any of the cops or lawyers). So will I end up watching L&O: LA? Yes, but only because I’m a masochist.

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