Conan O'Brien will be ending his TBS late-night talk show in June of 2021. O'Brien will then move to HBO Max to air a weekly variety series, while TBS will still air his Conan Without Borders travel specials. O'Brien has released a statement (via Variety) about the upcoming career shift: “In 1993 Johnny Carson gave me the best advice of my career: ‘As soon as possible, get to a streaming platform,'” O’Brien said. “I’m thrilled that I get to continue doing whatever the hell it is I do on HBO Max, and I look forward to a free subscription.”
Brett Weitz, GM for TNT, TBS, and truTV put out a statement: “28 years is a monumental achievement in late-night television. We’re incredibly proud of the groundbreaking work that Conan and his team have accomplished during the 10 years at TBS and are so glad that we will continue to have his presence on our air with the ‘Conan Without Borders’ specials. We celebrate his success and are glad to see it grow across our WarnerMedia family.”
HBO Max's chief content officer, Casey Bloys, welcomed Conan into the fold with her own statement: “Conan’s unique brand of energetic, relatable, and at times, absurdist, comedy has charmed late-night audiences for nearly three decades. We can’t wait to see what he and the rest of Team Coco will dream up for this brand new, variety format each week."
Conan O'Brien's journey has certainly been a strange one. After making a name for himself writing for Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons, few thought O'Brien's first show Late Night With Conan O'Brien would survive its first year in 1993. But Conan's show indeed survived and thrived from 1993 - 2009, when he was anointed ot inherit the Tonight Show mantle from Jay Leno. However, Conan's brand of geeky weird goodness floundered in the Late Show slot, and NBC broke ties with him after just a year, in 2010. After a brief hiatus, O'Brien returned with Conan on TBS, which has run ten years now.
It was clear that O'Brien was looking to do more with his creative energies, by the time he cut Conan down to a much trimmer half-hour format in 2019. Conan has had to bend to fit the mold of talk-show host, but longtime fans miss the kind of smart and zany creative concepts that made him stand out from the crowd in the SNL and Simpsons writers room. Hopefully this HBO Max series will harness that energy and give it life in the best kind of way.