Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: Conan O’Brien leaving TBS feels more bad than good

Conan O'Brien is photographed May 17, 2017, at the Turner Upfront Presentation in New York. O'Brien is ending his late-night talk show on TBS next year to launch a new weekly series on HBO Max.
Conan O'Brien is photographed May 17, 2017, at the Turner Upfront Presentation in New York. O'Brien is ending his late-night talk show on TBS next year to launch a new weekly series on HBO Max.

Nov. 17 was a “normal” day. The coronavirus continued to ravage everything and people were deciding whether or not they would ignore Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to travel and see family they would otherwise complain about during the rest of the year.

That is, in all likelihood, a somewhat accurate summary of Nov. 17. The U.S. was being its dysfunctional self, which is something we’ve grown sadly accustomed to. 

I watch this desensitized news cycle every day. It never changes, no matter how many times CNN declares something is “BREAKING NEWS.” Every day, I think things like, “Trump is an idiot” and “Why can’t people just wear a mask?”

Something was bound to eventually come along and break me out of my wave of 2020 numbness. I just didn’t expect it to be an announcement Nov. 17 that Conan O’Brien is ending his TBS show, “Conan.

I keep getting mad at myself about feeling upset. He didn’t die and he’s not disappearing — he’s just moving over to HBO Max in favor of a weekly show. He still has his podcast, “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend” and “Conan Without Borders” will still air on TBS.

As I write this, I feel like I’m attempting to reassure myself more than anyone else. That’s not the job of a journalist – to comfort themselves – but the reason I chose this topic is because I’m torn up about it and I hope that someone feels this out-of-sorts feeling, too.

Even though I like to think I’m super flexible, there are still a few things that I wish would never change. And I think Conan being on at night was one of those things.

I’ve been watching Conan my entire life. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Conan O’Brien was. I’ve watched clips from “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” since I was a little kid and I still do to this day.

I even remember how heartbroken I was when he lost “The Tonight Show.” None of it seemed fair to me. I just knew that someone I adored was losing a battle.

Once he left NBC, I remember peeking in on “Conan” over the years on TBS, but I could feel myself drifting from him sometimes. When I was little, I didn’t stay up to watch “Late Night” – my dad would instead record bits and show us clips on YouTube. As I got older and ventured into high school, you’d think that not having a bedtime would mean I would finally stay up late watching “Conan.” But I didn’t. 

Once Conan was on TBS, I found myself regularly watching clips on his YouTube channel. So, honestly, I’m part of the reason Conan’s leaving late-night television. I watch him on YouTube, not when he’s on at 11 p.m., which is a shame. A younger version of myself would’ve loved knowing that once I got to the age I’m currently at, I could stay up and watch whatever I want.

It’s true that I stay up late now. But, like the rest of my generation, I watch most things from my computer screen. And, like he has in the past, Conan and his team adapted. Rather than try to score big ratings on TV, he’s moving to a streaming platform.

I think the saddest part of it all is that the appeal of late-night television doesn’t exist anymore. People watch things whenever they want and shows never have to air on TV to be popular. 

The instant satisfaction of the internet and streaming services feels like more of a burden than a blessing these days. I’ve grown up through this societal change — I’ve seen people slowly drift from TV to streaming. I’ve seen this change happening, I’ve been part of this change and I’m realizing now I don’t like it very much.

I think part of this sadness about Conan is just recognizing I’m growing up and life has changed and the people I’ve grown up watching are changing, too.

But, and I’m having trouble fully understanding this at this point in time, part of me is sad about Conan because I don’t like the fact that he’s adapting to this world. Because this world, day by day, feels slightly more suffocating. I feel like we’re losing some of the creativity and originality we used to possess. 

People want to watch TikTok for seven hours straight, scroll through Instagram for four hours and then watch Netflix for a few more hours. This cycle I see is beginning to make me sad. And a little scared.

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