Does the End of “Conan” Signal the Death of the Traditional Talk Show?
The longest-tenured host in late-night will take his final bow on "Conan" on June 24
Back in November, Conan O’Brien announced that he’ll be stepping away from his long-running late-night show on TBS this summer, and now we officially have an air date for his final episode: the host will take his final bow on Conan on June 24.
The final weeks of the show will reportedly feature a star-studded lineup of special guests, and the June 24 finale episode will be an expanded hour-long retrospective looking back at O’Brien’s late-night career. (O’Brien — who launched Conan in 2010 after his highly publicized, famously contentious departure from NBC and The Tonight Show — switched the show to a half-hour format in 2019.) His Conan Without Borders travel specials will continue to air on TBS after his talk show wraps.
Once Conan is over, O’Brien, the longest-running late-night host on the air (thanks to his combined 28 years on Late Night, The Tonight Show and Conan) will step away from the traditional talk show format for good, opting to host a weekly variety show on HBO Max instead. Is it just that after all of these years, he’s sick of having to listen to celebrities promote their movies, or is it perhaps an indication of a broader trend? Is the longest-tenured late-night host ditching the format because he recognizes it’s on its way out?
O’Brien will be joining John Oliver, another late-night host who eschews the genre’s traditional form, at HBO while network TV hosts like Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers continue to flounder in a post-Trump, almost-post-pandemic world. COVID-19 showed us the flaws in countless institutions, and late-night TV was no exception as hosts had to grapple with delivering monologues to empty studios and conducting interviews over Zoom. Many are still navigating what exactly their post-COVID comebacks will look like — but O’Brien, at least, is banking on something entirely different.
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