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EntertainmentColumnistsVerne Gay

Conan's back. But is it all good?

Conan O'Brien has lined up a new late-night job, which starts in November, and for this, we can all be grateful. The unemployment rate has declined by one.

TBS is one of the original basic cable networks - essentially Ted Turner's early attempt to shatter the hegemony of the Big Three with his Atlanta-based "Superstation." The hegemony continued, but just this week Turner's legendary flagship got its highest profile on-air employee ever: The former host of "The Tonight Show."

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Good for Conan, or bad? Let's go to the list:


1. Freeeeedom! He will be able to do whatever he wants, mount whatever show he thinks he can get away with. Expect an even less-encumbered "Late Night." Not that Conan does "dirty," but there is a bawdy side.

2. No TV stations to worry about Affiliates have their own needs, demands and problems - sometimes anathema to the talent. Conan now has but one boss - TBS and parent Time Warner - not the 200-plus bosses he would have had at Fox.

3. 11 p.m. is a perfect start time. The biggest competition is "The Daily Show" (at 11) and especially "The Colbert Report" (11:30). The stars share fans. But Conan will get first crack at topical monologue jokes, before Jay, Dave, Jimmy and Craig.

4. Young audience at TBS Thanks to all those "Family Guy" reruns, TBS has a younger profile than any of the four major broadcast networks.


1. Not network TV Affiliate headaches aside, Fox would have been vastly preferable because it would have represented the big-time, and prestige; TBS feels like a niche within a niche.

2. Weak to poor lead-ins Conan complained about his lead-ins at "Tonight"; wait till he sees what he gets at TBS.

3. No promotional firepower The biggest drawback perhaps. Networks promote their shows within their highest-rated show; TBS doesn't have any highly rated shows, which means it has to search for audiences in other places. Hardly optimal. But good news! Conan has started to tweet, and that should help.

4. No Fridays Friday is hugely important in late-night TV. It's the kickback end-of-week edition. But, even though Colbert and Stewart take off as well, Conan will have to end his week on Thursdays because TBS wants to reserve Fridays for movies.

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