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October 25, 2014

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The Best and Worst of TV in 2010: 'Breaking Bad,' 'Modern Family,' 'Glee' and More

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 22nd 2010 5:30PM
Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston of 'Breaking Bad'During every Festivus season, we here at TV Squad reflect on what's happened during the past year in the world of the boob tube (I'll keep calling it that because "boob flat screen" doesn't flow as well).

We're in the midst of giving you our "12 Days of Festivus," my fellow Squadders have given their best and worst picks, and Mo Ryan has given what she liked and disliked this year.

So, how much more can we talk about? Plenty. 2010 was an active year in the television universe and there is plenty to talk about. As I've done in the past, I'll dispense with the usual "best show/worst show" mishegas and just make up the categories as I go along.

THE GOOD

The best season of television that almost no one saw:
The heart-attack inducing third season of 'Breaking Bad.' I've already said that the season, which ended over the summer, was the best season of dramatic television in the past decade, and it seems even better than that in retrospect.

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Six Late-Night Talk Show Hosts: Winners and Losers

by Gary Susman, posted Dec 18th 2010 2:00PM
'I'm With Coco' PosterCountdown to Festivus on Dec. 23: On the sixth day of Festivus, TV gave us to ... six late-night talk show hosts battling.

Hard to remember, but at this time a year ago, David Letterman was facing one of the biggest crises of his career in the wake of his sex-and-blackmail scandal, Conan O'Brien was just settling into his job at 'The Tonight Show,' Jay Leno was tanking in primetime and Jimmy Fallon was still finding his voice as a late-late-night host.

The late night landscape has changed a bit since then.

It was clear a year ago that there was trouble on the horizon, but few (save, perhaps, for Andy Richter) anticipated the earthquake to come. Most of the cataclysm occurred in January, when NBC decided to bring Leno back to 11:35, and O'Brien decided to take a golden parachute after just seven months on the job rather than follow Leno at 12:05.

The aftershocks from that event, which continue to this day, affected not just the two of them, but also Letterman, Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, and Craig Ferguson. (Not to mention a supporting cast of millions, including network bigwigs, obstinate local stations, and angry fans nationwide.)

Miraculously, all six night owls are still working -- though maybe not for much longer. How did the rollercoaster year shake out for each of them? Let's see ...

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Conan O'Brien on Jay Leno: 'There's Nothing For Us to Talk About' (VIDEO)

by Oliver Miller, posted Dec 14th 2010 6:08AM
Conan O'Brien on Jay Leno: 'There's Nothing For Us to Talk About' Someday, in the distant feature, TV viewers may still be talking about the Conan O'Brien vs. Jay Leno battle. Ages and ages hence, we might still be discussing the feud with a sigh -- talking about how two roads diverged, and about how two men feuded over the same talk show.

... But on 'Larry King Live' (weeknights, 9PM ET on CNN), Conan tried to emphasize that he was already over the whole 'Tonight Show' thing. When Larry King asked O'Brien if he had talked to Jay Leno recently, Conan made this reply: "No. ... There's nothing, really, for either of us to talk about."

So Conan was "over it" -- but was he over it in a "I don't want to think about it anymore" kind of way? Or has he made his peace with the whole affair?

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Conan Wears Jeggings, Leaves Little to the Imagination (VIDEO)

by Donald Deane, posted Dec 3rd 2010 2:00PM

Conan O'Brien makes good on a promise he made during an interview with Tim Gunn to wear a pair of Jeggings for the length of an entire show on 'Conan' (weeknights, 11PM ET on TBS.)

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Bill Carter Talks About 'The War For Late Night'

by Joel Keller, posted Dec 2nd 2010 11:00AM
Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno
Now that Conan O'Brien is back on the air and is churning out the comedy on basic cable, it's safe to say that the Second Late Night War is effectively over, or at least it's in a cease fire state. After all the recrimination, the back and forth between Jay Leno, NBC, and O'Brien, and the giggling of Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman from the sidelines, the only question left to ask at this point is a simple one: "What's next for late night?"

I asked Bill Carter, who has followed up his acclaimed 1994 book 'The Late Shift' with 'The War For Late Night: When Leno Went Early And Television Went Crazy,' whether he thought the current late night talk show format, especially at 11:30, is on the decline. "Yes. There's no question," said the New York Times television reporter, who examines the current late night landscape in the new book, a story that culminates in Conan's dramatic exit from NBC last January.

The big reason? Money. Carter details in the book how the recently-dismissed head of NBC's entertainment division, Jeff Gaspin, told him that 'The Tonight Show,' even with Leno restored as its host, will lose money for the first time ever. "I was shocked," he said. "Because this thing used to be a money machine."

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'Glee's' Chris Colfer Shows Off His Ninja Skills on 'Conan' (VIDEO)

by Oliver Miller, posted Nov 30th 2010 3:45AM
'Glee's' Chris Colfer Shows Off His Ninja Skills on 'Conan'Actor Chris Colfer can sing and he can dance ... but does he have secret shinobi skills? We'll find out on the latest episode of 'Conan' (weeknights, 11PM ET on TBS). The 'Glee' star showed up and told Conan O'Brien that he had been studying the ancient "art of ... 'ninja.'" The 20-year-old stuttered as he said that last bit, and okay -- that's not the correct term. As Conan pointed out, "ninjutsu" is the actual name for the martial arts that ninja assassins practice.

Conan seemed skeptical about the whole thing already -- and that was before Chris revealed that his training was inspired by ... the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. "Clearly, you've studied this thoroughly," the host quipped. Which would have been okay, him being inspired by a cartoon like that, but then the dangerous stabbing weapons came out. Which is when things got a little more dicey.

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Conan O'Brien Rocks: Memorable Music Moments From the 'Late Night' Days

by Steve Baltin, posted Nov 14th 2010 7:00PM
Conan O'Brien and Jack WhiteNo late night show was or is complete without a great soundtrack and 'Late Night With Conan O'Brien' was no different.

With the E Street Band's drummer, "Mighty" Max Weinberg as the musical director and band leader, the show had a lot of credibility to attract the biggest names in music. O'Brien (a devout music lover and guitar player in his own right) took full advantage of that to create some memorable music moments, including devoting full weeks to artists like Neil Young and the White Stripes.

And he looks to bring some of that music magic to 'Conan,' as proven by his performance with Jack White on his new TBS show's premiere episode.

As we welcome Conan back to TV, we remember the greatest musical moments from his 'Late Night' history.

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Conan's First Week: How'd He Do?

by Bob Sassone, posted Nov 12th 2010 1:33PM
ConanSo Conan O'Brien is done with his first week. How'd he do?

While it's probably good that Conan's most loyal fans get to see him on television again, it's not really a show to go out of your way to watch.

It's probably not fair to judge a talk show after watching one episode or even one week -- especially since that format lends itself drastic changes -- but it's fair in Conan's case. He's been doing a talk show (actually, three!) for close to 20 years, and what we've seen from Conan this week is probably what we're going to see a year from now.

The ratings for 'Conan's first week followed early predictions.

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'Conan' Audience Down 30 Percent on His Second Night

by Catherine Lawson, posted Nov 11th 2010 8:57AM
Conan O'Brien, debut episode of 'Conan', Nov. 2010Has Conan O'Brien lost his touch? In news that will surely bring a smile to Jay Leno's face, it's been reported that the audience for his much-hyped new TV talk show dropped by one-third on the second night out.

According to TBS, 2.8 million people watched Tuesday night's 'Conan,' down from 4.2 million viewers for the debut one night earlier. Although audience figures are not yet available for NBC's 'The Tonight Show' -- which O'Brien quit in January in a showdown with veteran comedian Jay Leno -- it's been averaging 3.6 million viewers nightly so far this season.

Conan's return to late night television after a nine-month absence had been hotly-anticipated, particularly by his younger fans, but many critics -- including our own Maureen Ryan and Joel Keller -- have found his new show lacking.

Some have said that using the same old late night format was uninspiring, and others are already tired of self-referential jokes about his bitter departure from rival NBC and his new home on cable TV.

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Sorry, Conan... I'm Sticking With Stewart and Colbert

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 10th 2010 6:00PM
Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart
Let me preface this post by saying that, as most readers of this blog know, I've been an unabashed Conan supporter for years. I went to see him on tour, and was excited as hell to see him come back to TV on TBS. And, I'm pretty much in agreement with my esteemed colleague Mo Ryan: Monday's premiere of 'Conan' was way too conventional, but last night's Hanks-aided episode was a lot better.

But, I've got to be honest: once the newness of Conan being on at 11 wears off, chances are that my show of choice at that time is going to be the same as it has been for at least the last eight years: I'll be watching 'The Daily Show.'

Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons, but the main one can be summed up in one word: relevancy.

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'Conan,' Night 2: That's More Like It

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 10th 2010 11:30AM
Not surprisingly, the second outing of 'Conan' was much better than the first.

As I wrote here, in Conan O'Brien's unimpressive TBS debut, he was straining to conform to the well-established rules of a typical late-night talk show. It was all about making the trains run on time, but Conan works much better when he doesn't have to watch the clock.

Of course Conan's chat with Tom Hanks killed. But Tuesday's pre-taped segment with a TBS censor was just as enjoyable.

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Jamie Foxx Talks Prop. 19, Thinks President Obama Must Be Smoking Weed (VIDEO)

by Oliver Miller, posted Nov 10th 2010 5:05AM
Jamie Foxx Talks Prop. 19, Thinks President Obama Must Be Smoking WeedNow that Conan O'Brien has a new talk show, 'Lopez Tonight' has moved to a different starting time (weeknights, 12AM ET on TBS). 'Lopez' is now more of a late late night experience. In honor of the show's new schedule, actor Jamie Foxx appeared, got George Lopez a little drunk, and then started talking about drugs.

Foxx celebrated the "after hours" time slot by having Lopez do some shots of booze. Once the pair was a little tipsy, Jamie shifted the conversation to the topic of Proposition 19 -- the attempt to legalize marijuana under California law.

The actor discussed his own prodigious pot consumption, then advanced a novel theory -- that Barack Obama is stoned all the time.

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Tom Hanks, Whale Expert, on 'Conan' (VIDEO)

by Oliver Miller, posted Nov 10th 2010 2:38AM
Tom Hanks, Whale Expert, on 'Conan' Conan O'Brien has a new talk show, a new studio -- and a new backdrop behind his desk. Tonight, friend-of-the-show Tom Hanks appeared for the second-ever episode of 'Conan' (weeknights, 11PM ET on TBS). And Mr. Hanks learned to his wet sorrow that Conan's new backdrop has extra-magical powers.

Hanks and Conan are good pals -- in fact, Tom gave O'Brien the nickname "Coco." But apparently the host isn't a big fan of the moniker. Conan quipped to Mr. Hanks that the whole "Coco" thing had "ruined" his life. The guest made this joke in response: "Finally, he'll blame something on someone other than Jay [Leno]!"

But a little later on, Conan had his revenge. While showing off his new backdrop, O'Brien pointed out that humpback whales were suddenly swimming in the "ocean" behind them. It was true; thanks to the magic of "blue screen" technology, miniature whales had appeared.

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'Conan' Ratings: Good, But For How Long?

by Jason Hughes, posted Nov 9th 2010 3:00PM
'Conan'Everyone expected Conan O'Brien's return to television to be a big deal, but we're not even sure TBS could have predicted it would be this huge.

'Conan' premiered to 4.2 million viewers, scoring a 2.5 in the coveted adults 18-49 demographic and a 2.8 household rating, according to a TBS press release -- meaning Coco officially beat Jay Leno in last night's ratings.

In fact, O'Brien handily outperformed all of his late night competition -- 'The Tonight Show' scored a 2.7 household rating (3.5 million) while 'Late Show' came in at 2.5 (3.4 million) and 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' at 1.7. He also landed ahead of 'Lie to Me' (1.8), 'The Event' (1.8) and the entire NBC primetime lineup last night in the demo.

'The Daily Show' was a distant 1.5 (1.3 million viewers), with 'The Colbert Report' scoring a 1.1 (1 million). These figures are based on Nielsen's 56 metered markets and could shift once national figures are in, but 'Conan' is still expected to be the late-night leader -- for this Monday, at least.

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George Lopez on Late-Night Partnership With Conan O'Brien (VIDEO)

by Donald Deane, posted Nov 9th 2010 2:15PM
On 'Access Hollywood Live' (weekdays, syndicated), George Lopez said he welcomes Conan O'Brien joining him on TBS and thinks that together they're entering a new "future of late-night TV."

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