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What Would Conan’s Potential Gabfest on Fox Have in Common With MADtv?

In the wake of Conan O'Brien releasing his spectacular "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" missive out into the world, it seems nearly 100 percent certain that he'll be fleeing the Peacock for greener pastures. Most of the speculative scuttlebutt has Conan leaning toward aligning himself with his former employers at the Fox network and, as we stated yesterday, this would be a move we can mostly get behind. However, as Coco is making his decision as to what his career holds in store for him, we would like to caution him that Fox has previously attempted to take on a venerable NBC franchise in the 11 p.m. hour and failed. And no, we're not talking about the legendarily disastrous five-week run of the Chevy Chase Show.

Of course, we're referring Fox's ill-fated 1995 decision to test Saturday Night Live's weekend dominance and launch MADtv in the 11 p.m. time slot. While it wouldn't be entirely fair to describe any show that ran for fourteen seasons as a complete failure, we'd be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Frank Caliendo (and possibly Artie Lange) who would describe the show's run as anything approaching a success.

We have zero doubts that Conan would likely deliver more laughs during his (still hypothetical!) first week on the air on Fox than MADtv delivered in fourteen years competing against SNL, but the fact remains that Fox is going to have their work cut out for them if they do, in fact, decide to bring Coco into their fold. Our advice to Conan? Do your thing, but make sure to hire some new representation when you're getting ready to cut your deal. And this time, do your best to ensure that they're competent and get you some guaranteed compensation should the show go south.

Part of the problem is that NBC, CBS, and ABC have always aired their (still popular) newscasts during that 11 p.m. time slot, whereas Fox stations run their local news broadcasts during the 10 p.m. hour. This hasn't been too much of an issue for Fox affiliates to date, as they have been more than content to air syndicated reruns of shows like The Office and Seinfeld (and to reap all of the resultant ad dollars) on weeknights from 11 to midnight. But in order for Conan (or any show) to succeed in that time slot, Fox is going to have to work overtime convincing their affiliates that a national program — one that would likely come in either third (or even fourth!) place in the ratings — would be a greater revenue generator for them than the syndication route that's been padding their pockets since the network's inception. We don't have revenue and profit figures for Fox affiliates handy, but we're guessing that they'll need their pots to be fiscally sweetened in order for them to take on the added risk (and promotional burden) of convincing their viewers that they should warm to Conan.

We have zero doubts that Conan would likely deliver more laughs during his (still hypothetical!) first week on the air on Fox than MADtv delivered in fourteen years competing against SNL, but the fact remains that Fox is going to have their work cut out for them if they do, in fact, decide to bring Coco into their fold. Our advice to Conan? Do your thing, but make sure to hire some new representation when you're getting ready to cut your deal. And this time, do your best to ensure that they're competent and get you some guaranteed compensation should the show go south.

Photo: Getty Images, WireImage