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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Conan O'Brien signed a contract extension with TBS through 2015. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Late night landscape filled with drama


You know the drama at your favorite watering hole? It's the same for television broadcasters.

Late night landscapes are filled with drama. Personalities clash, and there's an audience always looking to be entertained.

One thing we know that will stay the same for a little while is that Team Coco will have a home on TBS. Conan O'Brien and the Turner Network outlet announced on Monday that a contract has been extended through 2015.

What it means is that no matter what happens at his old home at the peacock network, it won't involve him. Watchers of late night TV know that he assumed direction of the "Tonight Show" at NBC as part of a planned takeover that was built into his "Late Night" contract. Jay Leno, at that time, was given a primetime daily slot, which proved to be a ratings loser.

After a ton of whining, Leno got his old show back and O'Brien and his crew were given walking papers.

Now, flash forward, and NBC is in an even worse spot ratings-wise, finishing behind CBS, ABC, Fox and Univision in the competition for household ratings. Rumors are circulating, and Leno is taking jabs at network managers in his monologues. Jimmy Fallon is waiting in the wings, sitting on growing ratings among the more-desired younger advertising demographics.

Unofficial word from earlier this week is that NBC will announce on Wednesday its plan to bring Fallon in as host on the "Tonight Show" after coverage of the Winter Olympics in February of 2014.

Competition is fierce for viewers after the local news. ABC recently moved "Jimmy Kimmel Live" up to the earlier time, pushing magazine-type news show "Nightline" to a later slot. In Milwaukee, we get it a half hour later than most markets because of WISN-TV Ch. 12's full hour of news at 10 p.m.

On CBS, David Letterman's "Late Show" continues to have strong viewership numbers nationally. Other cable outlets are playing with the late night audience as well, launching new programs with scripted and reality shows - and the rumor is that other talk shows are in development as well. The new FXX station slated to launch this fall may have a talk show of its own somewhere between 10 p.m. and midnight weeknights as well.

The prevailing talk among the trade publications, and entertainment-based sites is that in 2014, NBC won't renew Leno and that it will move Fallon to the "Tonight Show." Whether or not that happens, it will be a fun drama-filled time until the network figures out what move it wants to make.

MORE FOR BRAVO: It's the season of upfronts, or the meetings that cable and broadcast networks have with prospective advertisers to talk about programming plans. Bravo announced Tuesday at its upfront that it is returning 18 unscripted series and will be launching another 17 in the next year.

"Unscripted series" is the term for reality shows these days. However, most insiders know that a portion, if not all, of many reality shows are scripted. Even for the ones that aren't, producers may have the cast members repeat something they've done multiple times to get better angles and lighting.

Returning are all the incarnations of "The Real Housewives." That's New Jersey, Miami, Beverly Hills, Atlanta and New York. Also slated to return are "Inside the Actors Studio," "Tabitha Takes Over" and "Top Chef Masters" … among others.

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