Late night television is finding a way to push forward through this coronavirus shutdown that has all of Hollywood basically going dark. Governmental guidelines and city ordinances have basically put a halt to all film and TV production throughout the country, including late night shows. But Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert were the first to break out with “home editions” of their shows—Colbert recorded a monologue from his bathtub, while Fallon launched the first of a series of 10-minute episodes that he’ll record live in his home and put on YouTube each day.
Now Conan is following suit, as TBS announced today that Conan O’Brien’s show will return with new episodes on March 30th (airing on TBS) that will have been shot remotely on an iPhone. There will be no audience, and guest interviews are being filmed remotely by video chat. O’Brien’s production staff will continue to work from home, so CDC guidelines are being followed.
“The quality of my work will not go down because technically that’s not possible,” said O’Brien in a statement.
“Our first priority is the health and well-being of everyone in the Team Coco family, and our second priority is to try and find a way that we can do our jobs safely, from home, and contribute some entertainment for our fans out there who may be hungry for silly distraction,” said Jeff Ross, Executive Producer.
Late night TV has been known for its resilience, leading the way after tragedies like 9/11 and forging on during the writers strike in the 2000s. At every turn, folks like O’Brien have found an inventive way to keep us entertained, but there’s an additional Good Thing here: if Conan is going to resume airing, that means the show can continue paying its production staff. In these times of wild uncertainty, that’s a genuinely thoughtful deed.
It’ll be interesting to see how others follow. Late Night with Seth Meyers hasn’t yet announced any plans to continue online a la The Tonight Show, but I imagine they’re not too far behind. And if this shutdown lasts through April, I’m assuming the networks will be itching to get these shows back on the air regardless of video quality.
O’Brien has been sharing short little videos on YouTube throughout this break, and even recorded a “Quarantine Edition” of his podcast. Check out his “toilet paper life hacks” below.