What if Conan had become the showrunner at the start of season five?

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Let's say he didn't get the Late Night job, and instead was chosen as the new showrunner of The Simpsons after Jean and Reiss left. How different would the show have been?
 

Nauru-1

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I'd imagine it being very comedy-centric, like a more extreme version of David Mirkin. I have little reason to believe it wouldn't be pretty good. I mean, even Scully managed to put out a semi-decent first year. I would be interested to see how much he would have contributed had he at least stayed on as a regular writer.
 

DotheBartman

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I know this is all theoretical, but I somehow doubt this would have ever happened or even been considered....he hadn't been on the show that long, and had no experience running one (Mirkin was picked because he did). And the fact that he left the show to HOST another says something about what his ambitions really were, I think. A lot of performing comedians make brief stops as writers on other shows as a way of getting themselves going (Demetri Martin for instance did that as a writer for Conan), and then leave to do their own thing. Basically, it's unlikely Conan would have stuck around regardless of which opportunity presented itself for him to actually perform for an audience.
 

Ben Chan

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this image is relevant, and has always amused me:

dinosaureatalonso.jpg


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in all seriousness i don't think any of us can tell. his writing for the simpsons - what very little we actually know about uit - is so different from his performance on late night.
 

jbauer

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I know this is all theoretical, but I somehow doubt this would have ever happened or even been considered....he hadn't been on the show that long, and had no experience running one (Mirkin was picked because he did). And the fact that he left the show to HOST another says something about what his ambitions really were, I think. A lot of performing comedians make brief stops as writers on other shows as a way of getting themselves going (Demetri Martin for instance did that as a writer for Conan), and then leave to do their own thing. Basically, it's unlikely Conan would have stuck around regardless of which opportunity presented itself for him to actually perform for an audience.

That pretty much sums it up.

Conan wouldn't have become a showrunner on an animated series because that was never a realistic goal for the likes of him.

Mirkin became the showrunner well before Conan left for that matter, so the point is somewhat moot. If Conan remained, Oakley and Weinstein would still have followed as showrunners after David Mirkin, followed by Mike Scully and so on.

Even if Mirkin wasn't followed by Oakley and Weinstein, the job would have still likely gone to the likes of Jace Richdale or Greg Daniels, writers that always had a natural tendency towards producing and developing.
 

Dark Homer

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from what I've read conan was really depressed during his stint, so I don't think he would have taken the showrunner position - the most stressful position in the industry - if he'd been offered it. no doubt he'd be effective at it; he was editor of the harvard lampoon for like 2 or 3 years in a row. but if he had taken it I don't think the show would've been much different from the mirkin era; the show was already heading in that direction. maybe more "experimental" for lack of a better word, with no one to stop him from putting in closeups of his face sayin "miracleon34thstreetreference;" more vaudevillian perhaps; more literary references (he wrote his thesis on faulkner). perhaps less zealous than mirkin... mirkin seems really forceful in his critiques (he's always commenting on how much he hates the media and other institutions) while conan's talk shows are just self-admittedly silly distractions from "the real world," which is relegated to the monologue
 

DotheBartman

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A part of me thinks that a Conan-created or produced series (Simpsons or otherwise) probably wouldn't be very story-centered, since so much of his material is basically off-the-wall material. His one attempt, other than Simpsons scripts, at doing a character-oriented series was "Lookwell!" with Robert Smigel (if anyone reading this hasn't seen it, stop reading right now and go watch it. You can find easily on Youtube/Google. You'll thank me later), which was basically really goofy and a massive parody, not something that would have been very oriented toward heartwarming moments or a lot of careful character writing. I think a lot of people here would possibly have been very disappointed in his Simpsons seasons, had he ever made them, but a separate series could certainly have been brilliant. Poor "Lookwell!" just never had a chance.

But yeah, I think other people would have taken - and been offered - the job before him, such as Greg Daniels (who I think would have been a brilliant showrunner). Even without the Late Night job, I kind of suspect Conan would have left the show entirely after another year or two anyway, if only because this appears to be the trend for guys like him who are more interested in performing their material than writing it for other actors to perform. He might have become a famous stand-up comedian or something. Done his own sketch show, perhaps (hey, his old writer Demetri Martin did that). Actually, Wikipedia tells me he had a film script with Smigel in the works during his Simpsons days (based on Hanz and Franz from SNL), so regardless of what exactly he would have done, his interests were clearly somewhere other than writing for The Simpsons forever. It helped make him, but a lot of shows help make a lot of people, and it doesn't mean they stick with it until the end.
 

jbauer

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Adding some speculation to the "what ifs" of potential showrunners in the show's past beyond merely Conan.

If ABC or Sony hadn't greenlit The Critic, it's most likely Al Jean and Mike Reiss would have remained showrunners for seasons 5 and 6, which was in the original contract. It's part of the reason they remained consulting producers for 3 years.

If David Mirkin hadn't been brought onboard, the job would have likely gone to Jay Kogen and Wally Wolodarsky. They were the show's senior writers at the time. The reason that didn't pan out is because they were being offered numerous development offers outside the show during the fourth season (Frasier amongst them). Same deal for Jeff Martin, who would eventually run Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

It's pretty obvious the job would never have gone to the likes of Conan O'Brien, Jon Vitti or John Swartzwelder. None of those have it in them.

Vitti is primarily a cartoon screenwriter, emphasis on the "screenwriter" part. He's not the kind of person you'd hire to run a staff or develop a full fledged season. Swartzwelder and O'Brien are pretty much covered as to why not as well.

Had Oakley and Weinstein not taken the job, most likely it would have gone to Jace Richdale. Mirkin was on his way out, as was George Meyer (who's hardly showrunner material either, despite his rewriting responsibilities).

Another likely candidate at that time would have been David Sacks (who would soon showrun 3rd Rock from the Sun).

At the end of Oakley and Weinstein's tenure, there were 2 choices: Mike Scully was the chosen one. The other would have been Steve Tompkins. Greg Daniels was out, since he was already writing the King of the Hill pilot while finishing the 22 Short Films episode.

Had Mike Scully not lasted as showrunner, they could have passed the job to Richard Appel, had he not taken the showrunner job at King of the Hill alongside Greg Daniels. David X Cohen, another natural choice to run The Simpsons, was already out because of Futurama.

Donick Cary was also a likely candidate from season 11 onwards, but left that same year. Had Scully not left, Julie Thacker could have risen to showrunner alongside him, especially given her track record on Complete Savages.

Over the past 10 years or so, there have been 3 potential showrunners, all of them active senior writers/producers on staff: Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman and Tim Long (Josh Lieb was also experienced as showrunner, although season 13 was his only one involved).

Frink isn't exactly showrunner material, and neither Don Payne nor Carolyn Omine can afford to do it these days. Seems like Kevin Curran still could though.

Regardless, Al Jean took back the position because there was no one better qualified after Scully's departure. He was already on staff as executive producer, already had the inside know-how and knew how to keep the show on track.
 

Nauru-1

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If ABC or Sony hadn't greenlit The Critic, it's most likely Al Jean and Mike Reiss would have remained showrunners for seasons 5 and 6, which was in the original contract. It's part of the reason they remained consulting producers for 3 years.

If David Mirkin hadn't been brought onboard, the job would have likely gone to Jay Kogen and Wally Wolodarsky. They were the show's senior writers at the time. The reason that didn't pan out is because they were being offered numerous development offers outside the show during the fourth season (Frasier amongst them). Same deal for Jeff Martin, who would eventually run Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
I would have been happy with any of those possibilities really. I loved season 3 and 4 with Jean/Reiss and Martin Kogen/Wolodarsky had formidable Simpsons credits.
 
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