Turner Entertainment seems to try hardest to make advertisers laugh at its upfront presentation — and generally succeeded this time with help from Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, and TBS newcomer Pete Holmes. In a recorded routine, Ferrell said that he had bought the company and with his background in comedy “I couldn’t care less” about networks including CNN, TNT, and TruTv. Since “I like to mess around with my new toys,” he introduced the new boss: Charles Barkley. The former NBA star said that since “I’m in charge now” viewers would be “seeing a lot more Charles Barkley” — cutting to clips from Turner shows that insert him into the action. “This is the kind of bold thinking I was hoping for,” Ferrell said. “With me as CEO of Turner, and Charles, can you really go wrong?”
O’Brien seemed more relaxed with his live and recorded material than he was last year. “Why don’t we cut to the chase?” he told advertisers. “Just give us your fricking money.” He observed that with Netflix and Amazon now producing TV shows “wait until you see the shows from Crabtree and Evelyn.” The comic also poked fun at Sen. John McCain’s new bill to promote a la carte pay TV pricing. The Arizona Republican, according to O’Brien, said “why should I pay for 100 channels when I only watch Logo and BET?” He brought back a recorded bit from his show — an ad for a (phony, of course) new sponsor: an LED bulb on a tiny wand called the Rublight. (“You can rub it on a chair, rub it on your hair, rub it on a stair….”) He also recycled a promotion for a new (also phony) morning show for TBS: Wake Up And Back Up, where hosts and guests walk backward while being filmed from the back-up camera of a Toyota Sienna.
O’Brien introduced Holmes — calling him “one of the most likable performers I’ve ever met in my life” — whose The Midnight Show With Pete Holmes will launch this fall. “This is a dream come true,” Holmes said. “It’s a thrill that Conan knows my name.” The comic followed with an amiable set where he made fun of his mother for calling Celine Dion “Salon Dijon,” and riffed on what it’s like to live in New York (with the multitude of street and indoor noises “it’s impossible to tell whether your apartment is haunted”). He also mocked himself for being “the kind of guy who tells old people that they’ve still got it,” and looking “like a lesbian Val Kilmer.”