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Q: What's happened to the Conan O'Brien show on TBS? Is he coming back on a different network? I hope he's not gone for good!

A: He will be back, though in different form. In early October "Conan" took a break while working on an overhaul -- and while O'Brien is on a nationwide tour, "Conan & Friends: An Evening of Standup and Investment Tips." When new episodes arrive in January, telecasts will be half an hour instead of an hour and, as Deadline.com put it, less structured and less traditional.

According to Variety, O'Brien said, "I was looking for something more lean and agile. I've been pushing for something that fits the modern landscape, certainly fits the way I interact with my fans more." He has reached out to audiences outside of conventional TV via other projects such as podcasts.

As for finding O'Brien in older ways, you can see the tour dates and locations at teamcoco.com. And TBS lists repeats of "Conan" in its late-night schedule beginning Oct. 29.

Q: I remember two short-lived comic book TV shows called "Sable" and "Nightman." Could you please advise who the leads were and how many episodes were produced?

A: According to "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows," the ABC series "Sable" starred Lewis Van Bergen as children's-book author who at night was the crime-fighting Jon Sable. Also in the regular cast were Ken Page, Holly Fulger and Marge Kotlisky -- and, as Sable's girlfriend/agent, Rene Russo in her screen-acting debut. The series ran for just seven episodes in 1987-88; things would get much better for Russo in 1989 when she co-starred in the beloved "Major League."

"Nightman," again according to the "Complete Directory," aired in syndication for 44 episodes in 1997-99. Matt McColm starred as a jazz musician who was also the superhero Nightman. McColm was the only regular for the entire series run as it underwent changes in casting and tone; veteran character actor Earl Holliman played Nightman's father, a retired police officer, for about half of the show's run.

Q: Why do some shows last one minute longer than the DVR is aware? Many times for shows such as "Will & Grace," I have to reset the DVR for 31 minutes or miss the last joke.

A: The short answer to why shows run a little long is that it keeps you from changing the channel at the half-hour, possibly boosting the show that follows the extended telecast, as well as making possible more ads in a hit show without reducing content even more. "Modern Family," "The Big Bang Theory," "Will & Grace" and "Grey's Anatomy" are all hits that run long. And NBC was notorious years ago for "supersizing" episodes of its hits, stretching half-hour comedies to as much as 45 minutes.

Although, years ago, one critic said the practice made DVRs "lose their minds," these days your device should know about time extensions -- if the networks have notified it accordingly. With the four current shows mentioned above, my DVR has the comedies running 31 minutes and the drama at 61 minutes. Still, I find some shows ooze past their end time (assuming the clock in my DVR is right) without the DVR schedule accounting for it, losing a bit when recorded. As a rule, I add a minute or two to the end of a scheduled recording so as not to miss something.

Not that this is the only reason shows run long. Especially on non-broadcast channels, programs are often given the creative license for running times that don't fit the standard half-hour or hour, if that's what they want to tell their stories. A related, but separate issue, involves shows whose times get moved to odd starts and stops because of live sports events airing before them. (Yes, I'm looking at Sunday nights.) Again, the best idea is to add lots of extra time to your scheduled recordings.

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Write to Rich Heldenfels, P.O. Box 417, Mogadore, OH 44260, or brenfels@gmail.com. Letters may be edited. Individual replies are not guaranteed.

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Dave Bundy is editor.

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