TBS asked comedian George Lopez to move his noisy and hip late-night program again — this time off the network.
Last year "Lopez Tonight" became an unwitting player in a late-night domino game when TBS pushed back the talk show an hour later than originally planned to make room for Conan O'Brien — who had been shoved off his late night perch at NBC.
On Wednesday, the cable network announced Thursday's show would be the last one.
"TBS has reached the difficult decision not to order a third season of 'Lopez Tonight,'" the network said in a statement. "We are proud to have partnered with George Lopez, who is an immensely talented comedian and entertainer. TBS has valued its partnership with George and appreciates all of his work on behalf of the network, both on and off the air."
Despite A-list guests, an informal party atmosphere and Lopez's irreverent Latino-flavored comic persona, the show still struggled to find an audience after a high-profile launch. "Lopez Tonight" had dropped 40% in viewership in its second season, and was averaging 546,000 viewers nightly. O'Brien's 11 p.m. show, by contrast, has been attracting a nightly average of more than 1.1 million viewers.
Insiders speculate that Lopez's show might have been yanked sooner if O'Brien had not come to the network.
Lopez could not be reached for comment.
The cancellation marks another stormy chapter in the hyper-competitive, late-night arena. TBS announced in April 2010 that O'Brien would be launching a late-night program that November that would bump "Lopez Tonight" from 11 p.m. to midnight. It was an ironic twist: O'Brien, who had inherited the "Tonight Show" from Jay Leno, was dropped by NBC after he refused to move his show to a later hour to accommodate a return to late night for Leno.
Though the two situations had similarities, Lopez displayed no bitterness at the time. Steven Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, had pursued the red-haired host after his exit from NBC and had been sure that Lopez was on board with the plan to bring him to TBS, even if it meant delaying the show's start time.
"I don't feel like I'm moving for the 'red man,'" Lopez said in an interview with The Times. "It's a partnership that works. I don't mind following Conan… I think it is an aggressive move that puts TBS, with Conan and I, above what is happening on late-night right now, which is a little bit stagnant now."
He said O'Brien was very open in seeking his approval for the move: "It was very important to Conan that he felt that he wasn't doing to me what was done to him and I said, 'Absolutely not. I'm not that type of person and I completely welcome you and hope that we would do things together to promote each other's show."
He even joked about the move: "We're going to come to work an hour later, and still get the same pay. It's a Latino dream come true."
It's been a rocky year for Lopez: He was divorced from Ann Serrano this year after 17 years of marriage. Serrano in 2005 donated a kidney to Lopez in an operation he said saved his life.
Joe Flint contributed to this report.