Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year: What's on TV?

Not everyone wants to be out celebrating on New Year's Eve. Don't worry; there's plenty to watch if you're staying in.

NBC: No "Jay Leno Show"; it's pre-empted for Carson Daly's annual extravaganza. Daly, usually seen in the wee hours of the morning, will get a chunk of prime time, kicking off at 10 PM, taking a half-hour break for local news, and then resuming at 11:30 PM. He'll feature musical guests Rihanna, Jay-Z and Green Day, as well as a performance from the cast of the Broadway musical "Hair."

ABC: "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest" will ring in the New Year with a massive three-hour show with Jennifer Lopez, Daughtry, the Black Eyed Peas, Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, Keri Hilson, Colbie Caillat, Orianthi and Robin Thicke. "Dancing with the Stars" finalist Melissa Rycroft will report live from Times Square, while Black Eyed Pea Fergie is the Las Vegas correspondent. The program kicks off at 10 PM, with a break at 11 PM for the nightly news. And, yes, Clark himself will be on hand for the midnight ball drop.

CBS: As usual, the Eye Network skips the festivities. Catch a David Letterman rerun from November with Robert Pattinson, stupid human tricks and musical guest Ray Davies, followed by a rebroadcast of Craig Ferguson with Morgan Freeman and Overtone.

FOX: If you're counting the days 'til "American Idol" returns in January, you'll want to join Kris Allen and Allison Iraheta for "Billboard New Year's Eve Live," starting at 11 PM. They'll be joined by Sean Kingston and Carmen Electra.

PBS: What's with all of this newfangled "rock music"? Turn it down! And, kids, get off my lawn!!! Public TV offers a "Live from Lincoln Center" special, "New York Philharmonic New Year's Eve: Hampson, Gershwin, Copland & Broadway," with baritone Thomas Hampson, from 10 PM-midnight.

E!: "Chelsea Lately" offers a new program with guest Snoop Dogg and panelists Josh Wolf, Chris Franjola and Arden Myrin.

CNN: Despite, or maybe because of, the scandal she caused last year, Kathy Griffin will be back on the air this year with Anderson Cooper. (If you want to relive the magic of 2008, Bravo will rebroadcast the episode of Griffin's "My Life on the D List" that features the incident, along with a slew of Griffin stand-up specials.)

FOX News Channel: It's a red state New Year's Eve with country singer Lee Greenwood, U.K. pop star turned Vegas crooner Matt Goss, and the usual FOX suspects, including Bill O'Reilly, Shepard Smith, Glenn Beck and Greta Van Susteren.

MTV: After broadcasting a live show starring Miley Cyrus last year, MTV is skipping the festivities this time around and will show a "Top 9 of '09" countdown at 11 PM, featuring "the year's biggest stories." My guess: heavy on the Michael Jackson and "Twilight," not so much on Afghanistan and health care reform efforts. Over on VH1, Chris Jericho will host "100 Most Shocking Music Moments."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas from Talk Show News: it's Conan's yule log and Paul Shaffer as Cher!

Conan O'Brien and I would like to wish you a merry Christmas... and it'll be a very creepy Christmas if you spend too much time watching this:

And while Alec Baldwin was hilarious on last night's show, it was so very disappointing that we didn't get to see Paul Shaffer doing his impression of Cher singing "O Holy Night," because it just isn't Christmas without that bit. Turns out it was trimmed from the broadcast, but it is available on CBS.com as a web exclusive:

And here is a YouTube clip featuring actual footage of the Sonny & Cher Christmas special! (If you want to hear Cher singing the carol, there's a recording here.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Fun Time: 10 best talk show appearances of the decade

Movieline has made its choices for the top 10 talk show moments of the past decade, including expected faves like Joaquin Phoenix and post-prison Paris Hilton on "Letterman," and a few surprises (who knew the critically reviled Jay Leno would be responsible for three of the top clips?).

I would have to agree with the choice of Warren Zevon's final "Letterman" appearance -- that was truly an unforgettable show -- but in terms of moments that didn't make the list, I'd say Jimmy Kimmel and ex-girlfriend Sarah Silverman produced a best-of-the-decade-worthy bit with "I'm F*@#ing Matt Damon," part of the ABC host's ongoing feud with the "Bourne" star. You know you wanna watch it again:

Do you have a favorite talk show moment from the past decade? Nominate it in the comments.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jay Leno: Worst show of 2009?

Good thing Jay Leno doesn't care what the critics say, because it looks like his "Jay Leno Show" is becoming a staple of "Worst of the Year" lists. Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker chooses his program as the very worst of 2009, behind even Glenn Beck (he's at #2). "By any measure — comedy, interviews, ratings — this prime-time experiment has failed," writes Tucker. "There's an odd listlessness to Leno's performance these days, as though he's tired of being the public face of NBC's 10 p.m. audience shrinker."

The Washington Post's Hank Stuever also declares Leno the worst of 2009: "10 o'clock's bold experiment? Phhhfffft. Our bedtime isn't that early, after all."

While most critics list five or 10 shows as the worst of the year, Tom Maurstad of the Dallas Morning News doesn't even bother -- he names one show, and you guessed it, it's Leno: "'The Jay Leno Show' is train-wreck TV that just keeps going and going. Its ratings are dismal and it's obliterated what had been the time slot for some of the most beloved and important shows in TV history. "

Time writer and blogger James Poniewozik puts Leno on his list along with other worst-list staples like "Jersey Shore" and "Osbournes: Reloaded." "Didn't some idiot newsmagazine call this 'the future of TV'? Well, yes, and it remains so, as a sign of the cost-cutting and product-placement-ization of the declining big-network medium. But we did not necessarily mean this as a compliment."

TV Squad's Allison Waldman also disses Leno, calling his show "retro in a bad way."

Better luck in 2010, Jay.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Talk Show News Book Club: Paul Shaffer, "We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives"

photoA few years ago, I got a job transcribing tapes for an author who had been hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of a former teen idol and movie star. As I worked on the seemingly endless hours of recordings, I realized that the job of a ghostwriter is to convince readers that if the performer could write as well as he can act and sing, this is the book he would have produced. Of course, it's highly unlikely that Paul Shaffer can craft a sentence as well as he can play a Hammond B3 organ, but co-writer David Ritz has done an excellent job of channeling Shaffer's voice for this smooth-as-silk memoir.

If you sat down to recount your life story, chances are you wouldn't tell it all the way through in perfect chronological order -- there would be digressions and anecdotes told out of order. That's captured in We'll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Show-biz Saga, as, for instance, Paul interrupts a narrative of his college years to talk about his obsession "with the marvelous yearly telethons put on by Mr. Jerry Lewis." A reminiscence about the first time he heard James Brown turns into a story about how he bought "a number of choice items" from the late singer's estate in 2008. Shaffer's early infatuation with soul man Wayne Cochran leads to a story about "the first time I met David Letterman," who, it turns out, was also a fan.

Most of the chapters are short, making the book hard to put down ("just one more chapter!"). You'll read about Paul's boyhood in Thunder Bay, Ontario; his friendships with future stars like Gilda Radner and Martin Short in Toronto; his experiences on "Saturday Night Live" and working with Belushi & Aykroyd on "The Blues Brothers"; and, of course, his years on "Late Night" and "Late Show." The book is stuffed with celebrity anecdotes about everyone from Britney Spears to Don Ho.

Refreshingly, Shaffer isn't afraid to tell it like it is. He talks about times in his life that he goofed, recounting some embarrassing moments with Eric Clapton and Sammy Davis Jr., and shares an anecdote about how his temper got the best of him after a Christmas "Late Show" taping -- unbeknownst to him, his tantrum went out over a live microphone to the audience. Paul comes across as a pretty humble guy, someone who is happy to be a sideman and Letterman's foil. "I'm happy to be the guy who backs up the singers, the strippers, the rockers, and the rollers," he writes. If you've been watching this most swingin' of cats on TV for all these years, his autobiography will be a groovy treat.

If you've read the book, feel free to share your opinions in the comments.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stephen Colbert gives Sports Illustrated the Colbert Bump

stephen colbert sports illustrated magazine coverHow cool is this -- Stephen Colbert is on the cover of Sports Illustrated! The caption promises "a truthy tale of a sport getting the Colbert Bump," referring to Stephen's campaign to have his "nation" of loyal viewers sponsor the U.S. Speedskating team. (Thanks to No Fact Zone for the cover pic.) According to the Associated Press, fans have donated over $250,000 so far. Talk Show News chipped in 25 bucks -- have you ponied up some cash for our Lycra-clad heroes yet? If not, you can click on the "Donate" link at ColbertNation.com.

The magazine is due to hit newsstands on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sarah Palin to appear on "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" tonight

The New York Times is reporting that a certain rogue will be appearing with Conan O'Brien tonight: Sarah Palin will make "a surprise walk-on appearance," writes TV reporter Bill Carter. (Oops -- guess Carter spoiled the surprise.) No word yet on what Palin will be doing on the show. Also due to be guests tonight: Zach Braff, Bear Grylls and Tony Bennett.

Here are a few of O'Brien's best Palin gags, from About.com Political Humor:

"According to a new poll, 42% of Americans say they would vote for Sarah Palin for president in 2012. They also said they'd support her decision to step down in 2013."

"In Sarah Palin's new book, she says when she first laid eyes on her future husband, she said out loud, 'Thank you, God,' which is the same thing the Democrats said when they first laid eyes on Sarah Palin."

"In a recent study, the United States was ranked the 114th happiest country in the world. Then Sarah Palin stepped down. Now we're at 17."

And don't forget William Shatner's hilarious reading of Palin's resignation speech.

Update: Shatner figured in last night's sketch, too; here's a link in case you missed it.

Jimmy Fallon's Christmas sweater giveaway

In the Battle of the Jimmys, I'll admit that I choose Kimmel over Fallon every time -- I find the name of the NBC host's Twitter feed, latenightjimmy, is something of a provocation since there are in fact two late night Jimmys (yeah, I realize it's the name of Fallon's show) -- but I must give props to Fallon's Christmas countdown featuring horrifyingly ugly holiday sweaters. Seeing men put on too-small bedazzled sweaters is always good for a laugh, and as a lover of Christmas kitsch, from lousy music to insanely over-the-top lighting displays, I'm enjoying the unveiling of this dirty dozen of dreadful garments.

Jay Leno: Three months, 1,000+ product placements

Time.com reporter and blogger James Poniewozik writes that Nielsen has released its year-end list of TV's top shows -- for product placement. In first place? Jay Leno, whose show was conceived to be "advertiser friendly." According to Nielsen, there have been 1,015 plugs since the show launched in September.

By the way, that number refers to paid product placements -- such as the frequent shout-outs to Ford (used in the Green Car Challenge) -- as well as unpaid plugs for movies and the like; Nielsen doesn't distinguish.

There were no other talk shows in the top 10. Following Jay were "WWE Monday Night Raw" (with 787 sponsor mentions), "The Biggest Loser" (704), "American Idol" (553), and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (483).

David Letterman, Craig Ferguson and other late night stars say goodbye to Diane Sawyer

Signing off after over a decade on the popular AM show, Diane Sawyer said goodbye today to "Good Morning America." Offering their best wishes were five late night TV hosts: David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon (who invited Diane over for "Scattergories and Sambuca at my house"), Stephen Colbert and Craig Ferguson. Watch the segment here.

Sawyer is leaving "GMA" to replace Charles Gibson as the anchor of ABC's "World News." She'll begin her new early-evening gig on Dec. 21. George Stephanopoulos will replace Sawyer starting Monday on "GMA."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Craig Ferguson: His 1,000th show is coming up!

On Tuesday, Dec. 15, "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" will celebrate its 1,000th telecast with a special lineup of guests -- and puppets. Here's who will be partying with Craig that night:

The show will be hosted by Wavy the puppet. Joining the alligator are humans Kristen Bell, Maria Bello, Jason Schwartzman, and L.A. pop band the Broken West. And from the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Jason Segel will appear along with his puppet Dracula.

Ferguson became the third "Late Late Show" host on Jan. 3, 2005. The program was previously hosted by Tom Snyder, who presided over 777 shows between 1995-1999, and Craig Kilborn, who holds the record with his 1,190 broadcasts between 1999-2004.

David Letterman: A Christmas tradition

There's nothing better during the holidays than tradition, is there? For fans of "Late Show with David Letterman," one of the most beloved traditions is the annual Christmas appearance of Jay Thomas and Darlene Love, so I just wanted to reassure Dave fans that they are scheduled to be guests on the Dec. 23 episode. Also on that night: actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, promoting her new film "Crazy Heart." (Edited 12/16 to add that Maggie will now be appearing on Monday's show, and Alec Baldwin is due to take her place on Wednesday.)

Here's a 1995 clip of Love performing "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home") on "Late Show":

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Colbert's new nemesis: How do you pronounce "DeSeve"?

On last night's "Colbert Report," Stephen featured a "Who's Attacking Me Now?" segment which took to task White House advisor G. Edward DeSeve. While poking fun at the administration's Recovery.gov web site, Colbert singled out Recovery Act Coordinator G. Edward DeSeve as particularly untrustworthy, pronouncing his last name as "Deceive."

A few days ago, DeSeve struck back, referring to the Comedy Central host as "Stefan Colburt." "Not only did he call me out, but he perverted the pronunciation of my name," said DeSeve, perverting the pronunciation of Colbert's name.

"You're just steamed because I nailed you hot and hard, and neither Stephen Colbert or Stefan Colburt back down," the faux pundit fired back. But how do you pronounce DeSeve? It took some Internet searching, but I finally found a 2002 interview with DeSeve, then a professor at the University of Maryland, from NPR's "Talk of the Nation." Host Neal Conan introduced "Ed DeSeve," pronouncing "Seve" in such a way that it rhymes with the first syllable of "heaven" or "Kevin" -- or like "seven" without the "n."

You're welcome, G.E.D.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bonnie Hunt: Saying goodbye to her talk show?

Just a couple hours ago, my husband and I were watching a TiVo'd episode of "The Bonnie Hunt Show" -- we're not regular viewers, but recorded it today because one of our favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, was on. "This show is really cheap-looking, like something on public access," said my spouse. (It didn't help that Oswalt was promoting a movie, "Big Fan," which currently exists in something of a netherworld -- no longer in theaters, not yet out on DVD.) Hunt herself is a reliably good talk show guest and has a pleasant personality, but the program never seemed to catch on. Another likable blonde, Ellen DeGeneres, gets all the daytime buzz.

And now, TV blogger Josef Adalian is reporting that "The Bonnie Hunt Show" will finish out its second season, but after that, it's bye-bye Bonnie. "Bonnie Hunt has told her staffers that her daytime talk show will end its two-season run in September," he reports. "Indeed, many syndicated insiders have considered 'Bonnie' a dead show walking since the middle of last season, when it became clear that the show's ratings weren't improving." In addition, stations airing "Bonnie" must pay a licensing fee to producer Warner Bros., instead of the more desirable barter fee (stations would rather not pay up front for a show, especially one like "Bonnie" that draws middling ratings; with the barter system, they split ad revenues with the syndicator).

Adalian states that the show's ratings haven't improved -- "Bonnie" has averaged around a 0.9 rating this fall, the same as last year. By comparison, "Ellen" scored a 2.3 in the same period, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Jimmy Kimmel: Costco cover boy

jimmy kimmelTalk Show News always likes to spotlight the latest magazine covers featuring late night stars. So far, we've seen hosts on the covers of publications like Playboy, Entertainment Weekly and Time. Maybe membership warehouse store Costco's magazine, The Costco Connection, doesn't have the same prestige, but Jimmy Kimmel is a self-described Costco fanatic and had even expressed the desire on his show to have his mug on the cover.

The article, which is available online for non-members, features Kimmel's shopping tips and musings on his love for the store. "This is my Disneyland," Jimmy told reporter Steve Fisher. "This is where I realize it's great to be an American, when I walk through Costco." Kimmel, a member since 1994, reveals that he bought his ex-wife's engagement ring at the store, and says his last wish is to be buried in a Costco casket.

Conan's feeling Comcastic

Earworm of the day: listen to Conan O'Brien's musical salute to Comcast's acquisition of NBC, and just try to get it out of your head. It's "Com-com-com-Comcastic!"

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jimmy Kimmel: Adam Lambert uninvited from his show

"American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert had been scheduled to appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Dec. 17 to perform songs from his new album For Your Entertainment. However, following his controversial performance on ABC's "American Music Awards," it's obvious that someone at the network doesn't want to give the singer any more air time. Along with the nixed "Kimmel" spot, he has also been removed from the lineup of "Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve."

However, NBC is more than happy to give the star a place on its airwaves. The Twitter feed for "The Jay Leno Show" announced earlier today that Lambert will be appearing on that program on Dec. 21, and the publicist for "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" just sent out a new set of listings which included the "Idol" favorite on Dec. 14.

And Lambert hasn't been completely banned from the Alphabet Network -- Barbara Walters will be interviewing him for her "Most Fascinating People" special, to air Dec. 9 at 10 PM, along with fellow pop provocateur Lady Gaga.

Jay Leno: Move him to 8 PM?

Now that Comcast has acquired NBC Universal from the Sheinhardt Wig Company -- uh, I mean General Electric -- TV writers are pondering what it could mean for the suffering Peacock Network. Of course, the deal could take 18 months to finalize thanks to regulatory hurdles, but why not speculate?

Last month, I suggested that a slimmed-down "Jay Leno Show" could work at 11 PM. Now, Josef Adalian of TV MoJoe comes up with another idea: put Jay on at 8 and move "serious, groundbreaking drama" back to the 10 o'clock hour. Apparently, NBC initially suggested this to Leno, who vetoed the plan, but Adalian says, "If Leno objects, NBC should simply break up with him." Jay's sagging ratings at 10 "are clearly hurting local newscasts and, worse, deny [Conan] O'Brien any chance at success (CBS' 10 p.m. shows give David Letterman three times as many viewers as a lead-in and promotional base)."

Of course, it's not like NBC has any "groundbreaking" dramas in its pipeline, so it would take a while to get that plan up and running.

Monday night's overnight ratings brought more bad news for Jay: a new broadcast came in third, after reruns of "Castle" and "CSI: Miami," with an anemic 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Get well soon, Reege!

Who doesn't love Regis Philbin? The 78-year-old talk show host, who holds the Guinness World Record for having logged more hours than any other TV personality, had a successful hip surgery and should be back on the air early next year. In the meantime, Kelly Ripa will co-host with a variety of substitutes, from frequent Reege replacements Anderson Cooper and Jeff Probst to her hubby Mark Consuelos and, on Friday's show, actor Christian Slater.

In case you missed it last week, here's Regis taking over "Jimmy Kimmel Live":

Monday, November 30, 2009

Jay Leno preempted by the Prez

For the first time since it began airing in September, "The Jay Leno Show" will be preempted tomorrow night, due to the President's speech on the war in Afghanistan. The speech will air at 8 PM Eastern time, while "The Biggest Loser," one of NBC's few genuine hits, will run from 9-11.

According to The Live Feed blog, Leno's ratings have stabilized. "For the past 11 episodes in a row, Leno's program has either maintained or improved its adult demo rating compared to the previous week," writes James Hibberd. "Often, 'Leno Show' has increased despite a declining lead-in as the holidays approach. And last week was Leno's most-watched since mid-October." Of course, that "doesn't change the fact that on any given evening, his shows is usually the lowest-rated program on a major broadcast network."

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Leno's biggest competition isn't other 10 PM shows like "CSI" and "The Mentalist": it's recorded programs. "With one-third of American TV households now equipped with DVRs like TiVo, the 10 p.m. hour is emerging as a popular time for people to catch up on what they missed earlier in the evening, or earlier in the week," says the AP's David Bauder.

Beginning in mid-January, people who long to see more drama at 10 PM without relying on their TiVos can simply switch over to the USA Network. In what looks an awful lot like an attempt to provide counterprogramming, USA (which is owned by NBC Universal) is putting some of its most popular programs on the air in the 10 o'clock hour: freshman series "White Collar" will air on Tuesdays, "Psych" returns for the second half of its fourth season on Wednesdays, and spy drama "Burn Notice" finishes up its third season on Thursdays.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turkey time TV: NBC, Lopez say no to reruns

One of the most common search phrases that people use to find this site is, "Why is [name of show] in reruns?" That shouldn't be such a mystery; everyone needs a vacation, even highly-paid talk show hosts (and their less-highly-paid staffs). Thanksgiving is a day off for most people, but some shows will be airing brand-new episodes for the benefit of viewers who want to spend the night relaxing in front of the TV.

NBC will feature a full slate of new shows. Jay Leno and guest Megan Fox will entertain a studio audience made up of members of the U.S. military. Conan O'Brien follows that up with Pee-wee Herman, actor Donald Faison and Bon Jovi, and then Jimmy Fallon will sit down with Robin Williams and "Parks & Recreation" actress Rashida Jones. Finally, Carson Daly and Weezer are on at 1:35 for anyone who hasn't yet fallen into a tryptophan-induced slumber.

Over on TBS, George Lopez offers up a new broadcast with "New Moon"'s Taylor Lautner, "The Hills'" Kristin Cavallari and electro-hop musicians LMFAO.

The next night, Jay, Conan and Carson will be showing reruns, but Fallon has a new program with "SNL" cast member Fred Armisen, actress Carey Mulligan and chef Daniel Boulud (with ideas for Thanksgiving leftovers, perhaps?).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

TSN Holiday Gift Guide: Presents for the talk show fan in your life

Only five and a half weeks 'til Christmas! If you're shopping for a talk show lover, here are some great gift ideas:

Late Night BookLate Night with David Letterman: The Book: Sure, it was published way back in 1984, but copies are available on Amazon.com for a penny, and it would make a fun present for the Dave fan in your life who was too young to watch his old NBC broadcast -- or the nostalgic older fan. You can't watch these segments, since the show is out of circulation, but you can read them: "Hotel Etiquette," starring Larry "Bud" Melman! "Dave's Video Funhouse"! "The Museum of the Hard to Believe"! And so much more.

Dueling Memoirs: What Craig Ferguson enthusiast wouldn't adore the audio book version of American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot, read by Craig himself? If your friend is a Paul Shaffer fan, pick up the keyboard player's unabridged recording of We'll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Showbiz Saga.

Chelsea Handler's Playboy Cover: It's only available on newsstands, but if you can't find it in your local store, MyMags will sell you the individual issue.

Conan O'Brien fans who can't get enough of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog will enjoy the rude canine's talking key chain toy, which spouts signature phrases like "I keed!" and "You're a great friend, for me to poop on." There's more Triumph madness on this double feature DVD, which includes a "best of Triumph" and O'Brien's tenth anniversary special.

If your friend likes Jay Leno, or bad movies, he might be amazed to know that the host co-starred with "Karate Kid"'s Pat Morita in a film called "Collision Course." The 1989 flick never got a theatrical release, due to the bankruptcy of distributor De Laurentiis Entertainment, but it's still in print on DVD! Leno plays Detroit cop Tony Costas, who teams with a Japanese detective (Morita) to track down a stolen engine prototype.

Regis Philbin and his wife, Joy, have recorded a new CD called Just You. Just Me. With standards like "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" and "This Guy's In Love With You" (featuring special guest Paul Shaffer!), this might be just the ticket for your grandma.

Anyone who misses Jimmy Fallon's old "SNL" sketches, like "Barry Gibb Talk Show" and "Sully & Denise," will appreciate his "best of" DVD. A CD by Fallon's house band, The Roots, will please hip-hop fans.

For the future correspondent, pick up a "Daily Show" desk set, with a spiral notebook, pen, and sticky notes. Any Colbert fan would want their very own "On Notice" dry-erase board. Also, Stephen's 2007 book, I Am America (And So Can You!), is finally out in paperback. For the intellectual, Stephen Colbert and Philosophy: I Am Philosophy (And So Can You!) features chapters like "Is Stephen Colbert America's Socrates?" and ponders questions such as "Has truthiness taken the place of truth?"

G'day, Chelsea! Handler goes down under

Next week, "Chelsea Lately" will air a series of shows shot in Australia.

"The shows will be recorded at Sydney’s Foxtel Studios in front of a live audience, will feature Australian guests, and will be broadcast to a worldwide TV audience," according to an E! press release. "For the sharp-tongued star, this will be her first trip to Australia and the first time E! has ever shot a series of talk shows outside the US. Local celebrities shall be put on notice, as Chelsea seeks out the best and worst of Australian popular culture for her inimitable, frank and always funny verdict.

"Says Handler about the upcoming trip to Australia, 'I am so excited to turn the tables on a country and finally be the one going down instead of the one being gone down upon...I love kangaroos.'"

(Incidentally, this may be the "the first time E! has ever shot a series of talk shows outside the US," but another one of the channel's stars, "The Soup"'s Joel McHale, went to Australia last spring, and taped a special "Soup" episode for broadcast down under.)

Chelsea's Aussie guests will include talk show host Rove McManus, "True Blood" actor Ryan Kwanten, and nature program host "Ranger Stacey" Thomson.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lou Dobbs, VP Joe Biden to sit down with Jon Stewart next week

Lou Dobbs will be the guest on next Wednesday's "Daily Show."

Dobbs has been in the news since he abruptly quit his CNN talk show a couple days ago -- there's even been speculation that the reason he walked away was because he wants to run for president.

It won't be Dobbs' first public chat since leaving CNN, though; he'll be appearing on Monday's Bill O'Reilly program.

In other big TDS guest news: vice president Joe Biden will be visiting Jon on Tuesday the 17th. It won't be Biden's first appearance on the Comedy Central program, but it will mark the first time a sitting vice president has visited. (The closest Stewart could come to Dick Cheney was his wife, Lynne, in October 2007.)

The rest of TDS's upcoming guest lineup: author Jake Adelstein on Monday and rock band Jack's Mannequin, for some reason, on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

David Letterman and Andre Agassi: Bye-bye hairpiece

On tonight's "Late Show with David Letterman," Dave speaks to Andre Agassi about something the host calls "more stunning than the drug revelation" -- the tennis player's mullet hairpiece.

"That is not my hair," the now-bald Agassi admitted when Letterman displayed a 1990 photo of the star with flowing blond locks.

"It's not a wig, it's a system, is that what we have going on there?" asked Dave.

"It's a weave system," said Agassi. "The night before the French Open final, I used the wrong conditioner and it started to come off... I've never prayed for a result in my life. I prayed that day for that wig to stay on. I had about 50 bobby pins holding it down."

One lucky lady winds up with a souvenir!

David Letterman Case: Dueling lawyers!

ABC's "Good Morning America" featured an 8-minute interview with the lawyers involved in the David Letterman extortion case: Gerald L. Shargel, Joe Halderman's attorney, and defending Dave, Daniel J. Horwitz. You can watch the entire segment here.

As I mentioned yesterday, Shargel's point is that Halderman was simply a man trying to sell a story -- he had a First Amendment right! -- and Dave could have paid for it, or not.

Shargel couldn't understand why Halderman bringing the offer to Letterman's car at 6 AM was such a big deal. "There's nothing illegitimate about going to the car where he knew he could effectively deliver the proposal. He knew Letterman's driver, he gave the package to the driver. He didn't break into the car. I don't quite know why people are focusing on that. Would it have been better if he sent it Federal Express? I think that's silly... He had a First Amendment right to create that property, to develop that property."

"This was not a legitimate business transaction," countered Horwitz. "Who negotiates a business transaction at 6 in the morning in the shadows of somebody's apartment building? Who says 'your world's about to collapse'? Who threatens their personal and professional lives? And who says at 6 in the morning, 'I need an answer in 2 hours'? Those are not the earmarks of a legitimate business transaction. Those are the earmarks of classic blackmail."

"I'm sitting here at 3 in the morning in Santa Monica in the dark, so in one sense, that rings hollow," said Shargel, who was appearing via satellite.

Naturally, both attorneys ended with, "I'll see you in court!" "David Letterman is fully prepared to go all the way here, and that means testifying at a trial if necessary," said Horwitz.

"I look forward to that time when I will cross examine David Letterman," responded Shargel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ratings News: Leno's low, good start for Lopez and Sykes

Bad ratings news for Jay Leno: last night's show had a disastrous 1.2 rating, his lowest to date, in the coveted™ 18-49 demographic. NBC had insisted that Leno only needed a 1.5 rating to be profitable, since the show is so cheap to produce. However, the Monday night football games on ESPN are taking a bite out of Leno's male audience, and ABC's "Castle" and CBS's "CSI: Miami" are also attracting many viewers.

According to the New York Times, Leno's woes are affecting the rest of NBC's late night franchises: "Conan O’Brien on 'The Tonight Show' fell to just a 1.7 rating in the overnight household ratings and the preliminary 18-49 ratings put him well below his main competitor, David Letterman on CBS... Jimmy Fallon hit his lowest number to date Monday night in those household ratings, a 0.9, well behind his main competitor, Craig Ferguson on CBS, who scored a 1.7."

Things are looking cheerier for new entrants Wanda Sykes and George Lopez. The debut of TBS's "Lopez Tonight" was a big hit with young demos: "Lopez managed to surpass the season averages for shows starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson­ and in some cases even Conan O’Brien and David Letterman." 1.02 million 18-49 viewers tuned in, "which beat the regular performances of those first four hosts. He also had 608,000 viewers between the ages of 18 and 34."

Of course, Leno started strong, too. The question is whether the people who were curious enough to tune in last night will stick around.

Sykes' first outing on FOX averaged a 2.2 rating in the overnights. Meanwhile, NBC's "Saturday Night Live," featuring guest host Taylor Swift, scored a 5, one of its best of the year so far.

David Letterman Case: It wasn't extortion, honest!

Now it can be revealed: the legal tactic that Joe Halderman will use to assert his innocence. According to the New York Times, Halderman "was simply trying to sell a story, not extort money."

His lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, is seeking to have the attempted grand larceny charge against his client dismissed. “This was a commercial transaction,” he told reporters at the courthouse. “It was nothing more.”

Writes the Times' John Eligon: "What Mr. Halderman did was legal because the information he possessed had its own independent value – meaning that, even without going to Mr. Letterman first, a third party, such as a book publisher or movie producer, would have paid for it, according to the motion."

So Halderman wasn't trying to blackmail Letterman -- he was simply trying to peddle a heartwarming tale of a talk show host... and the women who loved him. If Dave had said no, he probably could have sold it to "Law & Order."

The broadcaster's lawyer, Daniel J. Horwitz, stated that despite his client's three decades in the biz, Letterman has never been accused of sexual harassment. “Mr. Letterman is not on trial,” Mr. Horwitz said. “Any attempt to focus attention on Mr. Letterman, who’s the victim in this case, is an attempt to divert attention away from Mr. Halderman.”

George Lopez: Did you watch?

So apparently no one in the vast Talk Show News reading public watched Wanda Sykes' new talk show, as there were no comments on that post. Based on the comments that do come in, there are lots of Conan and Dave fans in my audience. But did anyone click over to TBS before "Tonight" or "Late Show" kicked off to watch the debut of "Lopez Tonight"?

I'm no Lopez fan, but I forced myself to watch at least the first half hour (the things I do for this blog). He kicked off with a 10-minute monologue that was very light on topical references, except a couple remarks about Sammy Sosa's oddly bleached skin and the swine flu. It seemed like his usual stand-up fare, with lots of gags about his family and ethnic background, which makes me wonder how he'll be able to sustain it over the course of weeks and months. Maybe he'll gradually fold in more of the usual late night talk show topics.

After a brief appearance by a nightshirt-clad Ellen DeGeneres (she was trying to sleep next door, but the Lopez audience was just having too much fun!), the comedian brought a couple of audience members up on stage to play a race-based game show. Interestingly, Wanda Sykes did a similar thing on her program -- slides of Asian celebrities were shown and her celebrity panel had to guess which country they were from. Lopez's duo had to watch brief man-on-the-street clips of minorities being interviewed by a show staffer and guess how they would respond to certain stereotypical questions: had the black dude ever been in jail? Did the Asian guy have a small penis? Hee-larious!

There was something self-congratulatory about the whole affair, as if Lopez thought he was the Sonia Sotomayor of talk show hosts. Maybe once he relaxes a bit, the show will find its groove, but I definitely won't be watching unless he has a guest I'm just dying to see. Maybe I'll tune in for Lisa Lampanelli tomorrow. Scheduled to appear tonight: Jamie Foxx and Marc Anthony; Wednesday, Queen Latifah and Oscar De La Hoya, along with the divine Miss L; and on Thursday, Larry David and Kelly Osbourne.

What did the nation's TV critics have to say? The Boston Herald's Mark A. Perigard was harsh, criticizing Lopez's monologue ("a relentless volley of duds") and the ethnic-stereotype bit ("a cringeworthy segment that seemed never-ending"). AdAge.com's Laura Martinez wrote a piece titled "I Might Be Mexican, but I Don't Have to Like 'Lopez Tonight'": "I might be missing something here, but I don't find jokes about Mexican food and the gases it produces really funny... To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, still one of my favorite comedians, Mr. Lopez's comedy doesn't offend me as a 'minority'; it offends me as a funny person."

EW.com's Ken Tucker was friendlier, complimenting Lopez's "disarming, relaxed air that puts him ahead of, say, Jimmy Fallon’s jittery opening night." Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times called it "a standard, if entertaining hour... Lopez took [Arsenio] Hall's vision of a funky good time and blew it up to enormous proportions." The Onion AV Club's Todd VanDerWerff gave the show a B minus: Lopez was "[a]n alert and interested interviewer," but said his "jokes all went to fairly expected places."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wanda Sykes: Did you watch?

Looks like Wanda Sykes' debut on Saturday night got decent ratings -- "up 16 percent from MADtv’s fourth-quarter average in 2008," according to preliminary Nielsen numbers.

I tuned in, and was surprised at how boldly partisan Sykes' monologue was; if any conservative FOX News aficionados happened to be watching, they probably weren't for long. In a world of late night TV monologues where the hosts usually try to strike a balance between jokes about the GOP and the Dems, Sykes is unabashedly liberal. That might turn some people off, but I found it rather refreshing to see such a strong point of view. Wishy-washy she's not.

Then there was a pretaped comedy bit which might just have been the raunchiest thing I have ever seen on network television, in which Sykes tried to recycle a box of old sex toys and promote environmentally friendly new ones, such as a solar-powered vibrator and reusable condoms. I'm amazed that one got OK'd by the censors.

A segment in which Sykes and sidekick Keith Robinson riffed about a girl at an Obama rally did not elicit any chuckles, but I did laugh at her remarks about Nicolas Cage's recent money troubles -- his bad financial decisions included buying a mansion made up of hundreds of smaller mansions.

The best part of the show, I thought, was actually the panel discussion, where Mary Lynn Rajskub, Daryl "Chill" Mitchell and Phil Keoghan, cocktails in hand, chatted about a few lightweight news stories, such as a hotel in space that will cater to people willing to pay $4.5 million for the privilege of visiting. Of course, I'm a total sucker for Keoghan, the charming "Amazing Race" host (that space hotel would make a killer pit stop), but the discussion was fast-paced and funny.

In short, if you were already a Wanda fan, you'll probably like the show; I don't think she'll be making any new converts. Reviews of the program were mostly mixed to negative, with Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker calling the show "awkward," and USA Today's Robert Bianco panning it as a "strained, strident hour that seemed underfunded and, despite all the time put into it, underrehearsed." The St. Petersburg Times' Eric Deggans was a little friendlier, saying the debut was "distinguished mostly by the fact that it didn't suck out loud," and that her "unerring standup comedy style... saved a lot of borderline moments."

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wanda Sykes and George Lopez: New Talk Show Alert!

Two new talk shows are getting ready to launch: "The Wanda Sykes Show" on FOX, and and George Lopez's "Lopez Tonight" on TBS. Sykes' program will only be airing on Saturdays, while Lopez will be on four nights a week, beginning Monday.

What can viewers expect? There will be guests, of course -- Eva Longoria-Parker, Ellen DeGeneres and Kobe Bryant on Lopez's show; Mary Lynn Rajskub, Daryl "Chill" Mitchell and "Amazing Race" host Phil Keoghan are slated to appear on the debut of "Sykes."

According to an Associated Press story, "Lopez promises to bring 'the party back to late-night,' signaling a looser, hipper hour in the tradition of 'The Arsenio Hall Show,' said analyst Bill Carroll of media buyer Katz Television in New York. Sykes is planning Bill Maher-type panels with both lighthearted and serious discussion of politics and culture as part of her mix."

Sykes gave TV Guide's Natalie Abrams a rundown of what she's got in store: "I will do a monologue. There's a piece with my friend Keith [Robinson]. This is the first time you'll actually see me with someone who knows me. I can't fake it with Keith, he knows me and he calls me on my bullshit. It'll be great to have that relationship. Also, we have what we call Wandarama, which is the weekend review. We'll have a lot of video clips and it'll end with a big produced three-minute piece. We have the panel guests with my other friend Porsche, who's a drag queen. I treat this show as my time where I can also hang out with my friends. There might not be some big celebrities come through, but it'll be my real friends."

Lopez told Access Atlanta blogger Rodney Ho that he "will have the basic tenets of a talk show: monologue, skits, interviews, musical acts. But he said the set will resemble a comedy club and he will move around the stage. He will use hand-held cameras to generate more of a party atmosphere."

Jay Leno: Could his show be moving to 11 PM?

It's only a rumor, of course, but what is the Internet for if not to spread unfounded rumors? Tom Jicha of South Florida's Sun-Sentinel passes on this possible scoop, which he heard from "a friend with inside ties to the TV business" -- if Comcast winds up buying a controlling stake in NBC, "The Jay Leno Show" could wind up moving to 11 PM, clearing the way for local newscasts at 10. That would leave Conan O'Brien's "Tonight" with the midnight slot, and bring back the head-to-head competition between David Letterman and his ol' rival Jay.

"The affiliates are justifiably upset that Leno's low-rated 10 p.m. show is hurting their late newscasts," writes Jicha. "Giving them a 10 p.m. news window in front of Leno alleviates that and gives local stations an hour with a substantially larger available audience." Presumably, the newscasts, now 35 minutes long, would expand to fill the entire 10-11 slot; a lot of FOX affiliates already do this, and many of them compete quite effectively with the network programs airing at that hour.

Jicha suggests that if Jay's show is airing between 11 and midnight, he could go back to frontloading it with Headlines and Jaywalking, signature features that are now relegated to the last 10 minutes of his program, in order to give him a "35-minute jump on David Letterman." Of course, that might mean people would watch Jay's monologue and comedy bits, and then switch over to Dave at 11:35 rather than endure the Green Car Challenge, 10 @ 10, or the other less-popular filler segments that Leno has introduced.

I have a better idea. Give the affiliates 10-11 PM; air an abbreviated "Jay Leno Show" from 11-11:35; and keep Conan in his current time slot. It seems obvious (to me, anyway) that moving "Tonight" to midnight would be a huge loss of prestige for the franchise, and not exactly a vote of confidence from NBC. But why on earth does Jay Leno need a full hour? He's never been a particularly good interviewer. He's a comedian. Monologue, Headlines, another short comedy segment, and out. The affiliates are happy, Leno doesn't have to pretend to be interested in what Sandra Bullock has to say, and Conan won't lose face.

You're welcome, NBC.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stephen Colbert and Speedskating: Joey Cheek to appear on Thursday

On Monday's show, Stephen Colbert announced that the "Colbert Nation" would be sponsoring the U.S. Speedskating team, which had been left in the lurch after its biggest donor, Dutch bank DSB, declared bankruptcy in October. Speedskater Dan Jansen appeared on that episode, and on Thursday's "Report," another star of the sport will help Colbert plug his fund raising effort: Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek. Cheek is a friend of the show, having appeared on Aug. 12, 2008, to promote his Team Darfur coalition.

Last night, Colbert reported that viewers had already donated $40,000 to the team. The show is hoping to raise $300,000, the amount that had been pledged by DSB.

According to an Associated Press story published before Colbert's campaign began, despite the fact that speedskating is responsible for more U.S. gold medals than any other Olympic sport, the athletes don't have it easy. "They work part-time jobs. They scrimp to pay the bills. Some even have filed for food stamps to make sure they get enough to eat."

Even before DSB went out of business, U.S. Speedskating already was planning to suspend its athlete stipends at the end of March, giving the organization a chance to reassess finances and decide how much it could afford to dole out at the start of the new fiscal year June 1.

"After March, everything shuts down," said Robert Crowley, the executive director of U.S. Speedskating. "We told the athletes, 'This is where it's going to end, so budget yourself accordingly.' We've tried to be real upfront and fair with them."
Hopefully, the heroes in the Colbert Nation will come through and support the athletes. "We're highly optimistic that the country is going to get behind this and get behind the Colbert Nation and support this amazing team," Crowley told the AP after his appearance on the "Report." "I don't have any idea if it's going to make $5 or $500,000. I couldn't tell you."

Colbert is reportedly considering taking his show on the road to Vancouver for next year's Winter Games.

According to this Time article, Colbert's staff contacted U.S. Speedskating and proposed the deal. Crowley wanted to make sure the show knew the sport was no laughing matter: "We stressed to the Colbert staff that we have exquisite athletes who have trained their entire lives for that Olympic platform. They can't minimize that. They get it, and they recognize that."

If you would like to help the cause, and feel that extra burst of patriotic pride when you see the Colbert Nation logo on the speedskaters' uniforms, you can make a donation at the US Speedskating web site.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jey Leno's Rope-a-Dope Strategy

In his recent interview with Broadcasting & Cable, Jay Leno spoke candidly about all sorts of things. However, it did leave me with a couple of questions.

Number one: "Jay, are you having fun?" For all the talk about laughs at 10 PM, Leno appears to approach his job with a kind of grim determination. A couple illustrative quotes: "I think people like a fighter. And if you just keep swinging, eventually people are going to get tired of hitting you. They're going to say, 'We've been beating this guy up for six months, let's move on.'" And: "I get a certain amount of satisfaction from pounding my head against the wall."

Those statements made me think of Muhammad Ali's old "rope-a-dope" strategy, in which a fighter allows himself to be punched until his opponent tires out and starts making mistakes. It may be effective in certain circumstances, but you still wind up bruised and battered.

The only indication in the article that Leno enjoys what he's doing is this: "
I like being on TV and writing jokes." Not exactly a passionate statement. If Jay had worked at a supermarket instead of becoming a comedian, he probably would have been like that 104-year-old who still stocked the shelves well into his eleventh decade, or a lottery winner who keeps his routine factory job after his big score. I admire his work ethic; I also wish his show was funnier.

Number two: "What's it like to be married to Jay Leno?" Forget about the Obamas, I want the dirt on the Leno marriage. Mavis Leno is, by all accounts, not one of those Beverly Hills ladies-who-lunch who fills her days with pilates classes and appointments with her plastic surgeon; she has been active for over 10 years in the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan. Still, considering Jay's workaholism, as well as his time-consuming hobby of tinkering with old cars, this must be a woman who spends a lot of time on her own. Jay famously claims never to vacation; if he ever did go on a pleasure trip, he'd probably be one of those guys who plans the entire thing from a guidebook before he leaves home: "If we leave the Louvre by noon, we can get to the Eiffel Tower by one!" Does Mavis go off and see the world by herself or with girlfriends? David Letterman may not be a candidate for Husband of the Year, but at least he spends his breaks with Regina and Harry in Montana or St. Barts instead of playing Vegas showrooms or appearing at corporate gigs.

I did find one brief interview with both Lenos, and she alludes a couple times about the difficulty of adjusting to Jay's job at "Tonight" ("[H]e was gone a lot, and it was not only a new situation for him, it was a situation I had never experienced"). Since they're celebrating their 30th anniversary next year, she obviously managed to find a way to deal with it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jay Leno: "I never say 'no mas'"

In a lengthy interview with Broadcasting & Cable, Jay Leno talks about the reaction to his new show, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and much more. A few highlights:

On negative press coverage: "You don't take it personally because there's really no fun in an upbeat story. The fun is, they did this and let's watch it fall. I enjoy being the underdog."

On "Tonight": "
Would I have preferred to stay at 11:30? Yeah, sure. I would have preferred that. I think it's too soon to say whether I regret anything or not….My thing is, I did 'The Tonight Show' for 17 years, that's what I did. It's like the America's Cup; you won it, they can't take it away from you. So now you try this and you see what happens. Do I enjoy the battle? Yes, I get a certain amount of satisfaction from pounding my head against the wall."

On feeling satisfied because of Conan's lower ratings: "No.
There is nothing that kills creativity more than bitterness. You get no satisfaction from that at all. You really, really don't."

On Letterman: "
He's not being a hypocrite; Dave has never set himself up as [a model citizen]. If it were me, it would kill me. I'm the guy who's been married 29 years. But Dave has never pretended to be Mr. Moral America, he's never set himself up that way. He's not a hypocrite. I don't know how it will be viewed. He doesn't do corporate days like me, he's not as advertiser-friendly as I am. I'm the guy when Coke or Pepsi is here, I come down and shake hands and take pictures, but he doesn't do that. I don't think it will have a big effect at all."

On the affiliates: "
I called a bunch of them last week. Unless they are the greatest actors in the world, they seem to be hanging in there and say they are in it for the long haul. I called Baltimore, Boston, the head of the affiliate board. They don't see it as dire as a lot of people are making it out to be….I think they seemed pleased that someone on at 10 o'clock is concerned about their well-being and their lead-in."

On his relationship with NBC: "
I have the same friends I had in high school, and these [at NBC] are acquaintances. You have a business relationship; as long as you are making money for someone, you are friends. And when you're not making money for someone, you're not friends. I get it….As long I'm making money for the company, I will be here. When I'm not making money for the company, I won't be here, and I understand how that works."

Jay curses! Who knew? "
I look at what makes other competitors weak: alcohol, drugs, sex, instability emotionally. And I go, 'OK, let me make myself strong by being the long-distance guy.' So I try to fashion myself on the fact that emotionally I can take it. Physically I tried boxing and I got the shit kicked out of me. But emotionally I can take body shots all day long and that doesn't really bother me. I realize that's where my strength is. I see other comics say, 'Fuck that, I'm not going back to that club, they treated me...' [And I say], 'Great, I got that one.'"

On giving up: "
I never say 'no mas.' It's not my call. I've never walked away from anything in my life….This is what I do. You keep plowing ahead. If someone wants to take you out, I'm out."

Halloween Talk Show Round-up

It's November 1. You probably woke up either with a hangover or surrounded by discarded Fun Size Snickers wrappers -- or both. But did you have time on Halloween to catch up on all the ways our favorite talk shows celebrated the holiday? If not, now's the time to sit back and enjoy some clips.

Picking on Jay Leno is so tiresome, but honestly, his "new Halloween products" sketch was not ready for prime time -- or even public access, for that matter. There were a couple of major malfunctions, including a Balloon Boy costume that didn't inflate. It's no surprise that the video clip on NBC.com only shows the first half of the segment.

In the Talk Show News household, it's not Halloween without David Letterman's annual trick or treat sketch. Even if the costumes are just so-so, the bit is always worth watching just for Dave's interactions with the kids, and to see which "treats" he's handing out. Best costume this year: the junior Joaquin Phoenix. It was also fun to see the kids boogieing in the background as musical guest Weezer played -- kudos to them for convincing Paul Shaffer and the gang to dress in Weezer Snuggies. The clips are available on the "Late Show Video" page.

The most elaborate Halloween celebrations are always on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Live with Regis and Kelly." Kimmel, his band and Guillermo (sadly, Uncle Frank is ill and was absent this year) dressed as Muppets -- Jimmy, in a Big Bird outfit, welcomed guest Paris Hilton, who was clad as Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz." The vapid Paris is not one of my favorite guests, but it was funny to see her admit to Jimmy that she had no idea who Alex Trebek was (he was asking her which celebrities would be let in to her Halloween party without an invitation) and bragging that she's bowled a 600. As for musicians Slipknot, well, every day is Halloween for this band that always plays in costumes and masks. Watch the show here.

Meanwhile, Regis and Kelly win the Most Costume Changes prize -- in their Reality Bites special, they dressed up as Jon and Kate, "Bachelor" Jason and Melissa, Susan Boyle and Lady Gaga, "Biggest Loser" trainers Bob and Jillian, and more. Check it out here.

There are only so many hours in the day, so I wasn't able to watch everything -- did anyone out there catch Conan, Craig or Jimmy's Halloween antics?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Craig Kilborn: Bearded Craiggers turns up in St. Paul

In my ongoing series on Craig Kilborn's whereabouts, here's a new report from a source in Minnesota:

I met Craig Kilborn last night in a restaurant in St. Paul, MN. He looked different but I recognized him even with his beard. I talked with him and his friend he was with about the great job he use to do on TV. I asked if he was going to be coming back anytime soon and he said, "Yes, very soon I'll be back." He seemed genuine about and I am looking forward to his return. I asked him where he was living now and he said L.A. For the people that think he is pompous or full of himself, I'm sure that was part of his "character" on the Late Late Show. This guy was cool, laid-back and extremely friendly. I met the Craiggers and it was awesome.
Kilborn grew up in Hastings, MN, so presumably he was in the area visiting family. Anyone else have a Craiggers sighting to report? You know where to send 'em.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chelsea Handler: Her Playboy cover revealed!

chelsea handler playboyA few months after posing nude for Allure magazine, "Chelsea Lately" star Chelsea Handler is at it again: this time, she's appearing on the cover of newsstand copies of Playboy. (Subscribers will see "Dancing with the Stars'" Joanna Krupa instead.)

Chelsea won't bare all, though. According to the New York Daily News, the mag "features the star covered up by an apron and mini dress while preparing a vodka-soaked Christmas meal with her sidekick Chuy."

The cover was unveiled on last night's "Jay Leno Show." After telling Leno that "my dad is probably going to love it because he thinks I'm very sexual," Handler said she hadn't yet seen the cover shot. Jay told her that he'd gotten a copy from Hugh Hefner.

"I don't want to see it for the first time on here. Honestly, I don't," she protested.

"Nobody cares what you think. You are too used to getting what you want. What you need is a guy to say no," said Leno.

"Oh really, is that what I need? This is a very interesting side of you, Jay. Everybody is finally starting to realize that you are exactly like David Letterman," Handler shot back. "Shame on you!"

Leno unveils a huge reproduction of the cover, and asks Chelsea to duplicate her pose. "I can't do that pose again. We'd need the guy who airbrushed me to come back."

Here's the clip:

Jimmy Kimmel's "Twilight: New Moon" special

ABC has announced that on Nov. 20, Jimmy Kimmel will welcome the three stars of the forthcoming film "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," along with soundtrack performer Death Cab for Cutie.

Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner will make their first interview appearance together on Kimmel's couch on the same day the movie is released.

Death Cab will perform their single from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon's" original motion picture soundtrack, "Meet Me on the Equinox."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

David Letterman: Why I Don't Still Care About His Affair

A commenter on this post asks: "After reading this article, do you remain unconcerned by the revelation of Letterman's affairs?"

First and foremost, one thing I think got lost in the initial tabloid feeding frenzy (remember the New York Post's "Dirty Dave's Harem" headline?) is that Letterman was the victim here. A CBS employee was trying to gouge him for $2 million. As much as Joe Halderman's showboating lawyer Gerald Shargel would like to make the case all about Dave, the truth is that in the eyes of the law, Letterman committed no crime. In fact, Worldwide Pants' sexual harassment guidelines do "not prohibit sexual liaisons in the office, provided they're not 'unsolicited and unwelcome.'"

By all accounts, Letterman's relationship with Stephanie Birkitt was entirely consensual. None of Dave's other alleged paramours have come forward to accuse him of being a cad or a scoundrel. If it hadn't been for Halderman, it's likely we never would have known about Letterman's affairs.

But what about his wife, Regina Lasko? Isn't he a dog for cheating on her? As far as I'm concerned, that's between the two of them. As I stated previously, Letterman has never held himself up as a poster boy for monogamy. After his first marriage ended in divorce, he resisted making a return trip to the altar for over three decades. That doesn't exactly seem like the behavior of someone who is eager to commit to one woman. Yes, sneaking around on Lasko was a bit sleazy, if indeed that's what happened, but you know what? I still watch "30 Rock" despite the fact that Alec Baldwin called his daughter a "thoughtless little pig" on that leaked voice mail, and I didn't throw out my Roxy Music CDs when lead singer Bryan Ferry dumped his wife of 20 years for a woman half his age.

Having said that, I do believe that Nell Scovell makes some valid points about the difficult work environment that can result when the boss is messing around with his female underlings. Of course, Scovell worked for Letterman during his NBC tenure, when the staff was no doubt much smaller compared to the current Worldwide Pants empire. Judging from the recent New York magazine article, the Letterman of today is a man who has walled himself off from the world, dealing only with a handful of trusted employees. Many of his closest staffers, such as Barbara Gaines and Jude Brennan, are women. I think the fact that they have stayed loyal to Dave for decades speaks for itself.

No other figure has influenced my sense of humor, and in some ways, my very outlook on life, like David Letterman. I feel kind of sorry for the younger generation who never had the opportunity to watch his old "Late Night," when he was practically redefining the talk show genre on a nightly basis. Indeed, I stopped watching "Late Show" regularly when he settled into a more conventional talk show groove; despite the cranky charm he displays during his chats with Paul Shaffer, I can't help but miss the brilliant stunts and innovation of the old days. I hope someday, Letterman takes a page from his mentor Johnny Carson and makes his old shows available for purchase.

But despite my appreciation for Letterman the comedian, I've never had much interest in Letterman the man. Unlike, say, Stephen Colbert or Craig Ferguson, he's not someone I could imagine myself having a cup of tea with. It was probably his refusal to be a jovial gladhander like his former time slot rival Jay Leno that lost him the "Tonight Show" gig he so coveted. For his audience, the only thing that should matter is that one hour a day when Letterman is on TV. If you enjoy watching him, you should keep on doing it, even if he isn't a paragon of morality and good behavior in his personal life; if you don't, well, Conan O'Brien appears to be happily married.

I do agree with Scovell that it would be nice to see more female writers on late night shows. Hiring people other than white males doesn't necessarily have to be a sop to mediocrity or tokenism; look at "The Daily Show," which used to get a lot of criticism for its on-air roster of white men (plus Samantha Bee). The show responded by hiring the extremely funny and talented Wyatt Cenac and Aasif Mandvi, who have both brought a different and hilarious perspective to the broadcast, and made a good thing even better. "Daily" has two female writers and the writers' assistant is also a woman, a sign that they're interested in nurturing female talent. There are plenty of funny women out there, and they should be welcomed into the writing rooms.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jay Leno: Series-low ratings against a rerun

Remember NBC's "52-week strategy" with "The Jay Leno Show," where the program would likely be hammered in the ratings by new dramas on CBS and ABC but would show strength against reruns? As last night's "Leno" guest, Dr. Phil McGraw, might say, "How's that workin' for ya'?"

Not so well, apparently -- the good doctor couldn't help Jay beat a rerun of "CSI: Miami." In fact, Leno could only dredge up a series-low 4.62 million viewers.

Advertising Age's Simon Dumenco takes a page from Jay's former time slot rival in presenting "Top 10 Lessons to Learn from NBC's Failing Leno Strategy." "NBC executives, in marketing Leno's move to prime time, tried to position him as a beloved broadcast institution -- like they were bestowing a comedic gift on America -- as a cover for their entirely cynical cost-cutting," writes Dumenco. "In reality, though, it was clear all along that late-night Leno functioned as a sort of utility: an easy, default pre-bedtime diversion literally not ready for prime time, even after 17 years. NBC used to offer substantive entrees at 10 ('ER,' 'Law & Order'), and figured that viewers could be forced to switch to comfort food. But Leno at 11:35 wasn't ever really even meatloaf; he was more like that stale bag of Funyuns in the back of the cupboard you were willing to settle for because mindless late-night snacking is ... mindless."

David Letterman: A female writer speaks out about "hostile work environment"

Former "Late Night" writer Nell Scovell writes for Vanity Fair about the "hostile work environment" she found during her brief tenure at the show (she "walked away from [her] dream job" after a few months). "I’d seen enough to know that I was not going to thrive professionally in that workplace," says Scovell. "And although there were various reasons for that, sexual politics did play a major part."

Without naming names or digging up decades-old dirt, let’s address the pertinent questions. Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no.
Dave asked her why she was quitting, but "with [his] rumored mistress within earshot, I balked. Instead, I told him I missed L.A. Dave said, 'You’re welcome back anytime.'" She went on to write for "Coach," "Monk," "NCIS," and many other shows, and she was the creator of the long-running sitcom "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch."

About the dearth of female writers on late night programs ("Late Show," "Jay Leno" and "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" have not a single woman on their writing staffs), "the shows often rely on current (white male) writers to recommend their funny (white male) friends to be future (white male) writers. Targeted outreach to talented bloggers, improv performers, and stand-ups would help widen the field of applicants."

Jon Stewart's Head on Mario Lopez's Body...

...getting fucked by a unicorn dot net. DOT NET!

Jon mentioned this URL as part of his segment on net neutrality on last night's "Daily Show":

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
From Here to Neutrality
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Naturally, I was curious if it actually existed. And here it is:
(It just redirects you to "The Daily Show" home page.)

Turns out some clever joker has registered the .com:

Monday, October 26, 2009

David Letterman: New York magazine reports on his troubles

Was it only last month when New York magazine ran its "Leno Who?" cover, featuring Letterman triumphant? Now comes a much darker piece, "The Devil in David Letterman," written by Robert Kolker. After a slew of hyped-up articles with no new revelations (we're looking at you, Entertainment Weekly), this one actually contains some fresh meat, including numerous interviews with unnamed sources at the show.

Because the host is such a recluse, we learn that he and his many assistants are effectively walled off from the rest of the staff -- "[t]o the rank and file of the show... Dave is almost a nonentity now." And that has led to "a new level of palace intrigue." Says one ex-staffer: “There’s a level of mind games and chess that goes on, starting from the top down. They rule by fear. You don’t want to make Dave mad or so-and-so mad, so you better do a good job. Everyone there is scared of their shadow all the time.”

Some staffers apparently wish Dave had just paid Joe Halderman the $2 million in hush money: “Some people are thinking, ‘Aw, man, I can’t believe Dave did this to us. We were just winning in the ratings, we were really doing good, and he had to come out and make this a pissing match between him and Joe?’” Kolker posits that Halderman thought Letterman's ultra-private personal life meant "he would never allow the revelations about Birkitt to become public. But what Halderman hadn’t counted on was that the other side of Letterman, the self-loathing Letterman, won out. It always does. 'Dave is like, "No one fucks with me. You fuck with me, you die,"' says a source. 'All Dave cares about is his career.'"

One of Kolker's sources believes that Letterman's wife Regina never suspected that Dave and Stephanie were having an affair. Her relationship with Halderman "made her less threatening to Regina. 'Stephanie was someone she trusted,' the source continues. 'I’m sure Dave’s wife felt some comfort because Stephanie lived with her boyfriend that she was clearly over the moon for. I think Regina let down her guard. You have to know Stephanie. She just doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’d be sneaking around with your husband behind your back.'"

The whole story is definitely worth a read for anyone who's been following this case.

Paul Shaffer: Don't miss these two appearances

Paul Shaffer fans, take note. David Letterman's musical director spent the rerun week plugging his new book, We'll Be Here For the Rest of Our Lives: A Swingin' Show-biz Saga. He turned up on rival Jimmy Kimmel's talk show last Tuesday, leading Kimmel's band, Cleto and the Cletones, and also chatting with Jimmy. It was such a great episode that they're rerunning it tonight.

For a megadose of Shaffer, check out Adam Carolla's hour-long podcast with the bandleader. Paul talks about his early musical influences, his feud with John Belushi, a hilarious encounter with Britney Spears, his ill-fated 70s sitcom "A Year at the Top," and much more.

One thing Shaffer declines to discuss: David Letterman's recent legal troubles. He told Carolla that he's not allowed to talk about it.