Thursday, November 25, 2010

In closing, a few links

This blog has, obviously, gone dormant -- I've been working on a couple of new projects lately, and especially in our post-Conan/Jaypocalypse world, there is plenty of late night news & analysis out there from reporters covering the TV beat full time (and getting paid to do so). A few of my fave sites:

Tuned In:'s James Poniewozik has the best TV blog on the 'net, in my opinion -- despite the fact that a cover story he wrote notoriously called "The Jay Leno Show" "the future of TV." (He explained later that the short-lived program "was a dramatic example of how TV was changing in a time of fragmentation and decline," with the big networks "becoming more like cable, looking for ways to program cheaply." OK, I'll buy it.) Follow him on Twitter, too.

The Live Feed: If it's TV news, it'll show up on this Hollywood Reporter site. Great for breaking news and overnight ratings.

TV By the Numbers' late night ratings page: All the network spin, along with occasional analysis.

Television Without Pity's talk show forum: The best place to discuss talk shows, and many members of the community there post news and links. The "Daily Show" and "Conan" forums are particularly active; lots of posters have been participating in the TWoP boards for many years, and moderation ensures that everybody stays on topic.

Late night lineups page: It's still around.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jimmy Fallon: Praise for the host in Emmy review round-up

"Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon won praise from most critics after his biggest hosting gig yet (Fallon helmed both the video and movie awards shows on MTV), though perhaps his army of Twitter followers is not yet ready for prime time.'s Daniel Fienberg called Fallon one of the evening's "winners." "In his biggest hosting gig to date, Jimmy Fallon acquitted himself well... Fallon seemed at least somewhat aware of when he was wanted and when he was supposed to just get out of the way. Very few hosts can say the same."

The Los Angeles Times' He played to his own strengths... the art of the wide-eyed amiable jab, some wicked guitar-accompanied transitions and a surprisingly good Green Day." (I thought his Elton John was even better.)

"As a white-tuxedoed, wandering minstrel," McNamara continued, "Fallon played perfect host in the traditional sense of the compliment—he did not dominate so much as facilitate, making the category transitions lightly and cleanly, introducing presenters with humor and an insider's ease, and remaining infectiously happy to be there without drawing too much attention to himself."'s James Poniewozik wrote that the "welcoming, eager-to-please Fallon was a success." The Hollywood Reporter's Andrew Wallenstein disagreed, stating that while Fallon started strong, the host "lost the freshness as he relied too much on recurring bits that just weren't funny, including reciting Twitter suggestions to introduce award presenters and toting an acoustic guitar into the audience."

The Washington Post's Hank Steuver wrote that Fallon "put his nervous, insouciant glee to work, and for once, it worked as well as it does on his late-night talk show. Armed with his acoustic guitar, a big bag of shtick, some obligatory Conan/Jay/10 p.m. jabs at his employers at NBC ('NBC asking a host of "Late Night" to come to Los Angeles and host a different show -- what could possibly go wrong?'). Fallon made it look easier than expected." 

Steuver added, "An attempt to involve viewers' Twitter tweets to Fallon as a way of introducing celebrity presenters fell flat, and should be a reminder to us all: The people who write television should be the ones writing it."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"The Daily Show" triumphs again at Emmys

When "The Amazing Race" failed to win its eighth consecutive best reality competition Emmy, falling to "Top Chef," I thought perhaps it was a sign, and that "The Daily Show"'s own long, long winning streak would end tonight as well. But no, the Comedy Central half-hour managed to win its eighth trophy in the Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series category, despite the fact that "some industry insiders and Team Coco fans were itching for O'Brien's short-lived tenure hosting NBC's 'Tonight Show' to score," as blogger James Hibberd put it. Conan will have to try again next year.

Strangely enough, Jon Stewart was nowhere to be seen. Exec producer Rory Albanese accepted on behalf of the show.

"The Colbert Report" triumphed in the Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Series, beating "TDS" and Coco as well as Bill Maher and "Saturday Night Live"'s much-heralded Betty White episode.

Emmy host Jimmy Fallon's NBC show picked up a trophy in the Outstanding Short-Form Picture Editing category for its "Glee" parody "6-Bee."

How did Fallon fare as host? I thought he was fine, though all of the musical numbers made me wonder if his true ambition is hosting the Grammys. Also, the idea of soliciting funny remarks from Twitter users just go to show why professional comedy writers earn the big bucks. The opening number, featuring Fallon and a grab bag of celebs (everyone from Kate Gosselin to Joel McHale), is destined to be a YouTube smash. Check back in tomorrow for a rundown of reviews of Jimmy's performance.

Friday, August 20, 2010

More "Last Call" from NBC and Carson Daly

NBC has renewed "Last Call with Carson Daly" for a tenth year of performances by obscure bands and interview segments that seem to have been edited by a chimp with ADD.

"Under Daly, 'Last Call' has gone through more format changes than a crappy FM station," writes's Aaron Barnhart. Currently the show, which used to be a regular guy-at-desk-in-studio program like every other late night talker, is "shot in hotel lobbies and other shows’ soundstages in the TMZ."

"I really feel that 'Last Call' has hit its stride. It took 10 years -- but it feels brand new and great," Daly said in an NBC press release, which adds that the show "will continue with the mantra 'no desk, no ties, no rules.'"

According to Variety's Stuart Levine, the show, which airs at 1:35 AM in most markets, averages 971,000 viewers. "While that aud may seem relatively small, the numbers are misleading: Many viewers are sleeping during the broadcast but record the show on their DVRs. Numbers substantially increase when live+7 figures are added."

Barnhart points out that "In the 18-49 demographic, 'Last Call's' 0.4 rating in the demo is often competitive with ... of all shows ... 'Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.' This despite the fact that Ferguson gets twice the audience of 'Last Call' and enjoys the advantage of an earlier time slot."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here's Johnny - online!

The New York Times reports that has gotten an upgrade, and will feature an archive of the 3,500 hours of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" that have recently been digitized.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of that content won't be accessible to the general public -- it is "intended only for media companies that plan to use the clips for commercial purposes," writes the Times' Dave Itzkoff. Web surfers will be able to choose from a selection of clips that "will be updated to reflect current events."

Judging from the initial mix of clips, the site may prove more frustrating than funny to most visitors. There's a snippet of Jay Leno's third appearance on the show -- Johnny announces that the bushy-haired young comedian is about to become a regular on "The Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. Show" -- but there's less than a minute of comedy, a few quick gags about killer bees. A 50-second clip from 1973 stars professional horseshoe pitcher Putt Mossman, who tosses his steel projectiles toward a stake planted between the visibly nervous Carson's legs.

Viewers who want a bigger Carson fix will have to pay for it -- there are dozens of DVDs for sale on the site, ranging from "Johnny's Animal Hijinks" to "Carson Country," which features appearances by "Johnny's favorite country stars."

The man behind is Carson Entertainment president Jeff Sotzing, a former "Tonight Show" producer who also happens to be Carson’s nephew.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lopez ratings down; will Conan bring broadcast-sized bucks to TBS?

Brad Adgate of Horizon Media just Tweeted about "Lopez Tonight"'s declining ratings: "Lopez viewers on TBS (in mill)-Nov 1.398; Dec 1.274; Jan 1.069, Feb 0.948, Mar 0.955, Apr 0.910 May 0.737, Jun 0.779 & Jul 0.751- down, down."

I couldn't find anything else online about Lopez's ratings, but if it's true, TBS must be eager for November to come -- that's when Conan O'Brien's new show will debut on the cable network. According to the Los Angeles Times, "advertising sales for [Coco's new] show are brisk." Parent company Time Warner chief exec Jeff Bewkes said in a conference call, "'We saw strong demand for Conan O’Brien,' adding that the late-night host's upcoming show was drawing an ad rate per thousand viewers similar to what he attracted on NBC."

Adgate told The Hollywood Reporter's James Hibberd that the high ad rates are "surprising."

"Sports and kids' shows are more likely to get network-like pricing on cable," he told Hibberd, adding that "he still doubts though that O'Brien will draw the same number of viewers on TBS that he used to get on NBC."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ratings: Viewers prefer gossip to Craig's "Kilborn File"

Looks like Fox's experiment with "late-night style comedy before dinner" may be coming to an end soon. Five weeks into its six-week test run, Craig Kilborn's "Kilborn File" hasn't been discovered by many summertime TV viewers.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, the comedy program "is averaging a 0.9 rating/2 share weighted metered market average, according to Nielsen Media Research, across Fox-owned stations in seven markets. That's down 53% from the show's 1.9/4 average lead-in and 47% compared to last summer's 1.7/4 average in the time slots."

Most channels were airing sitcom reruns, including "The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld," in the slot prior to the debut of "The Kilborn File."

Craiggers' weakest markets are L.A. and Boston. On KTTV Los Angeles, where the show airs at 6:30 PM, "the show averaged a 0.6/1, a 54% drop from its 1.3/3 lead-in and a 65% decline from last summer's 1.7/4." On WFXT Boston at 7 PM, "the show averaged a 0.6/1, down 50% from its 1.2/3 lead-in and 60% from last summer's 1.5/3." In both markets, Kilborn's lead-in is gossip show "TMZ."

His strongest performance came in Detroit, where the show airs at 7:30 and "had by far its best lead-in" -- you guessed it, "TMZ" again. Apparently they really like gossip in Motown. "Kilborn averaged a 1.4/3. Similarly to the other markets, that's a 52% loss from its 2.9/6 lead-in and a 39% difference from last summer's 2.3/5."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Conan O'Brien: Will he be a presenter on the Emmys?

During the NBC executive session on the Television Critics Association press tour, NBC Universal TV chief Jeff Gaspin was asked how the Peacock Network would feel if Conan O'Brien was asked to be a presenter on the Emmy Awards. The broadcast rotates among the four major networks, and this year, it's NBC's turn.

According to New York magazine's Vulture blog, Gaspin's OK with a Coco appearance. "As long as he's not hosting, I'm fine," he said.

The TV Academy has contacted Conan's camp, but so far, there's no indication whether or not he will appear on the show. "The man's busy getting ready for his new TBS gig, and he may ultimately decide it's not worth all the drama (or effort needed to prepare funny material)," writes Vulture's Joe Adalian.  "It could be a few weeks before there's any movement on the matter."

Jay Leno's ratings were also a topic of discussion at the tour.'s Julie Miller reported that Gaspin still feels good about the "Tonight" host's performance, despite the fact that the show's ratings dipped this past quarter to a 17-year-low. "The third quarter, to date, we have a 22 percent advantage over Letterman. It’s too early to make any proclamations about anything, and I’m not worried."

NBC executive Angela Bromstad added, “Hopefully we can improve the health of the primetime shows and that will help Jay as well.” It remains to be seen if upcoming fare like "Law & Order: Los Angeles" and "Outlaw" -- which USA Today's Gary Levin describes as a show about "a gambling, womanizing Supreme Court justice who quits the bench to become a traveling libertarian lawyer" -- will give Jay the lead-in power he needs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jon Stewart and his beard present "Night of Too Many Stars"

photoWant to touch Jon Stewart's beard? You might have the chance to hang out with the newly hirsute host if you spring for the VIP tickets for "Night of Too Many Stars."

Here's the scoop, from Comedy Central:


Hosted By Jon Stewart With Appearances By Lewis Black, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Ricky Gervais, Joel McHale, John Oliver, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, Triumph The Insult Comic Dog And Many More To Be Announced

“Night Of Too Many Stars” To Tape At The Beacon Theatre in New York City On Saturday, October 2

With Tickets On Sale Monday, August 2 At or

VIP Benefit Tickets Which Include The After-Party With Talent Can Be Purchased By Emailing or 212-245-6570 x30

“Night Of Too Many Stars” To Air On COMEDY CENTRAL On Thursday, October 21 At 9:00 PM ET/PT With Live Wrap-Arounds From Jon Stewart And Other Comedic All-Stars

NEW YORK, July 27, 2010 -- COMEDY CENTRAL has once again joined forces with Jon Stewart's Busboy Productions for its third bi-annual special event, "Night Of Too Many Stars: An Overbooked Concert For Autism Education."  Taping on Saturday, October 2 from the Beacon Theatre in New York City, the benefit for Autism education programs will feature Stewart hosting an evening filled with live performances, sketches and short films from a roster of comedy all-stars.

All VIP Benefit tickets, which begin at $1,250 per person, include access to the after-party with talent.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Conan O'Brien: "I think they cured me of my addiction to The Tonight Show"

Conan fans should be sure to check out this lengthy article from, "I Was With Coco," written by former "Late Night"/"Tonight" writer Todd Levin.

Levin was a relatively recent recruit, joining the "Late Night" staff only a month before O'Brien wrapped up his 12:30 AM show. Anyone interested in learning what it's like to be a comedy writer will find the piece fascinating: Levin describes his "all-consuming fear of failing" at his new job, where writers had to produce under enormous pressure:

"An idea might be conceived at 9:30 a.m., pitched in the head writer's office at 10 a.m., debated and tweaked by the other writers, then approved for that day's show at 10:30 a.m. Between that time and a 1:30 p.m. rehearsal, the idea had to be cast, scored, shot, and edited. Graphics, props, video clips, and sound effects had to be requested, if needed. And, oh yes—there's the small matter of writing the script... To work in that kind of environment without ever falling behind or questioning your self-worth, you would have to be a sociopath."

During the highly publicized drama with NBC, O'Brien went from being a jovial, confident, hands-on boss -- the host was "constantly shooting video pieces on location, and he still found time to make an appearance at our writers' meetings almost every day, often to entertain us" -- to looking "drained... [he] slumped into the guest couch and fixed his gaze on the far wall as he addressed us, never really making eye contact. It was a sight that shook your faith a little, like seeing your dad on crutches."

Levin reveals that before making his decision, O'Brien polled his writers, "asking each of us what we'd do: take the 12:05 a.m. time slot the network was offering or get out. Nearly unanimously, we favored cutting and running. Everyone thought it was a terrible offer and that we were being set up to fail. Before he got up to leave, Conan confessed, 'I think they cured me of my addiction to "The Tonight Show."'"

The piece still ends on a relatively positive note, as Levin gets caught up in a rally held by O'Brien's fans.

Levin doesn't mention whether or not he'll be joining Conan at TBS this fall, but he does have a humor book coming out next month -- Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk -- which features a cover blurb from his ex-boss: "Possibly the most irresponsible book written on the subject of sexuality since The Berenstain Bears Host a Key Party."

Monday, July 19, 2010

David Letterman cuts back to 4 shows a week

Viewers who tuned into the "Late Show" on Friday saw a year-old broadcast featuring Johnny Depp and Megan Fox. It's part of a new summer schedule, according to the show's Wahoo Gazette: Friday repeats.

"We're trying something new this summer. Four new shows a week, with Friday being a previously viewed Late Show. We're seeing how it works out. Please write to the producers to let them know how much you think it's a great idea!" writes production coordinator Michael Z. McIntee, obviously angling for a little summer R&R.

The "Late Show" crew usually tapes Friday's show on Monday evening, so having the day off isn't a new thing, but it will definitely lighten the overall workload.

This Friday's rerun is scheduled to be a July 15, 2009 episode featuring Paul McCartney, as well as a Top Ten List presented by Bruce Willis.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Conan O'Brien in San Francisco: Three hours, two bottles of wine, lots of laughs

One of the great pleasures of living in the San Francisco Bay Area is Sketchfest, an outstanding comedy festival held every January. Sketchfest lures the biggest names in comedy to San Francisco, and seven months ago, they had a particularly juicy event on the schedule -- Conan O'Brien was slated to come to town to receive a special award and appear in conversation with comedian Jimmy Pardo at the Herbst Theater. The day of the tribute? Jan. 17. Which turned out to be a mere 10 days after NBC declared it was moving Jay Leno back to 11:35 PM.

We all know what happened next, which is why it wasn't a huge surprise that the Sketchfest gig was canceled. Then Conan went on his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television tour, and I don't think anyone expected the tribute to be rescheduled. And yet an email appeared in my inbox one week ago saying that the show was on again, with one of the funniest people alive, Patton Oswalt, joining Conan and sidekick Andy Richter onstage. Short notice, but what the heck -- I canceled my plans and bought tickets... again.

Anyone who's been missing Conan O'Brien got a megadose of the former "Tonight" host, as he held court at the Herbst for over three hours. What's more, he and Oswalt consumed two bottles of red wine as they chatted -- Richter joined them about an hour into the conversation -- making for a candid, loose and, above all, funny evening.

Oswalt came out onstage and declared that he'd tried his best to get O'Brien and Richter drunk during dinner at local tapas restaurant Andalu ("@conanobrien and @andy_richter are seriously hammered," he tweeted). Conan got a standing ovation from the capacity crowd, and immediately apologized for missing the January date, explaining that "the shit hit the fan." "I've never canceled anything," he said.

Despite his prodigious alcohol consumption, anyone expecting Conan to trash-talk Leno or NBC -- or, for that matter, give anything away about his upcoming TBS show -- would have been disappointed. O'Brien spoke about the changes he's seen during his years in the biz, stating that "the people behind the curtain are scared shitless right now. You can fear change or you can choose to embrace it and get excited by it," he said. "I choose to embrace and get excited by it."

Perhaps explaining why he went to basic cable instead of pursuing a deal at Fox, Conan said that what matters in the business now isn't who's got the most people watching them, but "who is watching you and your relationship with those people. Something is happening in the way people communicate... we're going through a seismic change."

O'Brien made frequent reference to the young crowd at the event -- the 47-year-old isn't exactly Gramps O'Brien, but the world he described when he talked about the old, three-network universe does seem like an eternity ago. The fledgling writer, just out of Harvard, "made a pledge that I wasn't going to work on a show I didn't believe in," which left him with two choices: "Saturday Night Live" and "Late Night with David Letterman." (He mentioned the sitcom "Benson" as an example of what he did not aspire to.) "Today, there are 175 channels -- you can get a pure hit of exactly what you want."

Of course, he wound up at "SNL" after a couple writing gigs in L.A., and his association with Lorne Michaels led to his being hired to succeed Letterman when he left for CBS.

O'Brien talked about his early days at NBC, back in the days when the network was so nervous about the unknown redhead that "they canceled me at one point and decided [to un-cancel 'Late Night' because] they didn't have a replacement. They put me on 13-week contracts. They wanted to put me on week-to-week contracts, and we argued them to 13 weeks."

That meant O'Brien and his team had nothing to lose, so he was able to experiment -- "I just wanted to do weird, funny things and see if it worked." An audience question led O'Brien to reminisce about some of the show's least popular characters, like Quacky the Scientologist duck and Randy the Pyloric Sphincter.

All in all, Conan came across as such a decent guy -- he answered audience members thoughtfully and sincerely, even as he played around with them a bit (one guy had to show Conan his driver's license because O'Brien didn't believe that his first name was really Lazar) -- that I hesitate to imply that he took any potshots at  Leno, but there were a couple exchanges that could be interpreted that way. Talking about his admiration for comedian Jack Benny, O'Brien said he had been influenced by the fact that while Benny was "the funniest guy of his generation, everybody who knew him says he was a great guy, a great husband, a great father. Your comedy and your morality are all interconnected." Conan said it was important to him that he too be thought of as a great husband & dad, not just a comedian. Hmm... now which late night host is a famous workaholic with no kids?

"The most overrated thing in broadcasting is longevity," said O'Brien. "I've told my wife this -- I don't have to last forever." That unintentional witticism led to much laughter from the audience; we were almost as loopy as the performers by this point. "There's this mania to stay relevant forever, and I reject that. I'm OK with not being number one."

Conan called on young people who aspire to careers in comedy to get their stuff on YouTube, and the cream will rise to the top. He also said not to be too sensitive to criticism -- "If you think you have something to say, you're going to get criticized. I can get my feelings hurt by a valet parker who says the wrong thing." The answer is "not to become less sensitive... the trick is to keep going anyway."

As the clock went past 11 PM, I suspect Conan could have kept going for another hour, even though he was getting a bit hoarse. But after taking a few last questions, sitting on the edge of the stage to be closer to the fans lined up to talk to him, it was finally time to go. Besides, the wine bottles were empty (Patton shook them upside-down just to be sure).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Insult to Injury Dept.: Letterman's Extortionist Gets Emmy Nod

David Letterman didn't get an Emmy nomination this year -- "Late Show" was edged out by "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" -- but the New York Times' Media Decoder blog points out that Robert J. "Joe" Halderman, currently serving time for blackmailing the CBS host, did receive a nod. "Along with six of his former colleagues at CBS News, Mr. Halderman is up for an Emmy in the category called 'outstanding continuing coverage of a news story in a news magazine," writes the Times' Brian Stelter. "He was a producer on a '48 Hours Mystery' episode titled 'American Girl, Italian Nightmare.'"

"For more than two years, a team of journalists worked very hard on this important hour," said a "48 Hours" spokesperson. "The producers of 48 Hours felt that not to nominate their work would unfairly deprive the many other dedicated journalists involved of recognition they had earned."

Halderman could be released as early as September, but since the Emmy ceremony takes place in August, there's not much chance he'll be able to attend. At least he wouldn't have to worry about running into Dave.

"Halderman earned eight Emmys during his career at CBS," according to the Times. Dave's won 12, so he's still in the lead.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The perfect late night host: Build your own!

Last week, the Chicago Tribune's Steve Johnson wrote a column about the perfect late night talk show host. Of course, he or she doesn't exist: Johnson took a little Ferguson, a bit of Letterman, a touch of Fallon. Here are some of his suggestions:

Craig Ferguson's monologue ("the single most exciting thing in late-night TV right now")
David Letterman's interviewing ("He genuinely listens to what his celebrity visitors say and reacts honestly")
Stephen Colbert's performance skills ("the character not only still earns the welcome mat, but has grown richer")
Jimmy Fallon's subject matter ("give him credit for bringing to late night a genuine engagement with Internet culture")
Conan O'Brien's writer's sensibility ("what O'Brien and his writing team did with 'Tonight' was fresh and format-challenging")
Jon Stewart's search for meaning ("He pushes the program to actually be about something")
Jay Leno's ratings ("when you are constructing a perfect talk-show host, the ability to please many of the people much of the time is nothing to be underrated")

I think Johnson could have added Jimmy Kimmel's sharp and funny viral videos, or, heck, let's go back a ways and bring in Johnny Carson's amazing ability to turn around a joke that bombed. I don't watch enough "Chelsea Lately" or "Lopez Tonight" to gauge where they might fit in. But on the whole, I like the list. Do you have another attribute to add?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not-so-late-night Ratings: Slow start for "Kilborn File"

The furious "Simpsons" watchers who would rather see reruns with Homer, Bart and the gang than fresh episodes of "The Kilborn File" may get their wish. According to Broadcasting & Cable, ratings for Craig Kilborn's comeback vehicle lag behind the numbers Fox stations were getting with the cartoon family.

"At the end of its first week of test broadcasts, Twentieth's 'The Kilborn File' averaged a 0.8 rating/2 share in the weighted metered markets, according to Nielsen Media Research, down 56% from its lead-in and from year-ago time period averages, which were each a 1.8/4," wrote B&C's Paige Albiniak, admitting that "Fox picked a challenging time to debut the show, considering that it was the week before a long holiday weekend in the heat of summer, when levels of households using television are at annual lows."

The biggest drop in ratings was actually suffered by Boston's WFXT, where numbers are down 75% from last summer, when the station was airing "Seinfeld" repeats. Craig only managed to muster a 0.4 rating in Beantown. The show did slightly better in Austin and Phoenix, where the program is airing at 10 PM and 10:30 PM, respectively. The other five stations airing "The Kilborn File" have it on in the early evening, "a first for comedy talk."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Jay Leno: "Dave and I will be watching the Emmys at Oprah's house"

David Letterman is on vacation this week, but Jay Leno wasted no time in poking fun at his own lack of Emmy nominations. Both he and his competitor were snubbed, while Conan O'Brien scored a nod for his final show as "Tonight" host.

"The good news - 'Tonight Show' got 4 nominations. The bad news - I didn’t get one of them," Leno said, according to New York magazine's web site. "And David Letterman didn’t get nominated either. Oh man. I guess Dave and I will be watching the Emmy's at Oprah’s house this year." (A reference to their famous Super Bowl ad.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emmy Nominations: Conan in, Letterman out

"Late Show with David Letterman" failed to garner an Emmy nomination for the first time since it debuted in 1994. Instead, "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" picked up a nod, as Emmy voters couldn't resist sticking it to NBC. (Need I mention that "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" was not nominated?)

"The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report," "Real Time with Bill Maher" and "Saturday Night Live" joined Coco in the Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series category. The Los Angeles Times' Tom O'Neil points out that Maher is "the new Susan Lucci, ranking as the biggest loser in the history of TV's top award, with 22 defeats and no wins for producing, writing and performance."

Maher was also nominated in the Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Special category for his HBO special "...But I'm Not Wrong."

The same five shows were also recognized in the Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music Or Comedy Series category: one of Stephen Colbert's Iraq episodes will compete with the smash hit Betty White-hosted edition of "Saturday Night Live." Also in the running: "The Daily Show"'s Glenn Beck parody, a "Real Time" episode featuring guests Rachel Maddow, Niall Ferguson, Joe Queenan and Michael Ware, and Conan's swan song with Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell and Neil Young.

Other categories in which talk shows were recognized:

Outstanding Art Direction For Variety, Music Or Nonfiction Programming:
"The 82nd Annual Academy Awards," "American Idol: Idol Gives Back," "Saturday Night Live with  hosts James Franco, Jon Hamm and Betty White," "The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien," "The 63rd Annual Tony Awards," "The Who Super Bowl Halftime Show"

Outstanding Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Series:
"The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report," "Saturday Night Live,""Late Show with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien"

Outstanding Short-Form Picture Editing:
"The 82nd Annual Academy Awards: John Hughes Tribute," "Horror Tribute"; "American Idol: Dream";  "Jimmy Kimmel Live: The Handsome Men's Club," "The Late Night Wars"; "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: 6-Bee"

"The Daily Show" controversy: Boys' club?

I've held off on posting anything about the flap surrounding "The Daily Show," brought on by a post that ran last month on the popular blog Jezebel. As a major "TDS" fan, I tend not to want to see the show (which was created by two women, Lizz Winstead and Madeleine Smithberg) dissed in the media. However, in the last couple of days, the "woman problem" at "TDS" has been endlessly discussed and dissected. Here's a handy recap in case you had too many cocktails on the 4th and are just now coming back online.

Late night watchers with long memories, like me, may recall a similar controversy involving "TDS" that brewed several years ago. Return with me, friends, to mid-2006, when the blog Racialicious posted, "Is 'The Daily Show' racist?" "[W]hen’s the last time you saw a non-white person on 'The Daily Show?' Apart from the occasional black actor or comedian, I rarely see any people of color on the show. Are there really no Asian-American, Latino, African-American, or Native American progressives worth interviewing? I think that if the show weren’t so lily-white, I wouldn’t be so conscious of the way Stewart puts on a Mexican accent when discussing immigration."

"I did notice awhile back that 'The Daily Show' is one of the whitest shows around," agreed a commenter. "If it were a country club, it would probably be criticized."

"I have always felts that it is a really White show, and that is one of the primary things that turns me off about the show," said another commenter. "I like the show overall, but that aspect doesn’t sit well with me."

The New York Times reported on "TDS"' 2005 Emmy win, when "the horde of white, male writers of 'The Daily Show With Jon Stewart' gathered onstage in black tie to accept their award, almost [looking] like a mock tableau of the past -- the Whiffenpoofs, circa 1961. Mr. Stewart joked about it, bragging that his staff members were only '80 percent Ivy League-educated Jews.'"

So what happened? The minority staff members of "TDS" did not post an open letter on the internet to let people know that Stewart wasn't a racist, though wouldn't that have been funny? Imagine this: "'The Daily Show' isn't a place where [black and brown people] quietly suffer on the sidelines as barely tolerated tokens. On the contrary: just like the [whites] here, we're indispensable. We generate a significant portion of the show's creative content and the fact is, it wouldn't be the show that you love without us."

No, "TDS" hired some actual minorities: "Senior Black Correspondent" Larry Wilmore first appeared in 2006, Aasif Mandvi was hired in 2007, and Wyatt Cenac came aboard in 2008. I don't think anybody can say with a straight face that these were affirmative action hires -- they are all very talented people, and that their presence has enhanced the show considerably. There also seemed to be an effort to more regularly feature minority guests, such as astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson, author Reza Aslan and pundit Fareed Zakaria.

Ever since, no one has said a peep about the supposed "racism" of "The Daily Show." And I suspect that if Olivia Munn and Samantha Bee are eventually joined by another prominent female correspondent, this controversy will be forgotten in a few years as well.

Late Night Ratings: Winners & losers

The New York Times' Bill Carter has an article coming out in tomorrow's print edition about the declining ratings for network late night talk shows, and, indeed, the possible decline and fall of the genre itself.

"[Jay] Leno saw his ratings for the second quarter shrink sharply from the same period two years ago and his margin over his longtime competitor, David Letterman on CBS, reduced to its smallest level since 1995," writes Carter. "But Mr. Letterman’s numbers have declined as well. The only network talk show in the 11:30 hour to add viewers was 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' on ABC, which gained about 150,000 over last year."
Industry observers blame several factors, including the popularity of DVRs; indeed, CBS’s chief research officer, David F. Poltrack, called the machines "the biggest competitor in the time period."

An anonymous late night executive told Carter that "the situation is bad, and it is going to get worse over the long haul... People do not tape these shows, and you also have a firm sense that if something great does happen on one of these shows, you’ll see it anyway online the next day."

(While I haven't "taped" anything in well over five years, I do record and time-shift late night talk shows. But it's true that many viewers are satisfied to see the best clips online the next day. It's also no doubt true that Kimmel's endless stream of viral YouTube clips contributed to his audience growth, as it tends to be a show that people enjoy once they've had a chance to sample it.)

However, the news isn't all bleak, indicating that the future of late night talk is likely moving to cable. “The Daily Show” and "Colbert Report" on Comedy Central both added viewers in the 18-to-49 age group, and the viewership of E!’s Chelsea Handler also grew. Of course, all eyes will be on TBS when Conan O'Brien joins the late night fold later this year.

The lone bit of good news for the traditional networks: on ABC, "Nightline" grew to its best viewer-total in six years in the second quarter of 2010.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Reruns: Where are the new shows?

Every time a talk show goes into reruns, I start getting a bunch of hits from Google searches along the lines of, "why is [show] in repeats." The answer, of course: it's the summer, and who doesn't want to enjoy some time off? Plus, viewership levels are lower than they are during the fall, winter and spring, which is why some programs, like "Last Call with Carson Daly" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," just take the whole summer off.

Still, unlike, say, the week between Christmas and New Year's, at least the talkers aren't all taking off at the same time! Here's where you can see new content, and when:

David Letterman: Off this week, but back with new shows on July 12. Best bet: "Inception" actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and avant-garde musical icon Laurie Anderson on Wednesday the 14th.

Jay Leno: Tonight's show will be a rerun, but the workaholic Leno will be back tomorrow with actor Jason Segel, "Jersey Shore"'s Jenni "JWoww" Farley and crooner Enrique Iglesias.

Jimmy Kimmel: Two weeks of reruns; Kimmel will return on the 19th. Best bet: former "Man Show" co-host Adam Carolla on the 21st.

Craig Ferguson: Like Letterman, he'll be back on the 12th.

 Jimmy Fallon: Also back on the 12th.

"The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report": New shows this week -- don't miss former "Even Stev/phen" cohort Steve Carell on "Colbert" this Wednesday! -- but both programs will be dark from July 12-23, returning on the 26th. Let's hope no funny sex scandals happen during the break.

"Lopez Tonight" is off this week.

"Chelsea Lately" will feature new shows tonight, Tuesday and Thursday, and will air repeats all next week.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who should replace Larry King?

Occasionally, I'm asked why the "Larry King" lineups don't appear on my site. It's the same reason I don't list "Charlie Rose" or any of the morning shows ("Today," "GMA," etc.): if a big, breaking story happens, those programs dump their previously scheduled guests in favor of newsmakers and pundits. Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel will never deep-six Taylor Lautner or Cameron Diaz in order to talk about the latest roll call on Capitol Hill.

The weird genius of "Larry King Live" is that the host has to tackle hard news topics and fluff. He has to discuss the Elena Kagen hearings with pundits, and then talk with Lady Gaga. I don't think King did it very well -- I mean, this is a guy who bragged that he never read the books written by his guests and prepares as little as possible for his show. Still, "Live" has been on the air since 1985, which is a pretty remarkable run.

Now, everyone is wondering who should replace King when "Live" goes off the air this fall. Some of the contenders:

Ryan Seacrest: King's pick, and someone who's already proven he can interview entertainment figures, but it remains to be seen how he'd do with, say, Vladimir Putin.

Joy Behar: She has her own show on CNN sister station HLN, so she might be ready to move up.

Tavis Smiley: Has a PBS show, but he's guest hosted for King and might want the wider exposure he'd get in prime time.

Katie Couric: Seems like a natural choice, but she's reportedly taken herself out of contention.

Piers Morgan: The "Celebrity Apprentice" winner and "America's Got Talent" judge could follow in the footsteps of fellow Brit newsman Martin Bashir ("Nightline").

Anderson Cooper: Already a familiar face on CNN, and he's winning this poll by a landslide.

Will you miss Larry? Who should replace him, and can they help revitalize the channel's sagging ratings?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Emmy Nominations: Which five talk shows should get the nod?

Next week, on July 8, the Emmy nominations will be announced at an ungodly hour of the morning in L.A., in time to make it onto the early shows on the East Coast. Here are the five shows that were nominated in 2009 in the category of Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series:

"Late Show With David Letterman," CBS
"Real Time With Bill Maher," HBO
"Saturday Night Live," NBC
"The Colbert Report," Comedy Central
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central

"TDS" won, as it has every year since 2003. The Emmy folks don't particularly care about spreading the wealth -- "The Amazing Race" has won the Outstanding Reality-Competition Emmy every year since 2003 as well. Setting aside the seemingly inevitable victory of Jon Stewart & company, who do you think should be nominated in 2010? Here are my picks:

"The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," NBC
"The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," CBS
"Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC
"The Colbert Report," Comedy Central
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," Comedy Central

Despite the fact that I have endless respect for Dave, and his forthright handling of his extortion scandal may impress voters, it pains me to say that I think his best work is behind him -- and I say this as someone who has watched literally thousands of hours of Letterman shows. I realize a lot of people disagree. "Saturday Night Live" deserved the nomination in 2009 because of their often-hilarious election coverage, but the most recent season was lackluster. I will admit that I don't have HBO and have only seen clips of "Real Time," so I may not be giving it a fair shake.

I think Emmy voters, who have ignored Jay Leno in this category since 2003, will find it irresistible to tweak NBC by nominating O'Brien, and he deserves it for the hilarious run of shows at the end of his brief tenure at "Tonight." Craig Ferguson is fresh and original and deserves recognition by Emmy voters. Jimmy Kimmel, who, like Ferguson, has never been nominated, is the most underrated host in late night, as well as one of the hardest-working -- his ABC prime time specials and viral videos (his latest one, with pop sensation Drake, has gotten close to 300,000 views on YouTube) have made many skeptics give him a second look; the Emmy voters should, too.

As for the two Comedy Central shows, I will cop to having watched every single episode of "The Daily Show" since Jon Stewart took the reins in 1999, so I can't say it's not deserving of its accolades. Some nights I think "Colbert" is funnier, mostly by virtue of its willingness to be goofy -- check out Monday's piece on doomsday bunkers. "TDS" is sharper and more serious about critiquing the news media, which is probably why it keeps winning. Calling out "Fox & Friends" and Rick Sanchez has more gravitas than making puppets yodel.

Am I unfairly ignoring Bill Maher? Is Jimmy Fallon ready for an Emmy nomination? Is "SNL" relevant in non-presidential election years? Anyone want to stick up for George Lopez? Post your comments and suggestions.

"The Kilborn File" debuts, and reaction is... mixed!

Last night, Craig Kilborn's comeback vehicle "The Kilborn File" had its first airing in the six cities where it's getting a test run. Not living in one of the chosen markets, I checked in on Twitter to see what the real-time reaction was. Most people weren't actually talking about the content of the show, they were simply pissed off that Craiggers was running in place of "Simpsons" repeats. "Look out, Fox 5 (NYC) execs. You've made enemies," tweeted "Simpsonology." "FredBrooklyn" raged, "What genius at Fox decided to replace The Simpsons with this Greg Kilborn shit during dinner time?" And then there was this, from "IRollNY": "Craig Kilborn can eat a dick for taking The Simpsons time slot."

On this blog, one anonymous commenter was happy with the premiere: "The show was genius. He did his own introduction, but no 'Play that Funky Music' and no goofy voice when he said his name. It was like he never left. I think Christine Lakin is a waste though (she only had a 2 second bit which was not funny). Are you going to be adding his guest lineups to the website?" Answer: yes, I will try to get 'em, if the program makes it past its six-week tryout and expands into other markets.

What about the critics? Gawker's Anderson Evans was thrilled, calling it "a fast paced, testosterone filled, half hour of quips... What makes 'The Kilborn File' such a success isn't so much its interesting time slot (weeknights at 7pm ET), it's the formula itself. The show is everything 'The View' isn't: it's fast, it's irreverent, it's all done with a masculine point and a wink, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The original host of 'The Daily Show' hasn't changed his ways in his six year absence. He's as fast paced as he was on 'SportsCenter,' and as charming as he was on 'The Daily Show.' Even at his most sarcastic, you've got to love this guy."

The AV Club's Scott Von Doviak offered the opposing point of view, grading the premiere a "D." "The good news is that if Fox decides to pass on 'The Kilborn Files,' it will always have a home on public cable access. Coming to us from a broom closet-sized set in Hollywood, in front of a nonexistent yet strangely audible audience (hello, laugh track), the half-hour show begins with little fanfare as Kilborn takes a seat behind the desk to deliver his opening monologue. As he lobs topical jokes about Al Gore visiting massage parlors and the 11-hour marathon match at Wimbledon ('Tantric tennis!'), it quickly becomes clear that his trademark smarminess and self-infatuation are intact, albeit in greatly diminished form. Yes, hard as it is to believe, Kilborn is even blander now than in his heyday. (Also, his voice has taken on an unpleasant, strained Muppet-like quality that soon becomes grating.)... I [began] to suspect Kilborn has no intention of coming out of his early retirement at all. The whole thing seems like it was thrown together during happy hour."

I checked a bunch of other TV critics' web sites and Twitter feeds, but apparently they're choosing to ignore Kilborn... or wait for a few more episodes to air before giving their opinions. The low-key rollout, combined with a less glamorous time slot, has apparently placed "The Kilborn File" far off most critics' radar.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Craig Kilborn's "Kilborn File" begins on Monday; will you watch?

photoFox has put up a web site for Craig Kilborn's new show, "The Kilborn File," and named a couple of guests: Jeff Foxworthy and "Family Guy" auteur Seth MacFarlane, whose name (as of Friday afternoon) is misspelled "Seth McFarland" in a headline on the site. The home page features a couple of sample gags. The first one: "Joran Van Der Sloot has confessed to the murder of a female companion in Peru. He told police that he killed the girl because she touched his personal computer. For his sake I hope he's not as sensitive about his soap." Ha ha! A reference to a horrific murder and prison rape in a single joke? Kilby's back, baby!

Number two: "Shania Twain is not only looking great, but she's rumored to be dating her former best friend's ex-husband. Way to take lemons and make them into lemonade. Seriously, I hear Shania makes great lemonade."

I didn't find anything funnier in the rest of the clips, but I look forward to reading the reviews once the show has begun airing in the six markets where it will be receiving a test run. Incidentally, Craig will be paired with a female sidekick, Christine Lakin, according to the New York Daily News. As a young actress, Lakin appeared on the sitcom "Step by Step"; since then, she's had small roles in several movies and TV shows, though bad movie aficionados may remember her for playing "the nottie" in the critically derided Paris Hilton vehicle "The Hottie and the Nottie."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Late Night Ratings of the Future; Chris Rock Disses Late Night TV on "Howard Stern"

Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly predicted yesterday at a "State of the Industry" luncheon that ratings for Conan O'Brien's TBS show will be low. "The decimal will be on the left side of the number, not the right side," said Reilly, quoted on "I worked in cable. The decimal will be on the left... [if O'Brien had wound up at Fox], there would have been an enormous amount of pressure that the decimal was on the right side."

New York magazine blogger Josef Adalian points out that ratings below a 1.0 in the 18-49 demographic are likely in the future for all of the late night talk shows. "For the past two weeks, both Jay Leno and David Letterman have been averaging below a 1.0 in the 18 to 49 demo," writes Adalian. "Last week, Jay earned a 0.9 to Dave's 0.8; two weeks ago, both shows were at a 0.9."

While those numbers may be affected by lighter summer ratings and the NBA playoffs, "during the May [2010] sweeps, without the excitement of a sextortion scandal or Cocogate, Dave managed only a 0.9, and Leno was just barely above a 1.0" -- barely a stone's throw from "The Daily Show" and "Adult Swim"'s 0.8 ratings in the demo.

Meanwhile, links to a rant by Chris Rock about the late night wars. Appearing on "The Howard Stern Show," a very uncensored Rock gave his thoughts on Conan, George Lopez, Jay Leno and late night TV in general:

"Conan was screwed by his management and his agent. When I play Madison Square Garden, you can't book another comedian three days before me. You can't book anybody for f---in' 40 days on either side. You think when Billy Joel plays the Garden, they book Elton John? So because Conan was awarded this job, he didn't compete to get his job, the people around him don't even have that mentality. The moment they said Leno's going to 10 they're supposed to go, 'Are you f---in' crazy?' His people are supposed to do that. Conan's people are so not in show business. That was the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life... Is Conan not f---ing over George Lopez? There is no such thing as 'The Tonight Show.' It's just f---in' 11:30 at NBC. That's all it is.

"I'll go even further. There's no such thing as late night television. All these shows are at five o'clock in the f---in' afternoon. Who gives a f--- when you put 'em on? None of these guys are goin' at f---in' 12:30. It's bulls---!"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jimmy Kimmel's DIY show

Viewers who tuned in last night expecting a new episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" instead got a 10-day-old rerun featuring Bradley Cooper, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian and Taio Cruz. What happened to the promised brand-new show?

Turns out the "JKL" studios suffered a power outage. According to a report in USA Today, "the lights went out Monday night about an hour before [the show] was set to begin taping at its Hollywood studio... the outage shut down the control room, broadcast transmission center and tape operations area." The resourceful Kimmel "grabbed his laptop and recorded the entire show with his computer's webcam."

Tune in tonight at 12:05 AM (or 11:05 PM, depending on your time zone) to find out what the heck a network talk show recorded on a laptop webcam looks like! The guests -- Seth Rogen, "Wipeout" host John Henson, and singer Dierks Bentley -- were apparently happy to go with the flow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bill Carter's New Book: He's "still working on it," but it'll be out in September

photoBill Carter, New York Times TV writer and the guy who pretty much owned the Conangate saga, is busy working on a book about the battle for late night. The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy will be published on Sept. 16, 2010, according to, which already has the cover up on its site, along with a blurb from the publisher: "Bill Carter offers a detailed behind-the-scenes account of the events of the unforgettable 2009/2010 late-night season as all of its players--performers, producers, agents, and network executives--maneuvered to find footing amid the shifting tectonic plates of television culture."

Despite the fact that the book is already available for pre-order, though (only $17.79!), Carter is still toiling away on the manuscript, according to "I’m doing my best," Carter told the site's Julie Miller about making the fall release date. "I’m working on it, but to get it out that fast will be tough. I’m working pretty steadily on it."

As for what Leno's takeover of "The Tonight Show" after his prime time show flopped indicates about the comedian's character, Carter says, "I’m going to examine the details in that without making a decision one way or the other. I’ll let the story tell itself and people can draw their own conclusions."

Jon Stewart: May the Force be with him

Talk about nerdvana: Celebrity "Star Wars" fan Jon Stewart will be taking a break from "The Daily Show" to interview George Lucas at Star Wars Celebration V. The event will be held in Orlando, FL from Aug. 12-15. According to the web site:

The hour-long, candid conversation will spark a discourse sure to shed light on the storied history of the Star Wars Saga — from its past to its future, with insider insights about the many steps along the way. A self-proclaimed lover of Lucas’ “galaxy far, far away,” Stewart brings a fan sensibility to the interview, aiming to focus on areas of interest to the many diverse and devoted groups that have helped Star Wars endure for more than thirty years. In addition to the dialogue between Lucas and Stewart, fan questions can be submitted, too!
Lucas appeared as a guest on "TDS" back in January to promote the book George Lucas' Blockbusting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Daily Show" outtakes: What if the U.S.-England match hadn't ended in a tie?

Listeners to John Oliver's wonderful weekly podcast, "The Bugle," know that he prerecorded three segments with Jon Stewart before leaving for South Africa to report on the World Cup: one in which the U.S. beat England, one in which England was victorious, and one in which the game ended in a draw. Of course, the outcome was a 1-1 tie so the latter clip was used, but fortunately, "The Daily Show" has made the other two available as online exclusives. See what might have been, below.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Alternate World Cup Outcome - US Beats England
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Alternate World Cup Outcome - England Beats US
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Craig Ferguson: Live every week like it's Shark Week

Discovery Channel enthusiast Craig Ferguson will be hosting Shark Week this year! The "Late Late Show" host's "favorite holiday" is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this August, and on his Twitter feed, he described himself as "slightly incontinent with excitement."

Watched Jaws on cable," Ferguson tweeted. "Mistake. Hosting Shark Week now seems foolhardy. Sharks unaffected by sarcasm & self loathing. My only weapons."

Brian the shark puppet delivers the "very exciting news," below:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Late Night Ratings: Is NBC panicking over Fallon's numbers?

A reader sent along a link to the New York Post story about NBC's worries over Jimmy Fallon's ratings, which took "a 20 percent fall from May 2009." According to the Post, the network "is trying to boost Fallon's audience by booking appearances on his show by NBC and CNBC personalities, including Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow and Meredith Vieira," and even "dragging him out of bed in the morning to do the 'Today' show to promote his own show."

It smelled like a non-story to me when I first read it yesterday -- after all, an NBC source pointed out that in May 2009, Jay Leno was racking up huge numbers in his "farewell" to "The Tonight Show" and providing Fallon with a stronger lead-in -- and this astute piece by Christopher Rosen agrees that it's not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. Plus, "while Fallon trails both Craig Ferguson and Jimmy Kimmel in total viewers, he's beating them in the coveted 18-49 demographic."

My guess is that NBC doesn't want to ignite another late night war. Fallon taking over from Leno when he finally decides to vacate the "Tonight Show" throne is far from a done deal, but I suspect he'll be staying put at 12:35 for at least the next few years.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

John Oliver to cover World Cup for "The Daily Show"

photoDo you have World Cup fever? Perhaps it takes a foreigner -- in this case, "Daily Show" correspondent John Oliver -- to really get Americans stirred up about the quadrennial competition.

According to a Comedy Central press release, Oliver and "TDS" producer Tim Greenberg will be reporting from  Johannesburg, South Africa for a multi-part series entitled "World Cup 2010: Into Africa." "In the first piece, which airs tomorrow [June 10], Oliver embeds with the U.S. Soccer team as they train for their highly-anticipated game against England. Future segments will see Oliver sitting down with the acting South African ambassador, taking a look at the first 'African' World Cup, examining the current state of race relations and, finally, celebrating the true spirit of the game.

"'As a little boy, my only dream was to one day play for England in the World Cup. It seems that the closest I will ever get to that dream is to go to the World Cup and make fun of it,' said Oliver. 'If these pieces result in anything less than soccer becoming the number one sport in America, I will deem them a total failure.'"

"TDS" is famous for virtually sending its correspondents all over the world via green screen, which makes it a bit of a surprise when one of them actually turns up in a real foreign locale. Jason Jones traveled to Iran in 2009, while former correspondent Rob Riggle reported from China in 2008 and Iraq in 2007.

Photo: Justin Chabot

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Did TBS "overpay" for Conan?

A report today indicates that TBS, which recently signed a deal with Conan O'Brien to take over its 11 PM time slot, is asking for network-sized bucks from potential advertisers.

"They are trying to get NBC's late-night [rate] for Conan," one cable executive told the New York Post. "They are being very aggressive with that."

A source told the Post that TBS "is asking for rates that are 20 percent to 25 percent higher than typical rates for late-night," adding, "It's insanity... [O'Brien] is a high-priced property that they clearly overpaid for."

Despite the fact that popular cable channels would like to achieve parity with the four major broadcast networks, advertisers are still willing to pay more to place their spots on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.

"They're not going to get [the higher rates]," an ad buyer said. "They have been posturing and trying to position it for months."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Late Night Roundup: Conan's dance battle with Colbert & Stewart; Sam Bee on NPR

A few items of note:

The lucky Conan O'Brien fans who attended his "Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television" tour stop at Radio City Music Hall got to see the redhead do battle with Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, a flashback to the goofy segments they did during the writer's strike a couple years ago. One attendee captured the whole thing on camera and posted it on YouTube. Colbert mocks Conan for having left New York -- "I heard you slinked back into town! I love New York too, Conan. I love it enough to have stayed! I didn't go running off to Sodom and Zsa Zsa Gabor-a. What's that smell? You reek of cocoa butter!" Conan: "You don't even live in New York, you idiot. You live in New Jersey!" There's only one way to settle their differences: with a dance-off, and after Stephen is "injured," Stewart steps in to battle in his place.

A couple of late night stars will be appearing on NPR today. Samantha Bee will be promoting her new book, I Know I Am, But What Are You?, on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, while erstwhile "Tonight Show" bandleader Kevin Eubanks is due to appear on Talk of the Nation around 11:40 AM (Pacific)/2:40 PM (Eastern). If you miss the shows on the radio, you can listen to the archived broadcasts on their respective web sites: Fresh Air / Talk of the Nation.

Last week, "Jimmy Kimmel Live" won a Silver Clio award -- kind of the Oscars of the advertising world -- for an ad the show produced in partnership with Warner Bros., "Guillermo the Informant." A parody of the 2009 film "The Informant!," it featured Kimmel's sidekick Guillermo battling it out with Matt Damon. According to the press release: "As part of their nightly program, 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' generates original integrated creative content by pairing the show's writing and production forces with many of the world's most recognizable companies." For "original integrated creative content," read: ads. Of course, some of them are pretty darned clever. I'll watch anything featuring Guillermo's chihuahuas, Pepe and Paco, who were prominently featured in last week's promotional spots for a dog park contest sponsored by Beneful.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Jimmy Kimmel: Game Night specials coming back

Jimmy Kimmel will be taking his show back into prime time during the basketball finals with his second annual series of "Game Night" specials. The 30-minute broadcasts will feature celebrity guests including Russell Brand, Ashton Kutcher, the cast of the forthcoming film "Grown Ups" (Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade and Rob Schneider) and Drew Barrymore. There will also be comedy pieces featuring basketball stars Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

The "Game Night" specials will air on the following dates/times (those of us on the West Coast will see Jimmy after the games):

Thursday, June 3 at 8 PM, ET/CT
Sunday, June 6 at 7 PM, ET/CT
Tuesday, June 8 at 8 PM, ET/CT
Thursday, June 10 at 8 PM, ET/CT
Sunday, June 13 at 7 PM, ET/CT (if necessary)
Tuesday, June 15 at 8 PM, ET/CT (if necessary)
Thursday, June 17 at 8 PM, ET/CT (if necessary)

Last year, ABC reran the programs in Kimmel's regular 12:05 AM slot (combining two half-hour programs), so if you miss them in prime time, you'll probably be able to catch 'em a few days later in late night.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jon Stewart at Book Expo America

photoThe trade fair Book Expo America featured a breakfast appearance by Jon Stewart, there to promote his new book, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race. Ironically, Earth might not even be finished; during a recent episode of his podcast The Bugle, John Oliver mentioned that the manuscript was due at the end of May, and that "TDS"' writing staff would be scrambling to complete it during their current break.

According to a report at, Stewart poked fun at "Prairie Home Companion" host Garrison Keillor, who had recently penned an op-ed column for the New York Times lamenting "the end of an era" in publishing, thanks to the advent of self-publishing services like "Funny, I thought [Keillor] was dead," said Stewart. "No one understands cutting-edge media like a man who does written radio plays about a fictitious town."

Stewart also quipped to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was promoting her forthcoming autobiography, "I am not particularly familiar with her work–but I hear good things."

The panel is scheduled to air on C-SPAN's Book TV during the weekend of June 5.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Final episode of "Bonnie Hunt" airs today

It's farewell to "The Bonnie Hunt Show" today, as the canceled talk show airs its final new episode. The guests will be Dennis Farina, "Glee" star Jessalyn Gilsig and the Backstreet Boys,who will perform the song "Everybody."

"Bonnie" will be around all summer -- in reruns. Two episodes from October, one with Patricia Heaton, Jeff Lewis & Jenni Pulos of Bravo's "Flipping Out" and singer Miranda Lambert and the other featuring "Community"/"The Soup"'s Joel McHale and "American Chopper"'s Paul Teutul Sr. will air tomorrow and Friday. It'll go off the air for good in early September.

The show just scored a trio of Daytime Emmy nominations, an honor which must have been bittersweet. Hunt is a nominee for Outstanding Talk Show Host, and the program was nominated in the Outstanding Special Class Writing and Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design/Styling categories.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, poor ratings were the culprit. The show "has hovered at a 0.8 live plus same day rating since the show’s launch... which isn’t high enough to make a first-run strip work."

"To put that figure in perspective," writes TVSquad's Scott Harris, "Oprah's season premiere this fall landed an 8.0 rating, while her protege Dr. Phil has been hovering around 3.0 for the year."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Craig Kilborn: More about his new show

A few more tidbits about Craig Kilborn's new project have emerged. According to, the forthcoming show, which will be syndicated to Fox stations, will be called "The Kilborn File," and will feature "the host giving his sardonic take on the day's pop culture mishaps and current events. It will also boast a rotating panel of celebrity guests and the '5 Questions' shtick he popularized during his five year stint as host of CBS' 'Late Late Show.'"

"Mom, I'm home," Kilborn said in a statement. "The last few years of triathlons and charity work have been fulfilling, but fulfillment is overrated. Let's get it on."

The program will start a six-week trial run on seven stations beginning on June 28. A report in Broadcasting & Cable says "The Kilborn File"'s test markets are New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Phoenix, Austin and Detroit. "In all markets except Phoenix and Austin, the show will air in prime access [6:30, 7 or 7:30 PM]. In Phoenix and Austin, it will air at 10:30 PM and 10 PM, respectively."

Presumably, "The Kilborn File" will have some kind of an Internet presence, but it would be nice if some Talk Show News readers in cities where the show will be airing could watch on June 28 and report back. (My local Fox station is an affiliate, not owned & operated by Fox, so we won't be getting the show in my area.)

"Delivering topical, sharp, witty humor is Craig Kilborn’s specialty and we are thrilled that he will place his unique comedy stamp on the talk show format when he premieres this summer on select Fox Television Stations,” said Greg Meidel, president of Twentieth Television.

"We’ve been looking for the right opportunity to do a program like this for some time, so we didn’t hesitate when Craig approached us with the idea for this show – a half hour, first run, day-and-date program that can run in multiple dayparts and is compatible with both news and comedy,” said Frank Cicha, FTS’ senior VP of programming.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Conan O'Brien at the upfronts: "What the f**k happened?"

Exactly one year after his last appearance at the upfronts -- that's the time of year when the networks unveil their fall schedules to advertisers -- Conan O'Brien was back. Last time, he was, of course, promoting NBC and "The Tonight Show." Earlier today, he was fired up about his new gig, as host of an upcoming TBS talk show.

What has he been up to for the past year? shared some of Coco's best jokes, including this one: "For the last 12 months, I signed on as the host of 'The Tonight Show,' I launched 'The Tonight Show,' I left 'The Tonight Show,' I grew a beard, joined Twitter, launched a nationwide comedy tour, joined the Obama administration as undersecretary of the interior, resigned in a sex scandal, perfected the mechanical human heart, and here I am at TBS."

"If anybody can explain what the f**k happened four months ago," he quipped. "The plot to 'Lost' is more plausible than the last year, it makes more sense."

The New York Times reported that after the jokes, O'Brien "turned a bit serious, saying of his bosses at TBS: 'They believe in me, I believe in them, and I cannot wait to get back to having fun on television again. That’s all I want to do.'

"Mr. O’Brien, who is on a nationwide tour, flew from Minneapolis for the upfront presentation, and said he was flying to Chicago to resume the tour later that day.

"'My live tour has been my happiest experience in 20 some odd years in show business,' he said. 'I am learning stuff on the road that is changing me as a performer.'"

Conan closed with a staple of his live show, a version of "On the Road Again" with new lyrics: "My own show again, I can’t wait to have my own show again… My own show again on any network, even Oxygen….I’d change my sex if I have to… Off the road again, please get me off the road again… I’m sleeping on the bus with 27 men, I’d sell my soul to have my own show again."

Coco fans shouldn't miss Aaron Barnhart's interview with the comedian, conducted prior to his Kansas City performance. "I don’t know if I’ll ever get to do anything like this again. But I’ve given up predicting," said O'Brien. "I realized the last time I was in Kansas City was 14 months ago to visit the affiliate for my dynastic new 'Tonight Show' that was going to last 30 years. If you’d told me I’d be back in 14 months doing a rock ’n’ roll show with an inflatable bat that was sold out across the country, I would have said, 'How is that possible?'"

Conan added that he's happy that his TBS schedule will allow him to cut back to four shows per week. "That extra day of production is huge. I love to do remotes. We still did them on 'The Tonight Show,' but they were backbreaking. So here you get a little more quality control, a day of production to shoot and gather our wits. And it’s like we developed that muscle, doing five nights a week, so we drop down now, it’s like losing 10 pounds, because I like to use weightlifting analogies."

Monday, May 17, 2010

"The Late Shaft": Bill Zehme on Jay vs. Coco

As usual, TV critic Aaron Barnhart had it right: he recently Twittered, "Start with p. 3 of the Bill Zehme-Conan-Jay slugfest story. That's where it becomes a pleasure rather than a chore." Of course, I felt obliged to read every word of Zehme's piece, which will appear in the June issue of Playboy (yes, the one with the 3D centerfold). It does take a bit of time to get going, as Zehme (who ghosted Jay Leno's autobiography Leading With My Chin) goes overboard with wordy flights-of-fancy: "You did hear about all that, I’m sure: the Cuckoo Coup upon Coco’s Stillborn Empire? The Great Toadying Chin-Surrection and Double-Cross Grab-Back in Burbank? The Giddy Dance of the Hoosier King’s Spite Demons on Broadway?"

Finally, Zehme stops rehashing the conflict and gets to the good stuff, delving deep into the twisted world of late night rivalries. Leno is portrayed as a man who is able to compartmentalize his setbacks to such a degree that he convinces himself they never existed; not surprisingly, he's already denying that he ever had a prime time show. "That never happened!" he exclaimed to guest Chelsea Handler when she referred to "The Jay Leno Show" during an appearance on "Tonight," a few days after Leno had reclaimed his 11:35 PM throne.

Zehme reveals that Conan was invited to participate in David Letterman's famous Super Bowl ad, along with Oprah and Jay. "Word circulated, accurately, that Conan had also been asked to appear in the promo but declined out of fealty to his reported $40ish million exit settlement with NBC. But according to one close Coco colleague, that wasn’t exactly the case; instead, when the premise was described to him—the whole everybody-on-a-couch-with-Leno thing—his pale face went much paler. And his verbal response was thus: 'No fucking way will I ever do that!'"

Looming far above it all, like a one-man Mount Rushmore in a world of pipsqueaks, is Johnny Carson, who told Zehme as "The Late Shift" movie was about to air: "'Can you believe that awful shit?' he said woefully. 'It’s just ridiculous. I mean, give me a break!'" Zehme, who spoke with Carson after he stepped down from "Tonight," confidently declares that Johnny "would have led all applause for Conan’s gutsy stand" and spills details about O'Brien's phone conversations with the all-time king of late night: "[I]n their last chat shortly after Conan had been named Leno’s eventual successor, Carson cracked, 'It sure is a long engagement before the wedding, kiddo.'"

Zehme's piece will give further ammunition to Leno-haters and produce satisfied nods of recognition from Team Coco -- with an extra bonus for Andy Richter fans; don't miss the anecdote on page 4, about the sidekick's run-in with the Chin.

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Wanda Sykes Show," R.I.P.

Along with all the other cancellation news -- "Heroes"! "Law & Order"! -- comes word that Fox's Saturday night "Wanda Sykes Show" has not received a pick-up for a second season. A potential replacement, according to Deadline Hollywood, is a sketch comedy from Jamie Foxx and MadTV creators Fax Bahr and Adam Small.

I watched nearly every episode of "Wanda," despite the fact that it was hit-or-miss and sometimes seemed almost comically low rent -- vivacious drag queen Porsche, one of Wanda's two sidekicks on the show, couldn't sing the songs she performs during her live cabaret act due to the fact that Fox wasn't willing to pay royalties. So Porsche had to belt out public domain ditties like "Skip to My Lou" and "Jimmy Crack Corn."

The Wanda Bar segment, featuring the host gabbing about current events with three celebrity guests, ranged from great to so-so -- had the program been able to continue, Sykes would no doubt have been able to develop a stable of can't-fail stars. It was interesting to note that big names, like Chris Rock and Ray Romano, were frequently less funny and compelling than B- and C-listers such as Aisha Tyler and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

Sykes' comedian pal Keith Robinson never clicked with me, and the sketches, like her Suze Orman take-off, were usually not all that funny. But Wanda's stand-up at the top of the show and the "Wandarama" always had enough good bits to keep me coming back every week. The writers and Wanda kept trying new things, and I wish they'd had more than 20 weeks to develop them. But the ratings were soft, and the show never developed into a credible rival for "Saturday Night Live." Luckily, Sykes still has her day job on the sitcom "The New Adventures of Old Christine," as well as a thriving stand-up career.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Phish, Green Day, more help Jimmy Fallon pay tribute to the Rolling Stones

Next week will be a particularly music-heavy one for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," as a host of artists will be saluting the Rolling Stones' classic album Exile on Main Street, in honor of a fancy new deluxe version to be released later this month. The 2-CD set will feature alternate takes and bonus tracks.

Musical guests will perform selected songs from Exile each night during the week. Scheduled to appear: Green Day, Taj Mahal, Keith Urban, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, Sheryl Crow, Phish and Dr. John. It will be Phish's first talk show appearance since 2004.

Rounding out the week, on Friday, the documentary "Stones in Exile" will air during a limited-commercial telecast. The documentary features rare, never-before-seen archival film, photos and interviews as well as new conversations with the band and the artists they influence.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Craig Kilborn: He's un-retiring!

As this blog has been following the "whatever happened to Craig Kilborn?" story for almost a year now -- this is still the most-read, most-commented-on post on the site -- I must admit I'm a bit perturbed that the New York Times scooped Talk Show News on the latest Craiggers update.

Kilby is "about to return to television in a prospective syndicated show for 20 TV, the syndication arm of Fox’s television stations," writes the Times' Bill Carter. Note that this does not mean that Kilborn's show is replacing the Conan-at-11 PM-on-Fox venture that never happened. " It would instead run on the group of local stations owned by Fox. And the executives aware of the deal emphasized it is not intended to be a late-night show. It could potentially be a daytime entry," a la Ellen or Oprah.

According to "a memo sent by the show’s producer seeking staff members described it as a combination of a talk show with a 'non-political "Daily Show."'" That doesn't sound wildly promising, as "TDS" is 90% politics, 10% fluffball interviews with people like Ben Stiller and Zoe Saldana, but nevertheless, a lot of Craig's fans will be glad to see him back -- and a trial run for the show could begin airing as early as this summer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jimmy Fallon will host this year's Emmy Awards

"Late Night"'s Jimmy Fallon has a prime time gig: hosting the Emmy Awards on Aug. 29.

The Big Four networks take turns airing the show, so ironically, the last time NBC broadcast it (back in 2006), a strapping young man named Conan O'Brien was the host. And we all know how things worked out for him.

From the press release:

"Jimmy was the natural choice as one of the most promising and likable young entertainers who will now have the chance to display his many talents on television's biggest night," said Paul Telegdy, whose unwieldy title is Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming, NBC and Universal Media Studios. "His proven skills as a comedian and host -- as well as his openness to new ideas -- will fully engage audiences and ultimately deliver a lively Emmy telecast."

"Jimmy has many talents. He can sing, he can dance, he does impersonations, and he does it gracefully and with ease,” said executive producer Don Mischer. “I think he'll make a terrific host and we are really looking forward to working with him."

"Hosting the Emmys has been a dream of mine ever since they told me I was doing it," said Jimmy Fallon.

Fallon isn't a newcomer to the world of awards show hosting duties; he's led both the MTV Video Music Awards and the MTV Movie Awards.