Friday, February 26, 2010

Jay Leno: Will he have guest hosts?

A new report in the Los Angeles Times suggests that with Jay Leno back on "The Tonight Show," the future of the venerable franchise is, once again, uncertain. Who will take over when 59-year-old Jay is finally ready to step down? "NBC would be wise to start test-piloting some guest hosts in the Leno slot,"says Jeffrey McCall, professor of media studies at DePauw University.

Of course, Jay has been reluctant to have guest hosts in the past -- Rosie O'Donnell revealed last month that Leno vetoed a plan to have her guest host "Tonight" -- but he's a company man at heart, and if the bosses insist, he'll probably go along with it.

Jimmy Fallon may yet prove that he's the man for the job, but after only a year in the 12:30 slot, he hasn't been around long enough to earn the heir apparent title. He frequently loses to CBS' Craig Ferguson in the ratings, but has been doing well with the younger demographic.

So if Leno allows guest hosts to take over for him occasionally, who do you want to see? Here are a few possible contenders:

Joel McHale: The host of E!'s "The Soup" and star of NBC's "Community" has been honing his stand-up skills over the past couple years. He seems a natural for the job, and guest hosting could help promote his sitcom, which would surely appeal to the network suits.

Seth Meyers: Another NBC man, the "Weekend Update" anchor has proven he can tell jokes, but would he be able to do an unironic interview with the second lead on "Gossip Girl"?

Chelsea Handler: She has her own show, natch, but she seems to have positioned herself firmly on Team Leno, and could bring a snarky, female POV to the boys' club of late night network talk shows.

Jim Gaffigan: A long shot, considering his "Pale Force" association with Conan, but he's a likable presence with the same sort of mid-American appeal as Leno.

Bonnie Hunt: Her daytime talk show has been canceled and will disappear off the airwaves in a few months, so she'll need a new gig. Maybe she'd do better at night.

Kathy Griffin: OK, so she'd probably host the show once and say something outrageous and offensive enough to get herself banned for life from NBC, but if she could keep it together, she'd surely lure viewers with her "what will she say next?" persona.

Other suggestions? Post them in the comments.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

David Letterman counterprograms Sarah Palin with Mitt Romney

As everyone who follows the late night talk show scene knows by now, Jay Leno will have Sarah Palin as his guest on Tuesday night's episode of "Tonight." David Letterman, meanwhile, will be chatting with another popular conservative pol, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- on the same night.

Dave has come up with a powerful lineup of A-listers to counter Leno's rebooted "Tonight Show," including perennial favorite Bill Murray and Team Coco member Tom Hanks. Here's the just-announced list:

Mo 3/1: Bill Murray, Ludacris
Tu 3/2: Mitt Romney
We 3/3: Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Brokaw
Th 3/4: Tom Hanks
Fr 3/5: Matt Damon, Danny Bhoy, Corinne Bailey Rae

"Last Call with Carson Daly": It's alive!

After more than two months of reruns (the last original show aired on Dec. 18), "Last Call with Carson Daly" is finally returning with new shows after the Olympics.

Carson's first week back on the job will include interviews with actors from Oscar-nominated films, including "The Hurt Locker"'s Jeremy Renner and "Avatar"'s Giovanni Ribisi.

The week of March 8 will feature musicians covering songs by other artists. If you've ever wondered what it would sound like if Weezer tackled Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," here's your chance to find out. In addition, Britpop star Lily Allen will cover Britney Spears' "Womanizer."

Mo 3/1: Eli Roth, Daniel Merriweather
Tu 3/2: Giovanni Ribisi, Phoenix
We 3/3: Jeremy Renner
Th 3/4: Joel David Moore, Fanfarlo
Fr 3/5: TBA

Mo 3/8: TBA
Tu 3/9: T-Pain, David Gray (covering a song by Bob Dylan)
We 3/10: David Arquette, Lisa Hannigan (covering a song by Depeche Mode)
Th 3/11: Lake Bell, Weezer (covering songs by MGMT & Lady Gaga)
Fr 3/12: Ben McKenzie, Lily Allen (covering a song by Britney Spears)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Conan O'Brien's on Twitter -- and so are these hosts

Want to keep up with Conan O'Brien? He's got a brand-new (verified) Twitter feed -- and despite the fact that he's only posted one tweet so far ("Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me."), as of this writing, he's already racked up over 50,000 followers.

Proving once again that Coco is the choice of the 'net generation, Jay Leno's had a Twitter feed for ages -- and he only has about 30,000 followers. (Jay doesn't Tweet himself; most of the content simply plugs the show. Sample tweet: "Recently Jay shot another fun promo for The Tonight Show. Here’s a sneak peek of Jay in his red-hot outfit!")

David Letterman has spoofed Twitter on his show, but the "Late Show" Twitter feed has the same written-by-publicists feel as the Leno feed (and it only has about 15,000 followers).

Craig Ferguson is a Tweeter, and over 100,000 people have signed up to read his witty remarks ("Morning Twitzylvanians. I woke up hungry. I think I need a sausage this morning....then breakfast. Sorry. I can't help myself.").

The most popular late show host on Twitter? Jimmy Fallon, with a whopping 2.5 million followers. His feed is a combo of monologue jokes ("The US Curling team has its own official condom. But the most effective method of birth control? Being on the U.S. Curling team."), guest updates and little messages from Jimmy ("I'm doing what every 35-year-old male is doing - watching the Teen Mom finale on MTV.").

Second most popular? That would be Stephen Colbert, with almost 1.5 million followers. I'm guessing the faux pundit doesn't write all of his own lower-case tweets, but they are funny nevertheless. ("to me, the great white north will always be ollie.")

Most of the talk show tweeters don't have time to engage with their audience, but Jimmy Kimmel sidekick Guillermo frequently responds to his fans on Twitter. (The Kimmel show has its own promo-heavy feed.)

Other late night Twitterers:
"Lopez Tonight"
Carson Daly and "Last Call"
Tavis Smiley
"The Wanda Sykes Show"

Monday, February 22, 2010

Jay Leno Guests: Sarah Palin, Olympians, Jamie Foxx and more

The first two weeks' worth of guests for the rebooted "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" have been announced, and members of Team Jay include Sarah Palin, Simon Cowell, Jamie Foxx and a few Olympic winners. Here's the complete list:

Mo 3/1: Jamie Foxx, Lindsey Vonn, Brad Paisley
Tu 3/2: Sarah Palin, Shaun White
We 3/3: "Jaywalk All-Stars" with the cast of "Jersey Shore", Chelsea Handler, Apolo Anton Ohno, Avril Lavigne
Th 3/4: Matthew McConaughey, Jason Reitman
Fr 3/5: Morgan Freeman, Meredith Vieira

Mo 3/8: Simon Cowell
Tu 3/9: Christoph Waltz, Dave Salmoni, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
We 3/10: Kristen Stewart, Guy Fieri
Th 3/11: Dana Carvey, Kim Kardashian, Colbie Caillat
Fr 3/12: Dakota Fanning, Judd Apatow

Friday, February 19, 2010

Conan O'Brien: Live from your city, it's Coco!

A while back, I bought a ticket to see the live tribute to Conan O'Brien at San Francisco's Sketchfest. Unfortunately, the show had been scheduled (well in advance) for Sunday, Jan. 17, and I'm sure the organizers had no idea that this date would fall smack in the middle of the Jaypocalypse. Not surprisingly, the program was canceled, although ticketholders were promised that it would be rescheduled.

Now it looks like Conan fans in other parts of the country may get to see O'Brien live on stage before he reemerges on TV. According to The Wrap, Coco's reps at William Morris Endeavor, "which has a unit devoted to live appearances, have been working to secure dates for several days now... if the tour goes forward -- and all signs are that it will -- it would be a clever work-around to the clause in O'Brien's exit settlement from NBC that prohibits him from appearing on TV until September."

The FX sitcom "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" had a successful road show last year, and it's likely that the prospect of seeing O'Brien in person would reignite Cocomania among fans who have been deprived of the the comedian since his last show aired on Jan. 22.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dave vs. Jay: Get ready for the rematch

David Letterman is ready to compete against the relaunched "Tonight Show with Jay Leno," according to USA Today. A previously scheduled vacation week was moved from March 1-5 to Feb. 22-26 so that Leno will have to go up against fresh "Late Show"s, and Dave will also be bringing the A-list guests, including Jerry Seinfeld, Tom Hanks and Matt Damon.

Hanks seemed pretty solidly on Team Coco, but Seinfeld is a bit more surprising. Not only was he Leno's first 10 PM guest, but his "The Marriage Ref" is an NBC show. Maybe he didn't want to be seen as choosing sides in the late night battle.

No word yet on who will be on "Tonight" during its premiere week, except for a confirmed appearance by cast members from "Jersey Shore." Rumor has it that Jamie Foxx may turn up.

Meanwhile, Leno's return to "Tonight" is getting far less hype than the promo blitz that led up to the premiere of "The Jay Leno Show." NBC "is opting for a low-key echo of the commercials that launched Leno," reports USA Today. "Last fall, he was shown driving a race car emblazoned with a 10, a reminder of his new slot. In spots that began airing during the Olympics Wednesday night, he's driving the same car, only the 10 is replaced by 11:35... as the Beatles song urges him to 'Get back to where you once belonged.'"

Sadly, NBC nixed an idea that would have featured Leno and Victoria Principal in the shower, an homage to the prime time soap opera "Dallas'" "it was only a dream" plot line.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kevin Eubanks may leave "Tonight"

Hey everybody, I'm back from vacation! NBC's late night shows are off the air during the Olympics, but "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" is due to resume on March 1. While it appears that Jay's bandleader Kevin Eubanks will be there when the program returns, he may not stay around for long, according to the Associated Press.

"NBC said Tuesday that Eubanks has expressed interest in personal touring and recording. The network says he will be part of the show when it reoccupies late night March 1, but his continued involvement is uncertain."

No word yet on who will take Kev's place. Note to applicants: willingness to laugh at all of Jay's jokes and answer the question, "Hey [name], what do I love?" with "Dumb criminals!" a must.

Eubanks has been the show's musical director since 1995, when he took over from Branford Marsalis.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Letterman-Leno Super Bowl Ad: Yes, it was real!

Like a lot of other viewers, I initially wondered if the "Late Show" ad featuring David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno was real... or some kind of CGI trickery. After all, given the events of the past few weeks, it seems like former pals Leno and Letterman were, more than ever, mortal enemies, and perhaps only James Cameron-style technical wizardry could bring them together on the same couch. Especially considering that Dave broke out his whiny-Jay impersonation.

However, it was real -- and it was Dave's idea, according to "Late Show" producer Rob Burnett. "Well, the 10 seconds we did with Dave and Oprah for the Super Bowl in 2007 went pretty well and CBS came back and said we got 10 seconds again for this one," Burnett told "Nothing is more simultaneously exhilarating and fear-inducing than hearing you have 10 seconds in the Super Bowl. We were banging heads together. How do we come close to topping the last one? Then Dave got this idea. My first call was to Oprah – she got it right away – and then I called [CBS Corp. Chairman] Les Moonves to make sure he was OK with Jay being on CBS. I have to give Les credit … he got it immediately. And then I called [Leno's executive producer] Debbie Vickers … who said, ‘Dave and Jay, in the same room?’ She laughed for a good minute and said Jay would want to call. I hung up, and two minutes later it was Jay. He said ‘This is the way show business should be.’"

Leno snuck in the Ed Sullivan Theater wearing "a disguise… a hooded sweatshirt, dark sunglasses and a mustache." Was it an awkward situation? "There was no frostiness. We were focused on trying to execute the joke. It would have been a more taxing event had it been us all going out to dinner."

Did Dave worry that he was giving his once and future competitor a boost? Said Burnett: "Dave has a simple edict: If it’s funny, we do it... if you’re a comedian and you have the chance to do something funny in front of 100 million people, you should do it."

Watch the ad here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Olympics: How will the Games affect talk show schedules?

"The Jay Leno Show" will air its last episode on Tuesday, Feb. 9. On Wednesday, an episode of "Law & Order: SVU" will be shown, and on Thursday, two "Office" repeats will run in the 10 PM timeslot. Friday, of course, marks the start of the Olympics, with the Opening Ceremony airing on NBC all evening long. Late local news will come on at midnight in most markets, with a new "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" (featuring Benicio Del Toro and Selena Gomez) to follow. After that, Fallon and Carson Daly will disappear from the airwaves until the Games end on Feb. 28.

"The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" will air repeats through Thursday, Feb. 11; check out the lineups page for the schedule. On Monday, March 1, "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" starts up again. (His first-week guests will include the cast of "Jersey Shore," because heaven knows those folks haven't gotten nearly enough TV exposure lately.)

So far, it looks like David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson will be airing new shows during the Games (although, of course, Kimmel shows a rerun every Monday night), to satisfy viewers who prefer comedy to winter sports.

I have been trying to get someone at Comedy Central to confirm the dates that Stephen Colbert will be broadcasting from Vancouver, to no avail. "The Colbert Report" (and "The Daily Show") will be in repeats during the week of Feb. 15, so if Stephen does head to Canada, it's going to be during the week of Feb. 22. That will give his staff a week to prepare. Why not just issue a press release and be done with it, CC folks? Anyway, there will be lots of speed skating medal events for Stephen to cover that week.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Jon Stewart vs. Bill O'Reilly: The Video

Here's the unedited video (42 minutes!) of Bill O'Reilly's chat with Jon Stewart.

The Los Angeles Times' Patrick Goldstein wrote that Papa Bear was the victor in the exchange, "if for no other reason than when it comes to TV interviews or the NBA finals, home court advantage is everything." I'd call it a draw -- Stewart seemed pretty polite, and didn't rip into O'Reilly the way he took down "Crossfire" during his infamous appearance on that show. Now, if Jon had been sitting down with Glenn Beck instead of the "Factor" host, things probably wouldn't have been quite as civil.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Murdoch: No "real negotiations" yet for Conan on Fox

Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corp. (owner of Fox), said today that the programmers at the network need to "show us we can do it (hire Conan to host a new late night talk show) and be fairly confident of making a profit."

"We’re giving it a lot of thought and a lot of examination," he told reporters during a conference call, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Fox would need to get its affiliate stations to carry O'Brien's new show instead of the "Seinfeld" or "Frasier" reruns they may be showing today -- reruns that bring in a lot of lucrative ad revenue. "I’m sure we’d have difficult renegotiations" with the affiliates, Murdoch said.

He added that although there have been some conversations with O'Brien's camp, there have been no "real negotiations" yet.

Jon Stewart vs. Bill O'Reilly

A lot of liberals will no doubt be setting their TiVos to record "The O'Reilly Factor" for the first time ever tomorrow and Thursday. That's when "The Daily Show"'s Jon Stewart will sit down with Bill "Papa Bear" O'Reilly for an interview. According to Fox News, “the wide-ranging interview will touch on an array of topics, including President Obama, the political landscape and media bias.”

Stewart appeared on the "Factor" in 2004, when the Fox host infamously referred to "TDS" viewers as "stoned slackers." O'Reilly was a guest on "The Daily Show" in 2005 and 2008.