Thursday, April 29, 2010

Conan on "60 Minutes": "I sleep well at night"

CBS has released some quotes from the forthcoming Conan O'Brien/"60 Minutes" interview, and, of course, correspondent Steve Kroft tries to tiptoe around that anti-disparagement clause:

“If I had surrendered ’The Tonight Show’ and handed it over to somebody publicly and wished them well,” Mr. O’Brien says, referring to Mr. Leno’s on-the-air hand-off of the show to Mr. O’Brien last May, “and then... six months later. ...” Mr. O’Brien adds, referring to Mr. Leno’s willingness to return to the show.

“But that’s me, you know,” Mr. O’Brien says.“Everyone’s got their own, you know, way of doing things.”

[H]e says of Mr. Leno’s decision to come back to the show: “He went and took that show back and I think in a similar situation, if roles had been reversed, I know -- I know me, I wouldn’t have done that,” Mr. O’Brien says.

Later in the interview, he notes, “I sleep well at night.”

No Max Weinberg 7 on Conan's new show

A report from indicates that when Conan O'Brien returns to the airwaves this fall, it'll be minus bandleader Max Weinberg.

The original source: a City Pages interview with music legend Al Kooper, who said, "They let [Weinberg] go. This is a big transition, and they're all signing new contracts and everything so they replaced him, as far as I know."

Does that mean Conan will have an all-new band? "No, not at all. That's the only change. But I mean, there was a lotta conflict because of [Bruce] Springsteen. So now he can play with Springsteen whenever he wants."

Movieline reported earlier this month that according to rumor, Weinberg had approached Jay Leno about replacing Kevin Eubanks as the "Tonight Show" bandleader (instead, Rickey Minor got the nod). The web site claimed that Max was "less than beloved by [Conan's] staffers. When O’Brien’s show was still located in New York, Weinberg would send interns to do gardening work at his house on the New Jersey shore, and would involve staffers in his pay disputes with the network — at one point, even enlisting an intern to tabulate every minute of screen time Weinberg had racked up over two years in an argument for a salary raise."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dave's Record Collection: Letterman now has a label

David Letterman's Worldwide Pants has spun off a new subsidiary: a record label called Clear Entertainment. According to, the label's first signing is Huntington Beach, CA, pop-punk quintet called Runner Runner. The band's super-fancy MySpace page has racked up over 3 million views.

Clear Entertainment is partnering with Capitol Records and Jack Ponti's MRV label to release Runner Runner's debut album in late summer. The band will be touring extensively, though it remains to be seen if a stop at the Ed Sullivan Theater will be included in their itinerary.

Conan's on 60 Minutes, Dave's visiting Reege

On Sunday, Conan O'Brien's finally allowed to appear on TV again -- and he'll celebrate by sitting down with "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft for an exclusive interview.

According to the New York Times, the segment will feature clips from Conan's current stage show and "will center on the comic’s comments about the fractious events surrounding his decision to leave NBC rather than accept having his show pushed back a half-hour to make room for Jay Leno to return to late-night television. But Mr. OBrien is still under restrictions not to disparage NBC or Mr. Leno. 'He flirts with the restrictions,' Mr. Kroft said in a telephone interview."

Because of NBC's contractual restrictions, "60 Minutes" can't air promos before Sunday showing O'Brien's face. “I think we’ll just show me talking to him and have to blank his face out,” Mr. Kroft told the Times.

In other don't-miss interview news, David Letterman will be making a rare appearance on a talk show that isn't his own. The CBS host will be a guest on Friday's edition of "Live with Regis and Kelly."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Indecision 2012: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert re-up

Good news for fans of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" -- the hosts will continue to appear on Comedy Central for at least the next couple of years. From a press release:

COMEDY CENTRAL has reached individual agreements with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to extend the contracts of the hosts of the Emmy® and Peabody® Award-winning series "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report," it was announced today by Michele Ganeless, president, COMEDY CENTRAL.

Stewart's contract extension with COMEDY CENTRAL will keep him at the helm of "The Daily Show" through June 2013. He will continue to serve as executive producer, writer and host. Colbert's extension will keep him and "The Colbert Report" at the all-comedy channel through the end of 2012. Colbert serves as executive producer, writer and host for "The Report."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Meet Rickey Minor, Jay Leno's new band leader

Less than 24 hours after Kevin Eubanks officially announced he was leaving "Tonight," it looks like Jay Leno has a new band leader: "American Idol" music director Rickey Minor.

Minor is the author of There's No Traffic on the Extra Mile: Lessons on the Road from Dreams to Destiny, which promises "juicy behind-the-scenes anecdotes about Idol contestants, and the keys to their success." He also "served as music director for nearly every major American awards show including the Grammys, the Emmys, and the Super Bowl."

According to the Associated Press, Minor is expected to debut on the show June 7, and he "will continue to consult with 'American Idol' creator Simon Fuller on various projects."

Now, the only question that remains is, can he laugh at Jay's jokes?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kevin Eubanks will leave "Tonight" in six weeks

Kevin Eubanks' days are numbered. His last day as the bandleader on "The Tonight Show" will be May 28, according to an Associated Press report.

"After 18 years of playing America into commercials, I'm gonna go somewhere where I can finish a song," Eubanks told Leno when asked what he planned to do first.

"You've been a great friend and really supportive," Leno told him during the taping of Monday's show. "When those jokes die, I got to look to you, man."

Eubanks told the AP in an interview that he had no specific plans and was "keeping everything open."

ABC's "Castle" takes on late night talk shows

I've never watched ABC's Monday night drama "Castle" before, but I had to tune in to see "Dancing with the Stars"' Tom Bergeron play a late night talk show host. The program threw in homages to several real-life late night talk shows -- how many did you spot?

1. Tom's character, Bobby Mann, has an Eisenhower mug on his desk, just like Conan!
2. Bobby was being blackmailed because he was having an affair with a young intern, a la Letterman.
3. Bobby's sidekick, played by the great Fred Willard, was named Hank, which had to be a reference to "The Larry Sanders Show"'s Hank Kingsley.
4. If the network canceled Bobby's show to replace him with the younger 12:30 AM host, they had to pay him an $80 million penalty, the same figure that would allegedly have to be paid out by NBC if they pulled the plug on "The Jay Leno Show" without putting Jay back at 11:30.
5. Bobby had a string of ex-wives, like Johnny Carson.

If you missed it, the episode will be available online at

Conan: How TBS snagged him

Here's a must-read for anyone interested in the business of late night TV: TV MoJoe's interview with Turner Entertainment Networks prez Steve Koonin on how TBS landed Conan O'Brien.

It's a lucrative deal for the comedian, but Koonin believes that Coco's presence on the network will raise its profile with comedians (TBS's tag line is "Very Funny"). "At TNT, we've been so successful with Ray Romano, Kyra Sedgwick, Holly Hunter, Jada Pinkett Smith -- just bringing in very talented people," said Koonin. "And we have the same recipe for TBS. Conan is a giant step up in the comedy community for any network... Between Conan and George [Lopez, TBS] will have over 300 hours of comedy on our air. We look at this in long-term increments. And we think having Conan and George will attract more top-tier comics to our network. That's the plan, that's the play... I think we've shown the community today we have a real big appetite."

Of course, demographics played an important role; Koonin stated that Coco's new show will be targeted toward ages 25-45, or people too old for Adult Swim but younger than the graying network audiences. "The guys on CBS and NBC are getting older, and their audience is getting almost as old. We saw that we could have two guys in their 40s attract viewers in their 20s and 30s who will hopefully be on TBS for a long, long time."

Koonin pointed out that the median age of Lopez's viewers is a youthful 33. Compare that to the numbers in an article that appeared in today's New York Times: Jay Leno "now has a median age of 56, with [David] Letterman at 54, 'Nightline' at 55, [Craig] Ferguson and [Jimmy] Kimmel both at 52, and even NBC's younger act, Jimmy Fallon, at 50, [Jon] Stewart comes in with a median age of 49 and [Stephen] Colbert younger still at 37."

(The article was published before the news about Coco's move to TBS broke, but the following quote seems downright prophetic: Syracuse University's Robert Thompson told the Times "that NBC might be more concerned about the trend among the youngest core of viewers, who made up the base for Mr. O'Brien. They seem to be drifting away, toward comedy they find more relevant, he said. 'The hip young comedy stuff has all gone to cable.'")

Why will the new Conan show debut in November, not September? "We've got the American League Championship Series. It's a phenomenal promotional platform." By the time the program debuts, there's not a man, woman or child alive today who will not be aware that Conan's got a new home on TBS.

Well, this is a surprise: Conan heading to TBS

After months of speculation that Conan O'Brien would be appearing this fall on Fox, Coco has surprised everyone by heading to basic cable instead -- he's taking his act to TBS.

"His new pact with the network will allow O'Brien to own his own show, a la David Letterman, while also giving him an eight-figure compensation package described as 'bigger than any other deal he's ever had,' one person familiar with the agreement" told TV MoJoe. Fox, on the other hand, was offering "less money, no guarantee of wide affiliate clearances and little chance for O'Brien to own his own show."

And what about George Lopez, who currently holds down the 11 PM hour on TBS? He's heading to midnight -- and he's fine with it. "I can’t think of anything better than doing my show with Conan as my lead-in,” said Lopez. “It’s the beginning of a new era in late-night comedy.”

Like "Lopez Tonight," the new Conan show will air four times a week.

Coco, who kicks off his tour with a stop in Eugene, OR tonight, stated via Twitter: "The good news: I will be doing a show on TBS starting in November! The bad news: I'll be playing Rudy on the all new Cosby Show."

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Late Night Ratings: Leno wins again

After over a month back on the air, it seems clear that the audience which used to watch Jay Leno at 11:30 PM has fallen back into the habit. Leno was #1 again last week (March 29-April 2), winning 1 million more viewers than "Late Show with David Letterman."

Here are the total audience numbers (and here are the numbers from earlier in March, for those who want to compare and contrast):

NBC “Tonight,” 4.2 million viewers
CBS “Late Show,” 3.2 million viewers
ABC “Nightline,” 3.7 million viewers

“Tonight” also won the week over “Late Show” by a margin of 25 percent in viewers aged 18-49.

(Speaking of "Tonight," sharp-eyed viewers watching last night's musical segment might have noticed a Team Coco badge on guitarist Slash.)

In the later time slots, Craig Ferguson beat Jimmy Fallon in the ratings, and even in the 18-24 demographic, Jimmy was only ahead by a relatively small margin: 322,000 viewers vs. 278,000.

ABC “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” 1.6 million viewers
NBC “Late Night,” 1.6 million viewers
CBS “Late Late Show,” 1.7 million viewers

In case anyone is curious how the Leno "Tonight" is faring compared to the Conan-era show, here is a post from back in October 2009. During that week, 4.4 million viewers tuned in to Letterman and 2.4 million chose Conan. Sorry, Team Coco -- it's looking like NBC made the right call. Of course, I'll be looking forward to hearing how O'Brien does during his live shows, which kicks off Monday in Eugene, OR.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Carson Daly: "We are not ever going to be the traditional late-night show"'s Julie Miller scored an interview with Carson Daly, and the "Last Call" man says that his current format, which puts Carson in the field -- no band, no desk, no studio -- is "exciting." "We’ve committed to this — we are not ever going to be the traditional late-night show," said Daly. "I’ve been on the air now for I don’t know how many years now, and I have done the desk thing and there has been an evolution to my show."

For those who either don't stay up really, really late, or set the TiVo to record "Last Call," Carson is referring to the documentary-style footage that has reinvigorated the 1:35 AM broadcast. Daly roams L.A. to interview people, which, he says, leads to "that casual feel, where now, I just go have a beer with Matthew McConaughey and he tells me a great story about his dad dying while having sex with his mother. Things that just don’t happen in a studio audience with strangers." Indeed!

Daly notes that he has "always loved Bob Costas, who does great sit-down interviews. I love Charlie Rose’s in-depth interviews." However, in my opinion, the problem with Daly's show is that its half-hour, (usually) three-guest format does not allow for anything "in-depth." With its constant cuts and rapid switches of camera angle, it's seemingly aimed at people with ADHD who just happen to be up in the middle of the night. Even if you're sincerely interested in Daly's interview subject, chances are you'll come away unsatisfied.

"[T]he one thing that we really do well is offer a great discovery of new music," said Daly. "So let’s do more of that, shining a spotlight onto up-and-coming acts." That is definitely the show's strength -- he's willing to give some network air time to hip bands like Metric, Gossip, Arctic Monkeys and Citizen Cope. Carson's "Covers Week," which featured bands like Weezer doing songs made famous by other artists, was a good example of what this show can do when it slows down for a minute and focuses.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Jimmy Kimmel's "Lost" special

ABC has announced that a special episode of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" will air on Sunday, May 23, after the final airing of "Lost."

Of course, Jimmy is a longtime "Lost" fan who frequently talks about the show on the air and has hosted many of its stars over the years. "Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to 'Lost'" promises "appearances from executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, alternate endings, and live interviews with cast members."

The program will air at 11:35 PM -- 30 minutes earlier than Jimmy's weekday time slot.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Craig Ferguson: Peabody winner

"The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" aren't the only Peabody-winning late night shows -- "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" is the latest to score the prestigious prize for excellence in broadcasting. The host won for his interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, which was praised by the committee: "As this fascinating, often funny interview attests, the Scottish-born Ferguson has made late-night television safe again for ideas." You can watch the interview on YouTube (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

NBC's "Late Night with David Letterman" won a Peabody in 1991, with the committee citing it as "the leader in late night television in creativity, humor and innovation." Johnny Carson won a personal award in 1985, for his "contributions... to television, to humor, and to America." ABC's "Nightline" has received numerous Peabodys over the years.