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.

NBC to Conan: You lie!

You've got to click on this link to see the least flattering photo ever taken of Conan O'Brien. If only that microphone was a flashlight -- he'd look just like someone's crazy uncle telling spooky campfire stories.

The story accompanying the photo (and one of Jay Leno, whose famous chin is less noticeable in this shot than his puffy cheeks) claims that NBC sources told TMZ that Conan "was flat out wrong when he said NBC gave him the axe rather than Leno because Jay's buyout would have been bigger. Sources say the buyouts for Conan and Jay were roughly the same."

What about Coco's claim that "Tonight" would not have lost money with him at the helm? "NBC sources say the show would not only have lost more than $5 million this year had they kept Conan on, but the loss was specifically discussed with Conan -- 'They were well-informed of that fact,' said one source."

Is that claim damage control? This informative article & chart show that Leno's ratings within the 18-49 demo during the past three weeks are exactly the same as the ratings of Conan O'Brien's "Tonight" in the same week of the show’s run.

Monday, May 3, 2010

White House Correspondents' Dinner: Obama vs. Leno

If the execs at NBC are making any post-Leno succession plans for "The Tonight Show," perhaps they should consider the up and coming comedian Barack Obama. He might have some free time in, oh, about three or seven years.

According to reports, Obama kicked Leno's butt at the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- thanks to a set of jokes that included gags penned by longtime "Daily Show" scribe Kevin Bleyer. The prez "came armed with fresh and funny material that prompted some of the biggest laughs I’ve witnessed the Leader of the Free World receiving in more than two decades of attending this strange Washington media-political celebration of self-congratulation," wrote the Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove. "Obama is a natural entertainer who has, among all the other things he has been doing in the past year, sharpened his comic timing and delivery." Leno, on the other hand, "recycled and repurposed old material from his television show."

“The only person whose ratings fell more than mine did last year is here. Great to see you, Jay!” quipped Obama.

According to an Associated Press report, "Obama also said he was glad he was appearing before Leno. Obama told the 3,000-strong mix of celebrities, elected officials, political appointees and journalists that 'we've all seen what happens when you take the time slot after Leno.'"

Watch the video and judge for yourself. I particularly love the president's dig at CNN's Rick Sanchez about eight minutes in, because making fun of Rick Sanchez is never not funny. (For some reason, the cameraperson kept the camera on Leno the whole time, so we can't see the gags where he used photos and video.)