Thursday, November 08, 2007

Late Night TV Shows from the Past

Johnny Carson and David Letterman have 30 and 25 years of late night TV under their belts respectively, but many late night shows do not last. A successful late night host needs a mixture of wit, creativity and drive, and some who have been successful in other arenas end up flopping when it comes to the world of late night TV.

Possibly the biggest flop was former Saturday Night Live star Chevy Chase. He had success in sketch comedy and film but his stint as a late night host was a disaster. His show debuted on the Fox network in 1993 and ran for a dismal 5 weeks. In the wake of Johnny Carson retiring, this and other shows tried to pick up viewers who wanted to see something new.

Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak tried his hand at hosting a talk show on CBS in 1989-90. The show lasted 15 months, which seemed like an eternity compared to Chevy's run. Ironically, Chase's show and Sajak's had the same bandleader, Tom Scott. Sajak's announcer and sidekick was Dan Miller. The duo had worked together at WSMV-TV, Nashville's NBC affiliate. Chevy Chase was Pat Sajak's first guest. The show was originally 90 minutes long, but was later shortened to 60, after receiving poor ratings. For a clip, click here.

Basketball legend Magic Johnson hosted a show called The Magic Hour which proved to be anything but. If only his talk show skills matched his athleticism. The show was syndicated on a station-by-station basis and ran for 8 weeks in 1998. Magic seemed uncomfortable on the air and he did not put much work into the show. Click here for a clip.

Most people know Alan Thicke from the 1980s sitcom Growing Pains, where he was dad to Kirk Cameron and Tracy Gold. But he also had a syndicated late night show in 1983-84 called Thicke of the Night. He was well known in his home country of Canada where he had hosted a daytime show. He was also known as a songwriter, penning the theme songs for Different Strokes and The Facts of Life. It was not possible for the show to continue since it consistently was beat by Johnny Carson.

Arsenio Hall had much more success than the personalities named above with his late night syndicated show. It ran from 1989 to 1994 and won 6 Emmy awards. A big moment for the show was when presidential candidate Bill Clinton appeared playing his sax with the band in 1992. Check out the final episode opening here.

For many years NBC had a 30 minute show at 1:35 am called Later. From 1988 to 1992 NBC had the killer late night lineup of Carson, Letterman and Costas. It was hosted by Bob Costas from 1988-94 and later Greg Kinnear from 1994-99 I believe, then Cynthia Garrett hosted for about a year. Kinnear was best known for hosting Talk Soup on E! from 1991-95. That time slot is now occupied by Carson Daly who started Last Call in 2001. It was a fantastic venue for the great interviewing skills of Bob Costas. When he did it there was no studio audience, no band, no monologue, and it was an intimate 30 minute interview with one guest. It was never as engaging after Costas left.

From 1980-82, ABC had a late night sketch comedy show called Fridays. It featured Larry David (writer for Seinfeld and actor/writer on Curb Your Enthusiasm), Michael Richards (Seinfeld's Kramer), and Andy Kaufman from Taxi guest hosted. Like NBC's Saturday Night Live, the program was 90 minutes and aired live in front of a studio audience. The first guest host was George Carlin, who had been the first guest host on SNL in 1975. The show's downfall was when ABC decided to air Nightline 5 nights a week and Fridays was moved to midnight instead of 11:30.

In 1995 CBS decided to launch a show after David Letterman, appropriately titled the Late Late Show. The program is produced by Letterman's company, Worldwide Pants. Tom Snyder was the host from 1995 to 1999. He had been best known for hosting the Tomorrow Show, on NBC following Johnny Carson. CBS recruited Comedy Central's Daily Show host Craig Kilborn to host from 1999 to 2004. From 2004 to the present Craig Ferguson has been the host. Ferguson was formerly with The Drew Carey Show.

With the shakeup involving Jay Leno leaving the Tonight Show and turning it over to Conan O'Brien coming up in 2009, it will be interesting to see what changes occur in late night. Will Leno go to ABC, Fox or CBS? Will he bump Jimmy Kimmel to a later time slot? I can't imagine Leno taking a 12:35 slot. Will Fox start up a Monday-Friday late night show? All they have now is 2 Saturday shows, Mad TV and Talk Show with Spike Feresten, a former Seinfeld writer who also worked on Bee Movie.

*Some information came from

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Biggest Loser

I used to like NBC's reality show The Biggest Loser, but lately it has gone downhill quickly. It has contestants trying to lose the most weight helped by 3 different trainers, Bob, Jillian and Kim. Previous seasons were hosted by Caroline Rhea from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but the new host this year is Allison Sweeney from the soap Days of Our Lives. The problem with the show is that there is too much teasing of upcoming segments and recapping of previous segments. Also most episodes are 90 minutes and they seem to be stretching to fill the time. The first third of the show is some type of a physical challenge, next is the weigh-in to see who has lost the most, and the third part is the elimination round. There is very little nutrition advice, and if there is it is presented as some type of product placement. Having more exercise and diet tips would be good since these would be applicable to those who are watching. The weigh in and elimination rounds are too long, with overly dramatic music and too many concerned reaction shots of the contestants. The show is motivational to some degree for those who want to lose weight, but it could be so much better if a few changes were made.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

25 or 6 to 4 - reloaded- Chicago - 1974

This footage is from a TV special shot at a Colorado ranch. Check out the candid shots of the band members on the ranch, some are pretty funny.

Chicago, a One of a Kind Band

I have always liked the group Chicago, so I have decided to write a bit about their past and their music. Their popularity has waned since the 70s and 80s, but they still tour, although not with many of the original members. They have been around for 40 years, which is impressive in this day and age of so many flash in the pan groups. They became known for romantic ballads, especially with lead singer Peter Cetera, but they had some outstanding up tempo songs too. The are unique due to their use of horns, which included saxophone, trombone and trumpet. In the 70s Chicago was the leading group for US singles according to Billboard magazine. Their first album was titled for the original name of the group, Chicago Transit Authority. Early on, some songs were sung by Terry Kath and some were performed by Peter Cetera. In 1978, Terry Kath died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was under the influence of alcohol when it happened. Chicago 17 was a landmark album for the 1980s. It included the hit singles "You're the Inspiration", "Hard Habit to Break", "Stay the Night" and "Along Comes a Woman". The band became frustrated with Cetera's ballads and he left the group in 1985 and embarked on a successful solo career. Chicago has toured with The Beach Boys, Huey Lewis and the News, and Earth, Wind and Fire, and 40 years later they still have a large fan base. In 2006 they released their 30th album. Here is a link to their official website.

Reality TV Ad Nauseum!

With the looming writer's strike, we may see more reality television and/or reruns. Some reality shows are good, such as The Amazing Race, but too many networks have jumped on the bandwagon and the format has become watered down. It seems like ever since Survivor became a runaway hit, everyone and their brother has a reality show. It used to be that reality shows would only feature non-celebrities, but now has-been celebrities like Scott Baio and Danny Bonaduce are resurrecting their careers. MTV and VH1 seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to giving shows to former celebrities. They have done this with Celebrity Fit Club, The Surreal Life, Hogan Knows Best, Rock of Love with Bret Michaels, Breaking Bonaduce, Flavor of Love with Flavor Flav, and Scott Baio is 45 and Single. If it were not for the popularity of reality shows, maybe the only place you could find these "stars" would be flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. Hogan Knows Best and Rock of Love featured 2 guys past their prime who never remove bandanas due to their balding heads. Hogan's show is not so much about the former wrestler, but about his overprotective attitude toward his daughter and how desperate they are to make her the next singing sensation. Be careful what you wish for Hulk, she might end up as the next Britney. Rock of Love is about a bunch of women vying to be the main squeeze of a rocker whose career peaked 20 years ago. Some people have one reality show evolve into another. Flavor Flav and former wife of Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, kindled a romance on The Surreal Life, which turned into their own show called Strange Love. The twosome broke up, Flav needed to find a woman, and the wheels were in motion at VH1 to cook up another show for him. Flavor of Love was born, where the premise of the show was to find a girlfriend for the former Public Enemy member. That was a hit, and it spawned a spin off for one of the contestants nicknamed New York. Now she has the second season of her show called I Love New York. There is another one called Shot at Love with Tila Tequila on VH1 where model Tila has to choose from a variety of suitors. Shows like this are trainwreck TV, but they get good ratings. Why do people watch them? For the same reason that people follow the trials and tribulations of people like Britney, Lindsay and Paris. It's uncomfortable, but yet they cannot look away. Maybe it makes people feel better about themselves to see the rich and famous screw up and have problems just like everyone else. It's sad, but our society seems to be drawn to people with issues, and meantime the people who are doing good in this world seem to be ignored.