Thursday, May 21, 2015

Late Night Television

David Letterman has retired and people have made a big deal about it. The truth is that while Letterman has done well, he did not bring anything new to late night television. The person responsible for late night talk shows was Steve Allen, the original host of the Tonight Show and that was back in the 1950s. Letterman's place in history will be as the last standard bearer of true late night television.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s television stations used to sign off for the night, they were not broadcasting 24/7. The Tonight Show proved that people, working people, would stay up past 11:30. Late night television when there was any was stations showing old movies, no on air personalities. Steve Allen changed that and then Johnny Carson made it an institution.

Carson was successful because he tailored his show to the fact that it was late night. Others tried to compete by duplicating daytime television and failed miserably. If there was another person who understood the time it was Tom Snyder. Tom understood that there was a limited audience at that time of night and that the tone had to reflect the time of day.

In the late 70s I moved to Massachusetts and there was a show on called "Up All Night". They had one camera, a cheap set and whoever they could get as guests. It was real local television. It is also where I first saw Jay Leno. He was a local comedian at the time and just getting a foothold in the business. He was a guest on the show. You don't see that anymore, local shows at night that would give local talent a chance to be seen.

Back in the day there was no cable television and no internet. When the stations shut down for the night the only media you could get was radio. Now we have all these media outlets and that has killed local programming at night. What a shame.

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