Late night TV, then and now

  • By Frazier Moore Associated Press
  • Thursday, April 10, 2014 2:30pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

NEW YORK — The future is Stephen Colbert.

The Comedy Central talk-show star was named Thursday to replace David Letterman when he steps down from CBS’ “Late Show” next year.

But what about the past and the present? Let’s try for a little historical perspective by comparing the late night landscape that greets Colbert’s announcement against the world in which “Late Show” was born:

Then: Dave arrived in the 11:35 p.m. slot on Aug. 30, 1993, with a startup venture for CBS going up against NBC’s venerable “Tonight Show,” where Jay Leno had already reigned for 15 months. Broadcast TV had only four other players in late night comedy-talk: Letterman’s old haunt, “Late Night,” where Conan O’Brien would soon preside, followed by “Later With Bob Costas,” plus the syndicated “Arsenio Hall Show.” Also, debuting a week later, “The Chevy Chase Show” aired for just a month on Fox.

Now: There are at least 11 such shows on broadcast or cable, with roughly 18 percent of them hosted by a man named Jimmy.

Then: Although three-fourths of TV homes had VCRs, almost no one knew how to program them, or had even gotten around to setting the clock. And digital video recorders hadn’t been invented yet.

Now: Roughly half of TV homes (whether with or without VCRs) are equipped with DVRs, which further undermines the meaning of “late night”: Most of these shows are taped around dusk, then plugged into a late night slot where they’re available for a viewer to retrieve and watch whenever the mood strikes.

Then: The term “Internet” would have registered barely a blip of recognition for most viewers, and, if by chance they had home Internet service, it only gave them crawling text through a dial-up connection. Web? Social media? YouTube? Streaming video? App? Whazzat?!

Now: Tweeting, second-screen interaction and viral video clips are necessary supplements to shore up the eroding audience a talk show can command solely on the TV platform.

Then: Speaking of which, the shiny new “Late Show” was scoring about 5.2 million viewers nightly, while “Tonight” averaged 4 million.

Now: Since Jimmy Fallon replaced Leno in February, NBC’s “Tonight” has averaged about 5.2 million viewers (a huge initial boost from Leno’s final-year average of 3.5 million), while Letterman and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel have each averaged about 2.7 million.

Then: Among that handful of hosts, only one was a black man.

Now: Only one — that same guy, Arsenio Hall — is black.

Then: No women were hosting.

Now: One woman is a host — Chelsea Handler.

Then: For months, media reporters just couldn’t stop churning out coverage of the Late Night War.

Now: With news of Stephen going in for Dave, we’re just getting started on another siege of stories.

More in Life

Co-owner Jason Parzyk carries two growlers to fill as he serves up beer at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. The first brewery in the city is celebrating one-year anniversary this weekend. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Now is the perfect time to design the garden of your dreams

Find inspiration in gardening magazines, on the internet, in your neighborhood and at nurseries.

Around Thanksgiving, gardeners give thanks for the garden

What are they most thankful for? The pleasure they receive from spending time in their yards.

Great Plant Pick: Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’

What: An exceptional selection of the eastern arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis “Degroot’s Spire”… Continue reading

Our annual list of holiday events in Snohomish County and beyond

LIGHTS The Lights of Christmas: Open 5 to 10 p.m. Nov. 30-Dec.… Continue reading

AC/DC founding member Malcolm Young dead at 64

The older brother of bandmate Angus Young was the group’s key writer and leader.

Garden clubs in Snohomish, Island counties

Alderwood Garden Club: Cedar Valley Grange Hall, 20526 52nd Ave. W., Lynnwood;… Continue reading

Home and Garden calendar for Snohomish County and beyond

Printing workshop: with artist and naturalist April Richardson, 1 to 3 p.m.… Continue reading

Legendary bluesman Curtis Salgado to play Arlington show

The Northwest blues-soul-funk-R&B living legend performs with Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons Nov. 18.

Most Read