Monday, January 19, 2015

This Week in Television History: January 2015 PART IV

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

January 19, 1955
Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the first president to hold news conferences to be filmed by TV and newsreels. 
On this day in 1955, Eisenhower gave a 33-minute conference in the treaty room at the State Department, recorded by NBC and shared with CBS, ABC, and the DuMont Network.

January 22, 2010
Conan O’Brien makes final appearance as The Tonight Show host

Conan O’Brien hosts his final episode of The Tonight Show, following an announcement by NBC earlier in the month that Jay Leno would return as the host of the long-running, late-night program. The decision to replace O’Brien was met with protests by his fans and became a public-relations debacle for the network. 

In its early years The Tonight Show, which debuted in 1954, was hosted by entertainers including Steve Allen and Jack Paar. Under Johnny Carson, who assumed hosting duties in 1962, the program, with its opening monologue, celebrity interviews, musical performances and comedy sketches, became a late-night institution for millions of Americans. When Carson retired in 1992 he was replaced by Leno. On September 27, 2004, the 50th anniversary of the show’s launch, NBC announced O’Brien would take over from Leno in 2009.

Born in Massachusetts in 1963, O’Brien graduated from Harvard University and went on to work as a writer for such television shows as Saturday Night Live and “The Simpsons.” In 1993, the lanky redhead began hosting his own TV show on NBC, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, which followed The Tonight Show. After recording the final Late Night show on February 20, 2009, O’Brien and his staff relocated from New York City to Los Angeles for The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien, which premiered on June 1, 2009.

Meanwhile, Leno went on to helm his own weeknight comedy series in primetime. However, the program earned less-than-stellar ratings, and after a strong start O’Brien’s Tonight Show ratings also slumped. In early January 2010, NBC executives proposed rearranging the late-night lineup: Leno would host a half-hour show at 11:35 p.m. ET (the long-standing start time for Tonight Show) while The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien would move to 12:05 a.m. O’Brien objected to this plan, publicly stating on January 12:  "I sincerely believe that delaying The Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn’t The Tonight Show."

O’Brien’s fans held rallies outside NBC studios in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities and organized an “I’m with CoCo” online support movement. Nevertheless, on January 21 it was reported that O’Brien had reached a deal with NBC worth more than $30 million to leave “The Tonight Show.” His last episode aired the following night and included guests Tom Hanks, Will Ferrell and Neil Young. During the program O’Brien said: “Walking away from The Tonight Show is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. …Every comedian dreams of hosting ‘The Tonight Show’ and, for seven months, I got to. I did it my way, with people I love, and I do not regret a second.”

Leno returned as host of “The Tonight Show” on March 1, 2010. On November 8 of that year, O’Brien launched a new late-night program, “Conan,” on cable channel TBS. A book about the Tonight Show conflict, titled “The War for Late Night: When Leno Went Early and Television Went Crazy” by New York Times reporter Bill Carter, was published that same month.

January 23, 1975
Barney Miller first aired.
Set in a New York City police station in Greenwich Village. The series originally was broadcast from January 23, 1975, to May 20, 1982, on ABC. It was created byDanny Arnold and Theodore J. Flicker. Noam Pitlik directed the majority of the episodes.

January 23, 2005
Johnny Carson Died. 

On March 19, 1999, Carson, then 73, suffered a severe heart attack at his home in Malibu, California. Carson was sleeping when he suddenly awoke with severe chest pains. He was rushed to a hospital in nearby Santa Monica where he underwent quadruple-bypass surgery.
At 6:50 AM PST on January 23, 2005, Carson died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, of respiratory arrest arising from emphysema.[23][24] He was 79 years old. Carson had revealed his illness to the public in September 2002. Following Carson's death his body was cremated, and the ashes were given to his wife. In accordance with his family's wishes, no public memorial service was held. There were numerous tributes paid to Carson upon his death, including a statement by then President George W. Bush, recognizing the deep and enduring affection held for him.
On January 24, 2005, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno paid tribute to Carson with guests Ed McMahon, Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Drew Carey and k.d. lang. Letterman followed suit on January 31 with former Tonight Show executive producer Peter Lassally and bandleader Doc Severinsen. During the beginning of this show, Letterman said that for 30 years no matter what was going on in the world, no matter whether people had a good or bad day, they wanted to end the day by being "tucked in by Johnny." Letterman also told his viewers that the monologue he had just given had consisted entirely of jokes sent to him by Carson in the last few months of his life. Doc Severinsen ended the Letterman show that night by playing one of Carson's two favorite songs, "Here's That Rainy Day" (the other was "I'll Be Seeing You"). It had been reported over the decades of Carson's fame that he was, off-camera, so intensely private that he had never once invited McMahon to his home. After Carson's death, though, McMahon disputed those rumors and claimed that a close friendship existed. On his final Tonight Show appearance, Carson himself said that while sometimes people who work together for long stretches of time on television don't necessarily like each other, this was not the case with him and McMahon: They were good friends who would have dinner together, and the camaraderie that they had on the show could not be faked. Carson and McMahon were friends for 30 years.
A week or so after the tributes, Dennis Miller was on the Tonight Show and told Jay Leno about the first time he tried to host a talk show, and how miserably it went. He said that he got a call immediately after the first show, from Carson, telling him, "It's not as easy as it looks, is it, kid?"
The 2005 film The Aristocrats was dedicated to Carson, as well as The Simpsons episode Mommie Beerest.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".


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Tony Figueroa
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