Open Mic

The 'Baddest Show in Late-Night' Is No More -- and TBS May Have to Face the Consequences

Hillary Atkin Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:06 PM

The “baddest show in late-night,” as host George Lopez called it, is now relegated to the history books -- and if there is such a thing, the television business etiquette books, under the chapter of “How Not to Fire Your Cast and Crew.”

Could there have been any less respectful way for TBS to have made a major schedule change than by unceremoniously dumping George Lopez from his late-night perch with scarcely 36 hours’ notice?

Last night’s was the final episode of "Lopez Tonight" after two seasons on the cable network, per an abrupt announcement on Wednesday.

The comedian, who hit the airwaves at 11 p.m. his first year, graciously moved back to midnight to make way for Conan O'Brien after O’Brien was booted from NBC's "The Tonight Show" -- with a lot more notice, and a nearly global media frenzy.

The two late-night hosts made a big play of working together during TBS’s upfront presentation to advertisers and industry executives this past May in New York.

Lopez, well-known for his ethnic humor -- and often derided for it -- termed them "Coco and Loco.”

TBS topper Steve Koonin was quoted as saying the cancellation was a business problem and that "Lopez Tonight" was an expensive show to sustain as it lost ratings, which was the ostensible reason for the booting.

Still, it's highly unusual -- not to mention disrespectful and unprofessional -- that there would be so little notice given. It's not just that Lopez is losing his gig, but so are large numbers of staff members who work on the show, including musical director Michael Bearden and the house band, the Ese Vatos.

The network’s sparse statement distributed Wednesday morning read just this: “TBS has reached the difficult decision not to order a third season of ‘Lopez Tonight.’ Thursday will be the final episode of the show. We are proud to have partnered with George Lopez, who is an immensely talented comedian and entertainer. TBS has valued its partnership with George and appreciates all of his work on behalf of the network, both on and off the air.” It was attributed to simply “TBS Spokesperson,” who apparently has no name.

We haven't heard the last of this. Critics in certain corners will be calling out Atlanta-based TBS as racist and there could be breach of contract lawsuits.

In his monologue Wednesday night, Lopez himself predictably joked that his ethnicity was the reason for his firing.

"Big news!" he said. "Sony just announced they're doing a sequel to the Smurfs movie, so today I lost some work because I'm brown, but also I got some work because I'm blue."

But during his final outing on TBS last night, Lopez expressed no bitterness and was all about the love for his crew, his friends Eva Longoria, Slash, Arsenio Hall, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher -- all of whom appeared -- and his fans.

Of course, there was some humor about the firing, delivered in the guise of the character called Creepy Little White Girl, who delivered increasingly bad news: that Erik Estrada was being hired as the replacement, that there are not a lot of jobs for Latinos on TV, that a few of them involve whispering to dogs and that he was running out of show titles using his name.

“Thanks for reminding me,” said Lopez, as the band launched into a blistering rendition of Cee Lo Green’s “F--- You.”

At the very end, after ordering cameras to shoot the audience so everyone could see how inclusive it was, the host could be seen with tears in his eyes as he proclaimed “Next year in Jerusalem.”

Who is having the last laugh here? No one at “Conan” can be resting easy either, as its ratings have also taken a nosedive.