The Ruminator: Rock a solid choice to get ABC late-night rolling again

Mar 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

As regular readers of my meanderings know, I have a passion for scotch, so count me as one who had been looking forward to those hard-liquor ads that NBC just wimped out on. More important-OK, OK, equally important-as regular readers also know, I have a passion for news. And, I hope, I have some expertise in the business. So first of all, believe what you read about ABC and Ted Koppel. “Nightline,” as we have known and loved it, is history.
The Dave for Ted almost deal was never about journalism-it’s always been about the Benjamins, the dollars. And because of that, the suits at the mouse factory will have to come up with another “compelling” talent that gives them no choice but to replace Koppel with comedy. Of course, if ABC hadn’t been dying in prime time (it may finish in fourth place this season), money in other time periods wouldn’t be as important. But now cash, while sparse, is king at ABC. So let’s look at some of the “We didn’t get Dave so we must find another name” names:
Cable guy
Many pundits say CBS would have gone to Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart had David Letterman picked up and left the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Taking that a step further, these same “experts” feel Stewart tops Bob Iger’s new wishing upon a star list. Forget the fact that Stewart might be contractually tied up. Did anyone watch the Grammys? Stewart bombed. Hasn’t ABC learned its lesson with Bill Maher? Cable acts don’t translate to big broadcast numbers. And wouldn’t Stewart look like a second banana guy next to Dave and NBC’s Jay Leno? So scratch Jon, ABC, and save yourself a high-profile, Foxy failure a la Joan Rivers or out and out disaster, a la Chevy Chase.
Then there are the pipe dreams: Is Billy Crystal available? Wouldn’t it be perfect for Jerry Seinfeld? Hey, isn’t Robin Williams done with movies? Get real. None of these guys wants to do five days a week interviewing people who think they are stars themselves.
We then move to the ABC family. You know, the people on their failing sitcoms: Drew Carey (hey and he can sing!), Jim Belushi and whichever Wayans is talking about his wife and kids. Again, no no no. ABC is lucky NBC has put Colin Quinn on Monday nights, so they now know he shouldn’t be on any list. And thank goodness Ray Romano is in that hit CBS sitcom that no one watches, so we’ll be spared him as a late-night host as well.
After reading Bill Carter’s story last week in The New York Times on how Dave decided to stay at CBS, I have another act to add to the in-house ABC list. Bob Iger and Lloyd Braun as the next Carson/McMahon. Sponsored by “No Excuses” jeans. Hi Yo! The Ruminator was highly amused at the thought of Hollywood Bob freezing his ass off while awaiting an audience with King David on Broadway. Waiting with cheesecake, the article said, at the stage door. Stage-door Bobby.
And then there’s his sidekick, Barnacle Braun. After it ended in CBS’s favor, he drowned his sorrow with Chinese food, reported Carter, but still was able to tell his kid, “You must try.” Though we didn’t hear the reply, it could have been, “Hey, Dad, trying is one thing but this is TV-you must win!”
`The View’ from everywhere
How about a late-night “View”? Meredith, Joy, Star, Lucy and Queen Babs could promote the late-night “View” on their late-morning “View.” It could be further promoted on A&E during the repurposed prime-time “View.” Talk about your synergy! No, it ain’t gonna work. I forgot that Barbara is a big supporter of Ted’s and wouldn’t wanna replace him.
In fact, there is one comedy genius who really does makes sense for ABC in late-night. Chris Rock. Fifteen years ago another African American comic did very well for a while in late-night. And no, Rock is no Arsenio Hall. And that’s good.
Rock is THE guy for the new millennium. He’s funnier than Hall-and far more edgy. He’s what they call a dangerous comic, and he’d probably make Jay and Dave seem like two middle-age white guys-which they are.
Rock also did a talk show of sorts for HBO, and it was terrific. Rock is black enough to be black and funny enough to cross over to the white audience. He would also be a breakthrough personality that Disney could use in other properties.
But Chris Rock wouldn’t come cheap. The only way to get him, ABC, is set him up in business. While production companies in Tinseltown are a dime a dozen, Disney ought to have enough real TV, music, movie and book franchises that would make this an offer Chris couldn’t turn down.
Rock is the politically incorrect franchise that Michael Eisner is looking for.