Late-night TV changes again: Kimmel moves earlier

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Host Jimmy Kimmel onstage at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP)

It was almost exactly a decade ago that Jimmy Kimmel entered the late-night wars, promising he was not the sexist oaf he seemed to viewers of The Man Show, citing Regis Philbin as a model for his talk-show style and pretty much pleading to celebrities to appear on his show.

Things worked out well enough that he is getting a promotion of sorts from ABC this week, moving from a midnight slot into direct competition with David Letterman on CBS and Jay Leno on NBC.

Let us pause to ponder how that will work. On Monday, Nightline will air at 11:35 p.m. for the last time, followed at midnight by Kimmel, who will offer a special “Goodbye to Midnight,” looking back at the show’s history. On Tuesday, Kimmel moves to 11:35, with Nightline following at 12:39.

I know, crazy times. It’s become increasingly common for shows to start at odd times and, in late-night especially, to run peculiar lengths based on the amount of commercials shoehorned in and around the shows. Leno’s Tonight Show, for example, starts at 11:34 (or 11:34.5, according to one competitor) to get a jump on the other shows, with Jimmy Fallon’s show following at 12:37, although you can also find it listed for 12:35 and 12:36. David Letterman begins at 11:35, but Craig Ferguson’s scheduled start time is 12:37. While, as I said, these are money-making and competitive ploys by the networks, they are an utter nuisance for many viewers; even when DVRs offer precise times, it is usually wise to program some extra wiggle room.

Whenever the shows start, there will probably be mixed feelings for Kimmel. He has long hated Leno; before he began his show, he sniped that it would be The Tonight Show with comedy. But Kimmel’s admiration of Letterman is limitless, and often boyishly fawning. After all, at 45 years old, Kimmel is still one of the kids of late night: younger than Letterman (65), Leno (62), Conan O’Brien (49), Jon Stewart (50) and Ferguson (also 50), while older than Fallon, 38.

But those ages also indicate that Kimmel may finally be ushering in the next generation of late-night talkers, at least on broadcast TV. There has also been speculation that NBC will move Fallon into Leno’s slot in 2014 — although the last move of Leno out of late-night was a disaster for the network.

And Kimmel has long since proven that he can be irreverent and funny, a good soldier for his network and engaging enough that the celebrities are willing to visit. And, according to reports from a teleconference Kimmel held not long ago, he will take the same approach at his earlier time.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio,com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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