Conan, You’re Not Alone: 12 Other Short-Lived and Doomed Late Night TV Shows

by 8 years ago

The peacock network’s Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien quagmire seems to have reached an irksome tipping point of feverish fan emotions and hushed programing manipulations. As of right now, Leno will takeover the Tonight Show at 11:30 for the second time in his career. In the meantime, Jimmy Fallon will stay put, Conan will consider offers to do “ginger” adult entertainment, and NBC chief Jeff Zucker will probably hide out in a corporate boardroom with a bottle of scotch all weekend wishing the botched Leno vs. Conan PR debacle would just go away. No matter where Conan ends up or how many times the NBC lineup is shuffled, the trials and tribulations of Team Coco have certainly made for some fascinating kabuki theater over the past week. But this is nothing new. Conan, we’re here to remind you that you’re not alone. As a genre, late-night television is historically rife with network ineptitude, broken promises, and short-lived television dreams. Here are 12 other failed late-night television programs. Unlike Conan, some of these may have been doomed from the get-go.

“The Chevy Chase Show”

Network: FOX

Time on the air: September 7, 1993 to October 1, 1993

Despite his popularity and comedic success, Chevy Chase’s remarkably unfunny late night show on Fox was one colossal disaster after the next. The show didn’t live up to its potential to lure advertisers to FOX and received an “F” rating by an Entertainment Weekly critic. It was canceled less than a month after it premiered.

“The Magic Hour”

Network: FOX

Time on the air: June 8 to September 4, 1998

The world yawned when basketball legend Magic Johnson attempted to host an hour-long talk show on Fox. Howard Stern was able to mock the fantastically terrible show for a summer before Fox finally hit the abort button.

“The Pat Sajak Show”

Network: CBS

Time on the air: January 9, 1989 to April 13, 1990

Fortunately for audiences everywhere, the host of “Wheel of Fortune” never cultivated a career in late-night television. CBS attempted to position Pat Sajak against Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” Sajak’s tired sense of humor failed miserably. The writing on the wall for CBS to pull the plug was in late March, 1990, when a relatively-unknown Rush Limbaugh was invited to guest host and proceeded to go on lengthy political diatribes.

“The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show”

Network: FOX

Time on the air: August 1997 to March 1998

After creating the successful sketch comedy show “In Living Color” in the early 90s, Keenen Ivory Wayans tried his hand at hosting a syndicated late night talk show on FOX.


Network: ABC

On the air:April 1980 to April 1982

“Friday’s” was ABC’s early-80s “Saturday Night Live” knock-off. Although the show briefly outperformed “SNL” in the ratings war and received A-list guests such as George Carlin, Brooke Shields, and Susan Sarandon, the plug was pulled two years later after multiple scheduling changes in ABC’s Friday night lineup.

“Late World with Zach”

Network: VH1

Time on the air: August 2002

Before Zach Galifianakis broke into the big time as the star of “The Hangover,” he tried a brief, summer-long stint at hosting a late-night comedy show on VH1.

“Thicke of the Night”

Network: Syndicated

Time on the air: 1983 to 1984

Actor Alan Thicke’s failed talk show couldn’t battle against David Letterman, Johnny Carson, and others in the early 80s. After the show was canceled, Thicke continued his acting career on ABC’s sitcom “Growing Pains.”

“The Joey Bishop Show”


Dates on the air: April 1967 to September 1969

Joey Bishop was a Rat Pack member and television fixture in the early 60s. His 90-minute talk show in the late 60s was ABC’s futile attempt to accost the ratings from Johnny Carson.

“Second City Television (SCTV)”

Network: NBC

Time on the air: 1981 to 1983

“Second City Television” was a popular low-budget sketch show featuring Toronto’s Second City comedy troupe. Broadcast on CBC in the 70s, the show was picked up by NBC and expanded into a 90-minute show for two years before the network had the brains to realize it’s pretty much a Canadian version of “Saturday Night Live.” Although it was canceled in 1983, SCTV helped to catapult the careers of former cast members John Candy and Eugene Levy.

“Fernwood 2 Night”

Network: Syndicated

On the air: July 1977 to September 1977

“Fernwood 2 Night” was a short-lived late-night parody show that was created by Norman Milton Lear, the producer of such hit ’70s comedies as “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” and “Sanford and Sons.” Hosted by Martin Mull, the show floundered in network syndication and failed to take off after switching its name to “America 2 Night” in its second season.

“Party Machine with Nia Peeples”

Network: Syndicated

Time on the air: November 1991

Produced by Arsenio Hall and hosted by R&B singer Nia Peeples, “Party Machine with Nia Peeples” was a short-lived late night dance show a la “Soul Train” and Dick Clarke’s “American Bandstand,” except with early-90s pump-up music. The show immediately followed Arensio’s time slot. The clip below is pretty self-explanatory as to why it was canceled.

“The Ron Reagan Show”

Network: Syndicated

Time on the air: Fall 1991

The Ron Reagan Show was a syndicated late-night political talk show hosted by President Ronald Reagan’s son. In the same vein as Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” the Ron Reagan show was an early attempt to raise the intellectual bar for late-night TV. However, Reagan couldn’t compete against the ratings of Arsenio and Carson. The show was canceled shortly after its debut.

“The Wilton North Report”

Network: FOX

Time on the air: December 11, 1987 to January 8, 1988


The Wilton North Report report was one of Fox’s earliest attempts at creating a late show. The show’s unconventional hosts were Phil Cowan and Paul Robins, two relatively unknown morning radio DJs from Sacramento. After multiple format changes, FOX quickly put its show out of its misery. “


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