Late Night with Conan O'Brien

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Posted by kaori 03/16/2009 @ 00:09

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Starting Off Well, Fallon's Charm Seems to Be Carrying 'Late Night' - New York Times
The lineup included NBC's two late-night stars who are about to undergo career-changing shifts, Conan O'Brien to “The Tonight Show” and Jay Leno to prime time, as well as Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler doing a special “Weekend Update” segment from...
Earlier time slot means Conan O'Brien must aim for mainstream audience - Detroit Free Press
By JULIE HINDS • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • May 24, 2009 The first episode of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" in 1993 opened with a skit where the relatively unknown host strolls to work as people he encounters keep reminding him "Better be good!...
A Brief History Of: The Tonight Show - TIME
The network's choice of Leno prompted a round of musical chairs in which Letterman defected to CBS, making room for O'Brien--a gawky comedy writer with almost no on-air experience--to take over Late Night. While O'Brien moves to the top spot this month...
Gillian Laub for The New York Times - New York Times
Conan O'Brien in his Rockefeller Center office, not long before taping his final episode of "Late Night." By LYNN HIRSCHBERG On a chilly Thursday night in late January, four weeks from his last show as host of “Late Night,” Conan O'Brien was strumming...
Conan O'Brien ready to graduate to 'Tonight' - msnbc.com
It's been a long road for the host, who spent 16 years hosting “Late Night with Conan O'Brien” following time as a writer for “The Simpsons” and “Saturday Night Live.” Before earning the gig, he'd never been a performer, and the show's first season was...
Nightcaps performing for 50th anniversary - Dallas Morning News
Just recently, band members got royalty checks in the mail after Conan O'Brien and Robin Williams did a version of "Wine, Wine, Wine" on O'Brien's Late Night TV show. As for his fondest memory, Shine remembers a long-ago night in Preston Center....
NBC's Conan O'Brien Late Night Horns Premier "Take Me America ... - PR Web (press release)
A slick, stealth studio album featuring the freight train knockout punch that can only be delivered from New York's NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien musicians: Jerry Vivino, Mark Pender, and Richie 'LaBamba' Rosenberg who recently backed up Bruce...
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon Is Out of Beta - Wired News
Let's just come right out and say it: Jimmy Fallon is not as funny as Conan O'Brien. In fact, there are entire episodes of Late Night in which Fallon, the manic, cowlicked goofball from Saturday Night Live , seems desperate for any chuckle he can get....
Leno's Finale Plan: The Human Sacrifice of Conan O'Brien (GE) - The Business Insider
Leno, of course, is moving to 10 pm, a risky strategy for him and NBC, which is trying to gain more traction in the time slot and cut the high production costs that come with scripted series. As for Leno's farewell to Late Night, he said he will "have...
Conan O'Brien: 'I Like Making Funny Things Happen' - Parade Magazine
“When I first was announced as taking over Late Night,” O'Brien says, “someone talked to my college roommate, and he said, 'The thing about Conan is, he's not funny at your expense—he's funny with you. He makes you participate in the act of being funny...

Late Night with Conan O'Brien

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Late Night with Conan O'Brien is an American late-night talk show hosted by Conan O'Brien that aired 2,725 episodes on NBC from 1993 to 2009. The show featured varied comedic material, celebrity interviews, and musical and stand-up comedy performances. Late Night aired weeknights at 12:37 a.m. Eastern/11:37 p.m. Central and 12:37 a.m. Pacific in the United States. From 1993 until 2000, Andy Richter served as O'Brien's sidekick; following his departure, O'Brien was the show's sole featured performer. The show's house musical act was The Max Weinberg 7, led by E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg.

The second incarnation of NBC's Late Night franchise, O'Brien's debuted in 1993 after David Letterman, who hosted the first incarnation of Late Night, moved to CBS to host the Late Show opposite The Tonight Show. In 2004, as part of a deal to secure a new contract, NBC announced that O'Brien would leave Late Night in 2009 to succeed Jay Leno as the host of the Tonight Show. Jimmy Fallon began hosting his version of Late Night on March 2, 2009.

Upon Johnny Carson's retirement from The Tonight Show in 1992, executives at NBC announced Carson's frequent guest-host Jay Leno would be Carson's replacement, and not David Letterman. NBC later said that Letterman's high ratings for Late Night was the reason they kept him where he was. Letterman was reportedly bitterly disappointed and angry at not having been given The Tonight Show job; and at Carson's advice, Letterman left NBC after eleven years on Late Night. CBS signed Letterman to host his own show opposite The Tonight Show. He moved his show over to CBS virtually unchanged, taking most of the staff, skits, and comedy formats with him. However, NBC owned the rights to the Late Night name, forcing Letterman to re-christen his show Late Show with David Letterman.

O'Brien's Late Night was rushed into production and debuted on September 13, 1993, with Andy Richter as O'Brien's sidekick. The premiere episode featured John Goodman (who received a "First Guest" medal for his appearance), Drew Barrymore, and Tony Randall. The episode featured a cold open of O'Brien's walk to the studio with constant reminders that he was expected to live up to Letterman, parodying a popular sentiment expressed in the media at the time. After seeming to be unaffected by the comments, O'Brien arrives at his dressing room and cheerfully prepares to hang himself. However, a warning that the show is about to start causes him to abandon his plans. The first musical guest on the show was the band Radiohead. The crowd for the first show mainly consisted of family members of the crew of the show so as to ensure a positive reception.

O'Brien's on-camera inexperience showed and the show's first fourteen weeks were generally considered mediocre. O'Brien, an unknown, was constantly at risk of being fired: NBC had him renewing short-term contracts, thirteen weeks at a time. He was reportedly on the brink of being fired at least once in this period, but NBC had no one to replace him. The show, and O'Brien, slowly improved through experience, and the show's ratings gradually increased to a level which allowed O'Brien to secure a longer contract, and not have to worry about cancellation.

In 2000, Richter left Late Night to pursue his acting career. The show's comedy bits and banter had usually depended on O'Brien's interaction with Richter. O'Brien's wacky non sequitur comedy became more pronounced as he played all of his comedy and commentary directly to the audience instead of towards Richter.

Ratings and reviews continued to improve for Late Night and in 2002, when time came to renew his contract, O'Brien had notable offers from other networks to defect. O'Brien decided to re-sign with NBC, however, joking that he initially wanted to make a 13-week deal (a nod to his first contract). He ultimately signed through 2005, indicating that it was symbolic of surpassing Letterman's run with 12 years of hosting.

In 2003, O'Brien's own production company, Conaco, was added as a producer of Late Night. The show celebrated its 10th anniversary, another milestone that O'Brien said he wanted to achieve with his 2002 contract. During the anniversary show, Mr. T handed O'Brien a chain with a large gold "7" on it.

O'Brien's last season on Late Night attracted an average of 1.98 million viewers, 60,000 viewers more than The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

The show's house band was The Max Weinberg 7, led by drummer Max Weinberg, who also served as a sounding board for O'Brien on the show (more notably since Andy Richter's departure). The other six members were Mark Pender on trumpet, Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg on trombone, Mike Merritt on bass, Jerry Vivino on saxophone and brother Jimmy Vivino on guitar, and Scott Healy on keyboard. James Wormworth served as backup drummer when Weinberg went on tour with Bruce Springsteen. With the departure of Andy Richter, Max Weinberg assumed a bigger role as an interlocutor for O'Brien's jokes. One common running gag was Max's awkwardness on camera and his apparent lack of chemistry with Conan. Weinberg was often used in sketches as well, which usually revolved around his purported sexual deviance (mostly a penchant for bedding barely legal groupies), although long running sketches also spoofed Max's lack of knowledge of current affairs.

As is common in the talk show format, the Max Weinberg 7 performed the show's opening and closing themes, played bumpers into and out of commercial breaks (they actually played through the entire break for the studio audience), and a short piece during O'Brien's crossover to his desk after his monologue (except for several months beginning in April 2008, where a commercial break was inserted at that point). The show's opening theme was written by Howard Shore and John Lurie (a finalist for the job as band leader). The show's closing theme was called "Cornell Knowledge", and was lifted from Jerry and Jimmy Vivino's first album together. However; on Late Night it was played at a much quicker tempo than the album version.

The band played a wide variety of songs as bumpers — usually popular music from a variety of eras. Weinberg sometimes took extended leaves of absence to tour with Bruce Springsteen as the drummer for his E Street Band. During his absence, temporary replacement drummers were hired (most commonly James Wormworth), and the band was led by Jimmy Vivino ("Jimmy Vivino and the Max Weinberg 7").

Joel Godard, a long-time announcer for NBC shows, was the show's announcer and an occasional comedy contributor. These comedy bits usually revolved around Godard's supposed homosexual fetishes, deviant sexual habits, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies. The humor came in part from Godard's delivery. No matter how depressing or deviant the topic being discussed he always did so in an exaggeratedly cheerful voice and with a huge smile plastered on his face. Several sketches ended with Goddard apparently committing suicide in his announcers booth.

Members of the show's writing staff frequently appeared in sketches on the show. Among the most prolific were: Brian McCann (Preparation H Raymond, FedEx Pope, The Loser, Airsick Moth, Jerry Butters, Funhole Guy, Bulletproof Legs Guy, Adrian "Raisin" Foster, S&M Lincoln, etc.), Brian Stack (Hannigan the Traveling Salesman, Artie Kendall the Ghost Crooner, The Interrupter, Kilty McBagpipes, Fan-tastic Guy, Clive Clemmons, Frankenstein, Ira, Slipnut Brian, etc.), Jon Glaser (Segue Sam, Pubes, Wrist Hulk, Ahole Ronald, Gorton's Fisherman, Jeremy, Slipnut Jon, etc.), Kevin Dorff (Coked-up Werewolf, Jesus Christ, Mansy the half-man/half-pansy, Joe's Bartender, Todd the Tiny Guy, etc.), and Andy Blitz (Awful Ballgame Chanter, Vin Diesel's brother Leonard Diesel, Slipnut Andy, Chuck Aloo aka the star of the 24 spin-off series 60). Blitz went so far as to travel to India for one bit in which he carried his computer through the streets of India to get technical support firsthand from the telephone representative at NBC's technical help center. One of the show's graphic designers, Pierre Bernard was featured several sketches, such as: "Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage", and "Nerding It Up For Pierre".

Late Night employed a number of sketch actors, many of whom were frequently reused in different roles in different episodes. Several years before joining the cast of Saturday Night Live, Amy Poehler often appeared as a regular in many sketches, she was best remembered for playing the role of Andy Richter's little sister, Stacy. Jack McBrayer frequently appeared as well. Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog began as part of a sketch on Late Night. Celebrities such as Dr. Joyce Brothers, Nipsey Russell, Abe Vigoda and James Lipton also made frequent cameo appearances in comedy sketches on the show at different periods.

Unusual for a late night talk show, Late Night made frequent use of various costumed characters such as The Masturbating Bear, Robot on a Toilet, and Pimpbot5000. The humor in these sketches often derived from the crude construction of the characters costumes as well as the absurdist nature of their conception. For example, Pimpbot5000 was a 1950s style robot who dressed and acted in the manner of an exaggerated blaxploitation pimp, while The Masturbating Bear was a man in a bear costume wearing an oversized diaper who would inevitably begin to fondle himself to the tune of Aram Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" when brought on stage. Many of these characters did little more in their appearances than walk across the stage or be wheeled out from behind the curtain. But some had extensive sketches on the show.

Late Night was a production of Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video (and, since 2003, O'Brien's Conaco). It was taped in Studio 6A in the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Next to the door were framed pictures of Letterman, Carson, Jack Paar and Steve Allen, each of whose groundbreaking late-night shows originated from studio 6A or 6B (where Late Night with Jimmy Fallon will be taped). The studio holds just over 200 audience members. It was taped at about 5:30 p.m. as an uninterrupted hour-long program, with the band playing music through the portions that would be filled by commercials. The show routinely aired entire weeks of reruns while the staff took the week off. The production staff sometimes filmed remotes during these breaks.

The show's format typically consisted of an opening monologue from O'Brien, followed by a "desk bit" — a comedy piece which occurred while O'Brien was at his desk. In the show's second and fourth segments, O'Brien interviewed two celebrity guests, between which, in the third segment, O'Brien listed the next night's/week's guests. There was often a comedy bit as well during this segment. The show's fifth segment was usually reserved for a musical or stand-up comedy performance, or occasionally another guest interview. The show's final segment was usually a quick "goodnight" and the closing credits, which sometimes featured part of a bit from earlier in the show.

During the live tapings, and prior to the show, there was an audience warm-up, during which the audience watched a montage of highlights from the show, and staff writer Brian McCann greeted the audience (this task was formerly undertaken by head writer Mike Sweeney). McCann delivered a few jokes, told the audience what to expect, and finally introduced the band and then O'Brien. O'Brien then thanked the audience for coming, meeting as many audience members as he could. After the show was finished taping, O'Brien sang the "End of the Show Song", which never aired; though in February 2009, a short video of it was posted on Late Night Underground.

Late Night began broadcasting in 1080i ATSC on April 26, 2005, with a downscaled letterboxed NTSC simulcast (unlike The Tonight Show, whose NTSC simulcast is fullscreen). O'Brien celebrated the conversion to the widescreen HDTV format with jokes throughout the week.

On December 6, 2005 Late Night with Conan O'Brien segments began selling on the iTunes Store. Most segments were priced at $1.99, as were most episodes of other shows, with "special" best-ofs and other longer segments priced at $9.99. In December, 2007 NBC stopped selling all its television shows on iTunes, but the network returned it to iTunes in September 2008 after NBC and Apple worked out a new agreement. The show is now offered free at Hulu.com and the NBC website.

Remote pieces shot on location were a recurring staple on Late Night, but occasionally entire episodes were shot on location; usually during sweeps months. The first vacation for the show was a week-long stint of shows in Los Angeles the week of November 9–12, 1999. This was the only location week for the show while Andy Richter was with the show, and the only time the show's theme was altered for the week, with a more surf-style version of the show's normal theme (though the Toronto shows ended the normal theme with a piece of "O Canada"). The show was broadcast from NBC's L.A. studios and an L.A.-themed set was built, very similar in layout to the New York set.

From February 10–13, 2004, Late Night broadcast from the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, Canada. The guests for these episodes were all Canadians (with the exception of Adam Sandler), and included such stars as Jim Carrey and Mike Myers. As the show was taped at a theater, unlike the trip to L.A., the set built was not like the show's standard set.

From May 9-12, 2006, the show made a similar venture to the Chicago Theatre in Chicago, Illinois, taking cues from their previous trip to Toronto. Between April 30–May 4, 2007, the show originated from the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, California.

One episode, broadcast on March 10, 2006, was compiled mainly of footage from O'Brien's trip to Finland. The episode was not strictly taped as a live episode there however, but was prefaced by an introduction by O'Brien taped in New York. The Finland episode came as the culmination of a long running joke on the show. Earlier in the season, Conan had been informed by some Finnish audience members that he bore a resemblance to their (female) president Tarja Halonen, who was running for re-election. Conan subsequently made a running joke of the resemblance, often putting a picture of Halonen side by side with his own face. Conan's interest in the joke increased when he discovered that Late Night was quite popular in Finland, and that his running joke had made its way into actual news commentary about the Finnish election. After this discovery, Conan began making satirical commercials in support of Halonen and vowed to travel to Finland to meet her if she won re-election. When she did indeed win re-election in January 2006, Conan traveled to Finland and met with Halonen as well.

Aside from location shows, the show also did special one-shots in its early years. In 1995, one episode of the show was taped aboard a New York City ferry in New York Harbor. Dubbed "The Show on a Boat" by the showtunes-style song-and-dance number performed by a trio of "sailors" at the start of the show, O'Brien, Richter, the band and guests were all crammed onto the deck of the ferry. The show was taped at its normal afternoon time, while it was still light out.

A more unexpected shoot occurred on October 10, 1996, when a five-alarm fire in Rockefeller Plaza rendered the 6A studios out of commission for the remainder of that week. The fire occurred on early Thursday morning, which left O'Brien's staff precious little time to assemble a show elsewhere. Pressed for time as 12:35 approached, O'Brien taped the show outside, near the outside walking area in front of 30 Rock, after dark, despite the cold weather. Furthering the unfortunate nature of the evening's circumstances was the final guest, Julie Scardina, who brought along wild animals, including birds that Conan explained had to be kept tied up, as they could not be freed outside. Earlier in the show, O'Brien and Richter walked into Brookstone (located in the lobby of Rockefeller Center), camera crew in tow, and bought a massaging leather recliner for the first guest, Samuel L. Jackson. The second of the two "fire shows", on Friday night, was taped in the Today Show studio, which was not affected by the fire.

During the Northeast Blackout of 2003, Conan and the staff taped a short 5-minute introduction explaining that the episode they had planned would not be taking place due to the blackout. Studio 6A was powered by a generator and lit by battery-powered floodlights. A standby show was aired in-progress after the intro.

Other shows that were taped in the regular 6A studio were augmented by special gimmicks: "Time Travel Week", four episodes from early 1996, where Conan and Andy (and the rest of the crew) "time-traveled" to a different point in time each night. Times and locations included The Civil War, Ancient Greece, The future, and The early '80s (featuring a cameo by David Letterman in the cold open, who occupied Conan's studio in 1983, cruelly brushing off Conan and Andy's attempt at explaining their presence in Letterman's dressing room by saying, "Why don't you two fellas go find a nice, warm place to screw yourselves? Security!").

In 1997, a special episode was taped in which the studio audience was composed solely of grade-school age children, primarily 5-10 years of age. Conan interacted with the children, encouraging them to boo whenever guest (Dave Foley) became too long-winded and boring.

A 2003 episode was re-shot entirely in clay animation several months after its first airing, including the opening credits and commercial bumpers. The episode's originally broadcast soundtrack was retained while the visuals were reproduced to mirror the original footage in a small-scale reproduction of the studio 6A.

On October 31, 2006, a similarly conceptualized Halloween episode was created from an episode which originally aired in May and featured Larry King, among other guests. Using a process the show called "Skelevision", all the visuals were re-shot with a Halloween motif, with human skeletons adorned with the clothing and accessories of the humans. This re-shoot was shot using the actual studio, and the puppeteers moved the skeletons with wires and cables while being visually obscured by green screen technology. Once again, the opening and bumpers were altered, this time including a model of a hearse winding through a foggy landscape and cemetery, and a ghoulish intro announcer in place of Joel Godard.

After two months of being off-air, the first show to air during the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike on January 2, 2008 featured a small musical segment at the beginning of the show detailing O'Brien's newly grown beard in a show of support for the striking writers. At the beginning of the January 28 episode, it was revealed that Conan had shaved his beard, which was followed with a similar musical segment.

Several times during the episodes produced during the writer's strike, O'Brien would kill time by spinning his wedding ring on his desk, which he previously only did during rehearsals. His personal best was 41 seconds, achieved during an un-aired rehearsal. After several unsuccessful on-air attempts to break his record, during the show originally broadcast on February 9, 2008, O'Brien broke his record for endurance ring spinning, setting a time of 51 seconds by coating his wedding ring with Vaseline and spinning it on a Teflon surface. The feat was accomplished with the help of MIT physics professor Peter Fisher.

Early on in the later half of the 2007-2008 Writer's Guild Strike, Conan O'Brien accused his show of being the sole cause of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's status in the polls, due to his use of the Walker Texas Ranger Lever while Chuck Norris was coincidentally sponsoring Huckabee. Stephen Colbert made the claim that because of "the Colbert bump", he was responsible for Huckabee's current success in the 2008 presidential race. O'Brien claimed that he was responsible for Colbert's success because he had made mention of him on his show. In response, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, claimed that he was responsible for the success of O'Brien, and in turn the success of Huckabee and Colbert. This resulted in a three-part comedic battle between the three faux-pundits, with all three appearing on each other's shows. The feud ended on Late Night with an all-out mock brawl between the three talk-show hosts.

In 1996, a third anniversary episode was taped, though it aired in the regular 12:35/11:35 late night time slot. The show was composed of clips of the best of the first three years, and featured cameos from many former guests, including Janeane Garofalo, Scott Thompson, Tony Randall and George Wendt. Typical of O'Brien's style of comedy, he introduced his first guest (Wendt) by listing his notable achievements in television (particularly Cheers) then introduced each subsequent guest by repeatedly listing Wendt's achievements (insinuating that all of his guests for that night's show played the role of Norm on Cheers). In 1998, Late Night aired a fifth anniversary special in prime time, mostly consisting of clips from the first five years. It was taped in the Saturday Night Live studio, also in the GE Building. The special was later sold on VHS tape. In 2003, a similar tenth anniversary special was taped in New York City's famed Beacon Theater and later made available on DVD.

Late Night with Conan O'Brien's last episode was recorded February 20, 2009, and aired shortly after midnight that night. The episode featured clips from past shows and a reflection on the show's sixteen-year-long run. John Mayer sent a farewell video message, singing a song about how Los Angeles is "going to eat alive." In a short remote piece, Conan released regular contributer Abe Vigoda "into the wild," as he could not bring him to Los Angeles for the move to The Tonight Show, which caused Conan to cry profusely. Will Ferrell made a surprise visit as George W. Bush, which quickly devolved into Ferrell tearing off his business suit to reveal an ill-fitting green leprechaun outfit that had been worn in a number of previous appearances on the show.

Former sidekick Andy Richter joined O'Brien onstage for two segments, watching clips and reminiscing about the show. Among the clips shown, O'Brien noted that his all-time favorite Late Night piece was when he attended a re-enactment of a Civil War-era baseball game. During the course of the final week, O'Brien began violently dismantling and handing out pieces of the production set to the audience. In the final show, a large piece of the stage's frame was pulled down and chopped into pieces. O'Brien then promised to give each audience member in attendance a piece of the set.

The program concluded with a visibly emotional O'Brien giving a farewell speech from behind his desk, thanking his fans, writers, producers, backstage crew, his family, the Max Weinberg 7, David Letterman, Joel Godard, Jay Leno, and Lorne Michaels, as well as a final assurance that he would not "grow up" as he moved to The Tonight Show.

About 3.4 million viewers watched O'Brien's final episode of Late Night, the largest audience since the January 24, 2005 episode that followed Jay Leno's tribute to the late Johnny Carson.

The set of Late Night changed a few times cosmetically, but retained a basic structure: the performance space at the viewer's left, and the desk area, to the viewer's right, where interviews were done. O'Brien did his monologue in the performance area, emerging at the start of each episode from the area where musical guests perform. The Max Weinberg 7 were in the corner made by the stage-right wall and the wall in front of the audience. The desk area had a desk for O'Brien, a chair and couch(es) to the viewer's left for guests (and originally Andy Richter), and a coffee table. Primarily, set changes involved the background behind the desk and chair and couch. On his final episodes, Conan took an axe to parts of the set, giving it out to audience members as souvenirs; not wanting to allow it to simply be thrown away.

CNBC Europe used to air Late Night with Conan O'Brien on weeknights from 23.45-00.30 CET, with weekend editions on Saturdays and Sundays at 21.45-22.30 CET. However in March 2007, CNBC Europe decided to show only the weekend editions, and drop the weeknight editions, to make way for more business news programmes in their weeknight schedules.

On the week of 4 August 2008, however, CNBC Europe has discontinued showing the NBC Nightly News, which for many years was shown live from America in a 00.30-01.00 CET slot. Late Night with Conan O'Brien has now replaced NBC Nightly News in the 00.30-01.00 slot. The weeknight editions are a 30-minuted condensed version of the show. The show follows the weeknight condensed version of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno which airs at 00.00 CET.

In September 2008 CNBC Europe changed the weeknight schedules to include full uncut editions of Late Night with Conan O'Brien broadcast in the 23.45CET/22.45 GMT 45 minute time slot. This schedule usually runs from Tuesdays to Fridays. CNBC Europe decided to stop broadcasting Late Night as of January 1st, 2009, a mere two months before Conan's last show as host. Instead of following The Tonight Show reruns on weekends, CNBC now broadcasts two Tonight Show episodes in a row.

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2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike

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The 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, or more commonly known as the Writers' Strike was a strike by the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW). The WGAE and WGAW labor unions represent film, television and radio writers working in the United States. More than 12,000 writers joined the strike which started on November 5, 2007, and concluded on February 12, 2008.

The strike's goal was to rectify what was perceived as an historical injustice: greatly diminishing the monetary compensation the writers got in comparison with the large studios. It was targeted at the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), a trade organization representing the interests of 397 American film and television producers. The most influential of these are eight corporations: CBS (headed by Les Moonves), MGM (headed by Harry E. Sloan), NBC (headed by Jeffrey Zucker), News Corp/Fox (headed by Peter Chernin), Paramount Pictures (headed by Brad Grey), Sony Pictures (headed by Michael Lynton), the Walt Disney Company (headed by Robert Iger), and Warner Bros. (headed by Barry Meyer).

Negotiators for the striking writers reached a tentative agreement on February 8, 2008, and the boards of both guilds unanimously approved the deal on February 10, 2008. Striking writers voted on February 12, 2008 on whether to lift the restraining order, with 92.5% voting to end the strike. On February 26, the WGA announced that the contract had been ratified with a 93.6% approval among WGA members. Currently the writers guild has issued a court order asking the agreement to be honored and implemented.

The guilds were on strike for 14 weeks and 2 days (100 days). In contrast, the previous strike in 1988, the longest in history, lasted 21 weeks and 6 days (153 days), costing the American entertainment industry an estimated $500 million in opportunity costs.

According to an NPR report filed on February 12, 2008, the strike cost the economy of Los Angeles an estimated $1.5 billion. A report from the UCLA Anderson School of Management put the loss at $380 million, while economist Jack Kyser put the loss at $2.1 billion.

Every three years, the Writers Guild negotiates a new basic contract with the AMPTP by which its members are employed. This contract is called the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA). In 2007, negotiations over the MBA reached an impasse and the WGA membership voted to give its board authorization to call a strike, which it did on Friday, November 2, 2007; the strike began the following Monday, November 5, 2007.

Among the many proposals from both sides regarding the new contract, there were several key issues of contention including DVD residuals, union jurisdiction over animation and reality program writers, and compensation for "new media" (content written for or distributed through emerging digital technology such as the Internet).

In 1988 the Writers Guild went on strike over the home video market, which was then small and primarily consisted of distribution via video tape. At that time, the entertainment companies argued home video was an "unproven" market, with an expensive delivery channel (manufacturing VHS and Betamax tapes, and to a much smaller extent, Laserdisc). Movies were selling in the range of between $40-$100 per tape, and the Guild accepted a formula in which a writer would receive a small percentage (0.3%) of the first million of reportable gross (and 0.36% after) of each tape sold as a residual. As manufacturing costs for video tapes dropped dramatically and the home video market exploded, writers came to feel they had been shortchanged by this deal. DVDs debuted in 1996 and rapidly replaced the more-expensive VHS format, becoming the dominant format around 2001. The previous VHS residual formula continued to apply to DVDs.

At present, the home video market is the major source of revenue for the movie studios. In April 2004, the New York Times reported the companies made $4.8 billion in home video sales versus $1.78 billion at the box office between January and March.

WGA members argued that a writer's residuals, or profits made from subsequent airings or purchases of a program, are a necessary part of a writer's income that is typically relied upon during periods of unemployment common in the writing industry. The WGA requested a doubling of the residual rate for DVD sales, which would result in a residual of 0.6% (up from 0.3%) per DVD sold.

The AMPTP maintained that studios' DVD income was necessary to offset rising production and marketing costs. They further insisted that the current DVD formula (0.3%) be applied to residuals in other digital media — an area which was also contested by the Writers Guild.

One of the critical issues for the negotiations was residuals for "new media", or compensation for delivery channels such as Internet downloads, IPTV, streaming, smart phone programming, straight-to-Internet content, and other "on-demand" online distribution methods, along with video on demand on cable and satellite television.

Currently, the WGA has no arrangement with the companies regarding the use of content online, and two models of Internet distribution are currently being negotiated. The first is "electronic sell-through" (also known as "Internet sales" or "digital sell-through"). In electronic sell-through, the consumer purchases a copy of the program and downloads it to a local storage device for subsequent viewing at their convenience. Examples include movies and television shows purchased through the iTunes Store and Amazon Unbox. In the second model, "streaming video", the consumer watches a program in real time as it is transmitted to their computer but is usually not saved. Current examples of this model include advertising-supported television programs streamed free to the audience, such as those available at nbc.com, abc.com, fox.com, cbs.com, thedailyshow.com, and hulu.com.

In either case, the program may be viewed directly on a computer or on a traditional television via media distribution devices (e.g. TiVo). The convenience of both these technologies lowers the barriers to entry into the digital distribution marketplace making it more accessible to mainstream consumers.

It is widely expected by industry observers that new media will eventually supplant both DVD in the home video market and television in the broadcasting market as the primary means for distribution. As in the mid-1980s, the companies argued that new media represents an unproven and untested market and asked for additional time for study. However, feeling resentment from the 20-year-old home video deal and unwilling to make similar concessions in a so-called "new market" yet again, WGA members remained adamant that whatever deal they made for new media, it could not resemble the DVD formula.

New media was widely seen by most WGA writers as the central issue for the strike. Writer-director Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3) has dubbed new media "the One Issue" that matters.

The WGA's membership of approximately 12,000 writers (more than 7,000 in WGAW and more than 4,000 in WGAE) primarily work on live-action, script-driven movies and television programs.

Exactly if and how the WGA's Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) should apply to other TV and film categories such as reality television and animation had been inconsistent over the years and were an area of much dispute.

The WGA had been pushing for jurisdiction of reality and animation, but have recently dropped these issues as the WGA and AMPTP have entered into informal negotiations.

Programs such as Real People and That's Incredible!, which were arguably "reality" shows of the 1980s, were covered by the MBA, whereas more recently produced reality shows such as Survivor and America's Next Top Model are not. Many producers of reality programming argue that since these shows are mostly, if not entirely, unscripted, there is no writer. The WGA counters that the process of creating interesting scenarios, culling raw material, and shaping it into a narrative with conflict, character arc, and storyline constitutes writing and should fall under its contract.

In the summer of 2006, the WGA west attempted to organize employees of America's Next Top Model. The employees voted to join the WGA, but then they were fired and production continued without them.

Animated films and TV programs have also been an area of heavy contention. The majority of animated film and television writing is not covered by the WGA's MBA. Most animated feature films have been written under the jurisdiction of another union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 839, also known as The Animation Guild. IATSE's jurisdiction stemmed from Walt Disney's tradition of creating an animated feature via storyboards written and drawn by storyboard artists. In recent years, most studios have begun hiring screenwriters to write script pages which are then storyboarded. According to the WGA, 100% of animated feature film screenplays in 2005 were written by at least one WGA member. Recently, some animated features, such as Beowulf, were written under the WGA contract. The only animated television programs affected by the strike were FOX's The Simpsons, Family Guy, King of the Hill and American Dad!

The WGA and the IATSE have an ongoing disagreement as to which union should represent animation writers.

Regarding reality programming, the WGA had requested contract language clarifying that reality programming does fall under its jurisdiction. They further proposed the adoption of a credit, “Story Producer” and “Supervising Story Producer” to be given to those writers performing story contributions to a reality show.

As for animation, the WGA has proposed clarifying its jurisdiction to cover all animation in TV and film that does not encroach on the jurisdiction of another union. The AMPTP has not agreed to these proposals. WGA president Patric Verrone announced that the reality and animation jurisdiction proposals were formally removed from the table, although organizing efforts in this area are to continue.

The final negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP before the WGA's contracts expired on October 31, 2007 began on October 25, but the talks broke down due to the issues surrounding new-media royalties. After the contracts expired, the WGAW held a meeting at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which was attended by 3,000 WGAW members, and the negotiating committee formally recommended a strike, after which the WGAE and the WGAW officially announced that the strike would begin at 12:01 AM on November 5. In a last-ditch conciliation to try to avoid the strike, the WGA temporarily withdrew its DVD proposal on November 4, but the companies still insisted on a lack of residual for new media, and the talks subsequently broke down, with both sides accusing the other of walking out. Thus, on November 5, nearly 3,000 WGAW members, plus additional SAG and Teamsters members, picketed or refused to cross the picket lines at 14 targeted studios in Los Angeles, and many more Writers Guild of America East picketers marched in locations in New York including Rockefeller Center. The picket lines continued, along with various rallies, throughout the strike period in both cities.

Following four days of targeted picketing, a large rally was held outside the Fox studios in Los Angeles on Friday, November 9, drawing an estimated 4,000 WGAW members and supporters, including a sizeable number of SAG members. Speakers included WGA West president Patric M. Verrone, Family Guy/American Dad! creator Seth MacFarlane, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, and producer Norman Lear. The rally was opened with a two-song performance by Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello (as The Nightwatchman) of Rage Against the Machine.

On November 16, 2007, both the WGA and the AMPTP made the following announcement: "Leaders from the WGA and the AMPTP have mutually agreed to resume formal negotiations on November 26. No other details or press statements will be issued." The AMPTP then submitted a new proposal to the WGA on November 29, 2007 reportedly worth an additional $130 million in compensation. The WGA responded that it did not understand how the $130 million figure had been calculated, but was pleased the AMPTP was proposing figures in that range. Both sides agreed to a four-day recess at the WGA's request. Talks were resumed on December 4.

In mid-December, the WGA announced plans to try to negotiate with individual production companies to end the impasse. The AMPTP and WGA agreed to resume informal talks in an effort to organize formal negotiations on January 19, 2008. This was accepted and both parties decided to go back to the negotiating table as of that date, however the president of the WGA had ordered a media black-out, with no WGA employees reporting any news to the media. WGA President Patric Verrone did, however, report on January 22 that the animation and reality jurisdiction proposals had been dropped.

On January 25, it was announced that the WGA had made an interim agreement with Lions Gate and Marvel Studios. However, the AMPTP has commented on these types of agreements as "meaningless", although talks between them and WGA continued and many critics believed the strike could be over within two weeks.

On February 5, 2008, the WGA leadership scheduled a meeting for active members on Saturday, February 9, 2008 to discuss and gain feedback on a proposed contract. TV executives had described the deadline as February 15 for new material to be produced for the 2007-2008 television season. On February 9, 2008, WGA President Patric Verrone emailed the membership announcing that the WGA leadership and AMPTP had reached a tentative deal. The tentative contract proposals were provided to the membership, and a meeting to discuss them as well as future process was scheduled the same day on both coasts.

According to reports, the first deal discussion meeting for WGAE's members, ended on an optimistic note.

The WGA initiated a 48-hour vote on February 10, 2008,to guild members on making a motion on ending the three-month old strike. Voting ended for WGAE at 7PM EST, on February 12, 2008. The WGAW voted from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. PST, and at approximately 6:51 PST, WGA president Patric Verone announced that 92.5% of the membership voted to end the strike. On February 26, about 93.6% of WGA members approved a new three-year contract that would be effective until May 1, 2011, with pay hikes ranging from 3 to 3.5%.

At the beginning of April 2008, about one and a half months after the end of the strike, the Writers Guild of America, East filed lawsuit against the ABC television network and Corday Productions over alleged violations of a strike-termination agreement. The legal basis for the suit was that ABC and Corday continued using strike-replacement writers for the soap operas All My Children and Days of our Lives rather than allowing the original writers to return to work after the end of the strike.

Foreseeing the possibility of a strike, production companies accelerated production of films and television episodes in an effort to stockpile enough material to continue regular film releases and TV schedules during the strike period. A list of 300 high-priority film projects reportedly circulated around talent agencies in accordance with this effort.

Following the refusal of many showrunners (writer-producers) to cross the picket line in the first week of the strike, production companies sent breach-of-contract letters and suspended many of them without pay.

There was also speculation the companies were seeking out other sources of writing services, including in the UK. The Writers' Guild of Great Britain attempted to thwart this effort, however, by discouraging British union members from participating. Paul Cornell, a writer for several successful television series in the UK, mentioned in a post on his blog on December 14, 2007, that he had declined an approach to cross the WGA picket line and write for an American series.

The AMPTP announced on December 6 that it has hired the public relations services of Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani, self-dubbed the "Masters of Disaster", who have previously worked for Democratic politicians (including Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Gray Davis) and who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, "earn up to $100,000 a month for pulling their clients out of public relations quicksand." The AMPTP also hired former Arnold Schwarzenegger campaign manager Steve Schmidt of Mercury Public Affairs in Sacramento.

Fabiani & Lehane's strategy appeared to be to try to weaken the WGA membership's resolve and foment resentment and doubt regarding WGA leadership within its ranks and in the film industry at large, especially with below-the-line workers, by framing the strike as "havoc... wreaked... by the WGA's actions" (paraphrased) and by blaming the WGA for "start this strike". They also appeared to be attempting to recast language in terms more favorable to the AMPTP, such as referring to WGA negotiators as "organizers" and branding the AMPTP proposals as a "New Economic Partnership".

In response to their work for the AMPTP, Fabiani & Lehane's union clients SEIU Local 99 and Change To Win terminated their contracts with the consultants.

It was initially expected that the strike, if it occurred, would be scheduled for the summer of 2008 to coincide with the expiration of the Screen Actors Guild's contracts. Instead, the strike started shortly after the WGA's contracts expired. This was apparently done to give the AMPTP less time to stockpile scripts and otherwise prepare for a strike in 2008.

During the pre-strike negotiations, the WGA created "contract captains" in order to keep the general membership informed on a person-to-person basis of the latest developments. Once the strike started, these members became "strike captains," tasked with communication duties as well as helping to coordinate pickets.

The WGA assigned picketers to location shoots in an attempt to shut down production, and set up picket lines in front of studio gates to encourage Teamsters, particularly truck drivers, not to cross the line.

For its second week of picketing, the WGA reduced their studio strike list from fourteen to ten, shifted picketing hours to earlier in the day, and scheduled a series of daily strike themes ranging from "Bring-A-Star-To-Picket-With-You" (also called "Cast Day") to "Bring-Your-Kids" special events.

The WGA made a direct appeal to the public to explain the issues behind the strike, including use of online videos and blogs. WGA strike captains also encouraged fans to mail pencils to the film and TV moguls en masse. They also considered unorthodox methods, including performing a mock exorcism against Warner Bros. and holding the last rites for the former MBA.

Additionally, the WGA appealed to members of crew and industry craft unions, including the Teamsters, and IATSE, some of whom may not have been aware that their union also receives residuals to pay for health and pension programs, and that they were expected to directly benefit from residual gains made by the WGA.

In late December, the WGA announced a new "divide and conquer" strategy designed to break the solidarity of the AMPTP by negotiating strategic interim deals with individual networks, studios, and production companies who were willing to agree to the WGA's proposals. This was intended to put pressure on the other member companies, especially those who were competing with companies that were then able to return to production. The approach resulted in deals with David Letterman's television production company Worldwide Pants, another with feature studio United Artists, and a third one with film studio The Weinstein Company. The new strategy contained some risk for the WGA, however, as there was a risk that some members may resent a few writers working while others are still on strike.

On January 14, 2008, two additional side deals were announced by the WGA - one with Media Rights Capital, a production company working on both features and television, and the other with Spyglass Entertainment. On January 25, 2008, another side deal was reached; the WGA and Marvel Studios signed an interim comprehensive agreement.

On February 3, 2008, the WGA made a deal with four more filmmakers in New York City.

Because production ceased for all scripted television programming, hundreds or thousands of support staff were laid off by the studios. The AMPTP estimated that WGA writers and crewmembers in the IATSE union lost $342.8 million in wages.

Of the "Big Four" networks—CBS, ABC, NBC, and FOX—NBC had the most severe ad shortfall as its prime time ratings declined sharply; none of its new shows achieved breakout success. Moreover, during 2007, NBC saw its prime time 18-to-49-year-old viewership drop by 11%. CBS dropped the same demographic by 10%, and ABC lost 5%. Fox executive Peter Chernin suggested the strike is "probably a positive" for the network, as he expected its non-WGA reality hit American Idol to do especially well given reduced competition.

Although both are WGA members who pledged support for the writers, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien announced that following the collapse of negotiations, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien would return to air on January 2, 2008, without writers, citing their non-writing staff facing layoffs as the main reason.

Unlike Leno and O'Brien, whose talk shows are produced and owned by their respective networks, David Letterman owns his own independent production company, Worldwide Pants, which on December 28 announced an "interim agreement" with the WGA. This agreement allowed his talk show and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson to return to air with writers during the strike under terms contained in the WGA's previously-rejected proposals to the AMPTP.

The guild stated it had no plans to target Leno and O'Brien with protests such as were aimed at non-WGA member Carson Daly, who was accused of setting up a joke hotline as a strike-breaking effort when he returned to air. After being back on air, however, Leno was charged by WGA of strike violation after he penned and delivered monologues, but it is unclear as to what action the guild will take. Later, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced that their shows, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, would also return without writers on January 7, 2008. The WGA accused Comedy Central and NBC of forcing hosts back on air by threatening the jobs of the staff and crew of their shows, and said it would picket them. To show respect to the writers, The Daily Show was renamed, for the duration of the strike, A Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Similarly, The Colbert Report was rebranded as The Colbert Report (with hard T's) for its first new episode since the strike began. In support of the strike, Screen Actors Guild urged its members to appear on programs that have independent agreements with the WGA, such as The Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

Since returning to air, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have had increased ratings. As of the end of January 2008, The Daily Show was up 17% for viewers between 18-34 from January 2007 and up 9% for 18-49 year olds in the same period. The Colbert Report is up 21% for 18-34 year olds and 15% for 18-49 year olds over the same time period. By contrast, Tonight with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson have experienced a fall in ratings since last year, while the Late Show with David Letterman remained level.

After the strike began, more unscripted shows were ordered by networks, most coming from the reality genre.

The writers' strike also created turmoil for various entertainment awards that were broadcasted on television. Many awards were severely curtailed or canceled as a result.

As a result of the the Screen Actors Guild's solidarity with the WGA, they gave the SAG a waiver on December 11 granting permission for guild writers to create material for the 14th Screen Actors Guild Awards which was shown on TNT and TBS on January 27. The WGA also issued one nine days later allowing writers to write material for Film Independent's Spirit Awards on February 23.

The People's Choice Awards, which was also denied a waiver, stated it would have to revamp the format of the ceremony by releasing a taped ceremony for January 8 telecast on CBS, instead of airing it live as usual. As a result of the changes which were made, the telecast was viewed by just 6 million viewers, the lowest ratings ever in the shows history. This was down from 11.3 million viewers the previous year.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which hosts the Golden Globes, tried to reach an agreement with the WGA for a waiver, but it fell through. Striking writers then threatened to picket the event, after which most of the actors due to present and accept the awards announced they would not cross the picket lines. HFPA and NBC were forced to adopt another approach for the broadcast. After NBC canceled its exclusive newscast of HFPA announcing the winners, HFPA took complete control of the awards announcement and opened its press conference to all media. WGA assured HFPA that it would not picket the event, citing HFPA's honesty and its honorable and respectful treatment of the guild as reasons. The NBC telecast plummeted in the ratings from 16.0 for the full ceremony in 2007 to 4.7 for the press conference in 2008, fourth (and last) among major networks that night.

The strike ended twelve days before the Academy Awards were held on February 24. Many blamed the strike for the show's low television ratings, since the writers had less time to prepare. The strike also hindered promotion at ABC, the broadcaster in the United States.

A white paper released by Nielsen Media Research on April 2, 2008 showed that most television viewers spent more time around alternative forms of entertainment outside of broadcast television, including cable television and online video sites, during the course of the strike. Compared with the same time period from 2006-2007, during the months of the strike (November 2007 through February 2008) the average primetime ratings for that time period declined by 6.8%.

The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) contracts with the AMPTP both contain a "no strike" clause, meaning that working members of the acting unions are not supposed to walk off their set in support of another union's strike. However, many actors expressed their support for the writers' strike, with some marching with writers and even refusing to cross the WGA's picket line. Many actors participated in a series of short PSAs as part of the Speechless Without Writers campaign presented by United Hollywood, which was founded by a group of WGA members.

Ellen DeGeneres stated she supports the strike, but crossed the picket line, though she decided not to do a monologue on her show during the strike, explaining that she did not wish to lay off the 135 employees from her staff. The WGAE issued a statement condemning DeGeneres, stating she was "not welcome in NY." DeGeneres' representatives asserted that she did not violate the WGA's agreement, arguing that she is competing with other first-run syndicated shows like Dr. Phil and Regis and Kelly during the competitive November sweeps period, and that DeGeneres must fulfill her duties as host and producers, lest her show lose its time slot or be held in breach of contract. In addition, a statement defending DeGeneres was subsequently issued by American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), pointing out that DeGeneres also works under the AFTRA TV Code, which bars her from striking. The WGAE then issued a response pointing out that DeGeneres is also a Writers Guild member, and that any writing work she does on her show during the strike constitutes struck work.

Early in the strike, it was rumored that Jon Stewart was continuing to pay his Daily Show writers out of his own pocket, but a spokesman later denied the rumor was true. However, The Daily Show temporarily changed its name to A Daily Show to show its support of the strike. Nikki Finke announced that David Letterman would pay his entire staff's salary out of his own pocket through the end of the year. She later announced that following NBC's firing of eighty staffers on the Tonight Show, Jay Leno would continue paying them out of his own pocket as well. Conan O'Brien has also promised to pay the salaries of his non-striking staff through the end of the year.

Some comedy shows have performed live shows in order to provide money for the striking workers in a series of ON STRIKE! performances at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. The first two shows to perform were Saturday Night Live on November 17, and 30 Rock on November 19. On December 3, The Colbert Report held a similar performance.

Host Bill Maher, while offering support to writers, vocally criticized the movement as the wrong time to carry out such a strike.

Many television writer-producers, also known as "hyphenates" (or "show-runners", if they are in charge of the day-to-day production of a television show) who are WGA members found themselves contractually obligated to continue their production duties while simultaneously barred from performing writing duties during the strike. In a show of solidarity with the writers, approximately 120 show-runners marched in Burbank on November 7, 2007 and many decided to honor the picket lines entirely, refusing to perform even their production duties during the strike.

Literary agents stand to lose business when the writers they represent are not working. Some agencies reportedly eliminated assistant positions and others asked their agents to take pay cuts during the strike. A few of the larger and more prominent agencies, including William Morris, CAA, and ICM provided coffee, bagels, and churros for picketing writers. Agents had also reportedly been involved in back-channel efforts to get the two parties to return to the negotiating table before talks resumed November 26.

Two prominent executives, both of whom headed major studios in the 1980s and moved on to Internet-related ventures, voiced their disagreement with the tactics of the WGA.

Former Walt Disney Corporation CEO Michael Eisner characterized the writers' strike as "insanity". He addressed a business conference, saying, "I've seen stupid strikes, I've seen less stupid strikes, and this strike is just a stupid strike".

Former Paramount and Fox CEO Barry Diller also stated the strike is "stupid". In comments to Fox Business Channel, he said, "There are no profits for the work that writers do that is then digitized and distributed through the Internet". Diller is currently the CEO of the Internet conglomerate IAC/InterActiveCorp.

Diller also suggested that the Writers Guild should have waited five years to see where the revenues from new-media ventures were coming from. "We want to freeze this area until we can understand the revenues, which aren’t going to develop for another few years".

Neither executive, however, expressed support for the AMPTP.

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger negotiated with both sides of the dispute "because it has a tremendous economic impact on our state." The 2008 Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John Edwards, and Gov. Bill Richardson, each issued statements of support for the WGA. Although 2008 Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani stated that "a candidate for office really shouldn't get involved," he did offer to serve as a mediator between the parties, citing his experience "settl several difficult labor disputes" as Mayor of New York City. Civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson marched with the writers and spoke at a WGA rally on November 9, 2007. On November 13, 2007, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party adopted a resolution in support of the WGA. WGAW president Patric Verrone and Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg traveled to Washington, D.C. on November 14 to meet with legislators and regulators about the unions' position on new media. On November 16, John Edwards appeared in person to picket and speak with the writers outside NBC studios in Burbank, CA. The December 10, 2007, Democratic Presidential debate that was to be held in Los Angeles, California, was cancelled on November 28, 2007, due to candidate boycott.

On December 19, 2007, Los Angeles City Council’s Housing, Community, and Economic Development Committee held a hearing on the economic impact of the strike on the local and regional economy, allowing the WGA and AMPTP to testify. However, the AMPTP declined to attend, but sent in Motion Picture Association of America to issue a statement to the committee on its behalf. The Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution which urged the two sides to return to the bargaining table. Jerry Nickelsburg, an economics professor at UCLA Anderson School of Management, presented UCLA Anderson Forecast's economic report. He stated that so far, the strike has not affected the economy deeply, citing the network's inventory stockpiling in preparation of the strike and the increase in usage of reality shows. Ultimately, the Forecast predicted an economic impact of $380 million if the strike were to last 22 weeks, which was how long the 1988 strike had lasted. Jack Kyser, an economist of Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, predicted that the total amount of the direct loss and indirect loss so far was estimated at $220 million, and revenues generated for the county from the annual Academy Awards would dip if the strike were to continue and actors honored the picket lines. The strike ended twelve days before the awards show.

The WGA acknowledged support from several unions, including the Screen Actors Guild, the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the National Writers Union, as well as writers guilds in Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, France, Netherlands, Greece, Ireland, Switzerland, and Belgium. Many of the various genre writers associations also came out in support of the WGA's strike, including the Horror Writers Association, the Mystery Writers of America, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Several opinion polls gauged the public's response to the strike. One national survey conducted by Pepperdine University from November 7 to November 9 found that 84%, or more than four out of five Americans, were aware the strike was in progress. While 75% of respondents were found to have little to no concern over the strike, nearly two-thirds of the sample sided with the writers, one third was unsure, and only four percent sympathized with the AMPTP (1,000 American adults participated). A second regional poll conducted by SurveyUSA on November 11 of Los Angeles residents indicated that eight percent supported the studios with sixty-nine percent supporting the writers (550 American adults participated, with 482 identifying themselves as being familiar with the strike). According to a USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted six weeks into the strike from December 13 to December 15, 60% of Americans side with the writers, while 14% favor the studios (1,011 American adults participated). Among the viewers, 49% said they were more likely to watch reruns, 40% said they planned to watch reality series and other programming not disrupted by the strike, and 26% were more likely to buy or rent DVDs of television series from past seasons. Viewers of late-night talk shows have already changed their habits: out of 25% of the poll respondents who said they frequently or occasionally watch late-night talk shows, 27% watched another show, 25% went to bed earlier, and 25% read. Only 12% watched reruns, indicated by the shows' decreasing ratings.

Viewers of individual television shows organized to support "their" writers. Fans4Writers, an outgrowth of Joss Whedon's fan base, walked the picket line and provided regular food drops to picketing writers.

The long-term effect on the viewing habits of the general public will be difficult to gauge. For reference, estimates suggest that 10% of the overall television-viewing audience was lost as a result of the 1988 writers' strike, a drop-off that has not been reversed.

South Park parodied the WGA strike in the episode "Canada on Strike!".

On November 19, 2007, news writers for CBS News and CBS-owned stations voted to authorize strike action against their employers. Timed closely to the WGA strike, this action has resulted in statements from politicians unwilling to cross picket lines for interview shows and candidate debates. On January 9, the WGAE and CBS News struck a tentative deal. On January 24, 2008, the WGA announced that its members had voted to ratify the contract, which runs to April 1, 2010.

Any increase for the benefits of health insurance, pension, or residual gains made by the WGA are also likely to be demanded by other entertainment industry labor unions when their contracts expire. This is a practice known as pattern bargaining — the first union to reach a contract with the AMPTP usually sets the template for the agreement with other unions. The contracts for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and Directors Guild of America (DGA) expired on June 30, 2008.

The Directors Guild of America (DGA), whose members are directors as well as below-the-line workers (1st and 2nd assistant directors), was less focused on the WGA's most contentious issue, new media residuals. The DGA's negotiations with the AMPTP started on January 12, 2008, and on January 17, the DGA announced they had reached a tentative agreement.

Following the DGA announcement, ER executive producer and former WGA president John Wells stated he believes that using the DGA agreement as a template, the strike could be easily resolved within two weeks. Other writers disagreed with Wells' positive assessment.

Like the WGA, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) is very concerned with residuals in new media and were especially supportive of the WGA's strike effort. SAG president Alan Rosenberg suggested that SAG could choose to ignore the tradition of pattern bargaining if terms of the DGA's deal were deemed insufficient to the actors. Thus, if the new media issue was not resolved to their satisfaction by the DGA or WGA by July 2008, SAG was likely to strike when their contract expired, a move which could potentially brought the Hollywood film industry to a near-complete standstill. The previous deal between the SAG and AMPTP expired on June 30, 2008; however, on May 6 both organizations had without a deal ended talks. The SAG scheduled a rally for the morning of June 9 in Los Angeles; the WGA subsequently encouraged its members to support SAG members in that rally.

On November 19, 2008 the Writers Guild of America announced they were filing arbitration against the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers for not honoring the agreement that ended the strike.

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NBC

NBC logo.svg

The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American television network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center. It is sometimes referred to as the Peacock Network due to its stylized peacock logo.

Formed in 1926 by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), NBC was the first major broadcast network in the United States. In 1986, control of NBC passed to General Electric (GE), with GE's $6.4 billion purchase of RCA. After the acquisition, the chief executive of NBC was Bob Wright, until he retired, giving his job to Jeff Zucker. The network is currently part of the media company NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric (80%) and Vivendi (20%).

NBC is available in an estimated 112 million households, or 98.6% of the country. NBC has 10 owned-and-operated stations and nearly 200 affiliates in the United States and its territories.

During a period of early broadcast business consolidation, the radio-making Radio Corporation of America (RCA) had acquired New York radio station WEAF from American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T). An RCA shareholder, Westinghouse, had a competing facility in Newark, New Jersey pioneer station WJZ (no relation to the current WJZ-TV), which also served as the flagship for a loosely-structured network. This station was transferred from Westinghouse to RCA in 1923, and moved to New York.

WEAF acted as a laboratory for AT&T's manufacturing and supply outlet Western Electric, whose products included transmitters and antennas. The Bell System, AT&T's telephone utility, was developing technologies to transmit voice- and music-grade audio over short and long distances, using both wireless and wired methods. The 1922 creation of WEAF offered a research-and-development center for those activities. WEAF had a regular schedule of radio programs, including some of the first commercially sponsored programs, and was an immediate success. In an early example of chain or networking broadcasting, the station linked with the Outlet Company's WJAR in Providence, Rhode Island; and with AT&T's station in Washington, D.C., WCAP.

New parent RCA saw an advantage in sharing programming, and after getting a license for station WRC in Washington, D.C., in 1923, attempted to transmit audio between cities via low-quality telegraph lines. AT&T refused outside companies access to its high-quality phone lines. The early effort fared poorly, since the uninsulated telegraph lines were susceptible to atmospheric and other electrical interference.

In 1925, AT&T decided WEAF and its embryonic network were incompatible with AT&T's primary goal of providing a telephone service. AT&T offered to sell the station to RCA in a deal that included the right to lease AT&T's phone lines for network transmission.

RCA spent $1 million to buy WEAF and Washington sister station WCAP, shut down the latter station, and announced in late 1926 the creation of a new division known as The National Broadcasting Company. The new division was divided in ownership between RCA (fifty percent), General Electric (thirty percent), and Westinghouse (twenty percent). NBC launched officially on November 15, 1926.

WEAF and WJZ, the flagships of the two earlier networks, operated side-by-side for about a year as part of the new NBC. On January 1, 1927 NBC formally divided their respective marketing strategies: the Red Network offered commercially sponsored entertainment and music programming; the Blue Network carried sustaining or non-sponsored broadcasts, especially news and cultural programs. Various histories of NBC suggest the color designations for the two networks came from the color of the push pins NBC engineers used to designate affiliates of WEAF (red) and WJZ (blue), or from the use of double-ended red and blue colored pencils. A similar two-part/two-color strategy appeared in the recording industry, dividing the market between classical and popular offerings.

On April 5, 1927, NBC reached the West Coast with the launch of the NBC Orange Network, also known as The Pacific Coast Network. This was followed by the debut on October 18, 1931, of the NBC Gold Network, also known as The Pacific Gold Network. The Orange Network carried Red Network programming and the Gold Network carried programming from the Blue Network. Initially the Orange Network recreated Eastern Red Network programming for West Coast stations at KPO in San Francisco, California. In 1936 the Orange Network name was dropped and affiliate stations became part of the Red Network. At the same time the Gold Network became part of the Blue Network. NBC also developed a network for shortwave radio stations in the 1930s called the NBC White Network.

RCA moved its corporate headquarters into the new Rockefeller Center in 1933, signing the leases in 1931. RCA was the lead tenant at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the RCA Building (now the GE Building). The building housed NBC studios, as well as theaters for RCA-owned RKO Pictures. Rockefeller Center's founder and financier John D. Rockefeller, Jr., arranged the deal with the chairman of GE, Owen D. Young, and the president of RCA, David Sarnoff.

The famous three-note NBC chimes came about after several years of development. The three note sequence G-E-C were heard first over Atlanta's WSB. The chimes outline what is known to musicians as a second inversion C Major triad. Someone at NBC in New York heard the WSB version of the notes during the networked broadcast of a Georgia Tech football game and asked permission to use it on the national network. NBC started to use the three notes in 1931, and it was the first audio trademark to be accepted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A variant sequence was also used that went G-E-C-G, known as "the fourth chime" and used during wartime (especially in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor), on D-Day, and disasters. The NBC chimes were mechanized in 1932 by Richard H. Ranger of the Rangertone company; their purpose was to send a low level signal of constant amplitude that would be heard by the various switching stations manned by NBC and AT&T engineers, and thus used as a system cue for switching different stations between the Red and Blue network feeds. Contrary to popular legend, the three musical notes, G-E-C, did not originally stand for NBC's current parent corporation, the General Electric Company; although GE's radio station in Schenectady, New York, WGY, was an early NBC affiliate, and GE was an early shareholder in NBC's founding parent RCA. General Electric did not own NBC outright until 1986. G-E-C is still used on NBC-TV. A variant with two preceding notes is used on the MSNBC cable television network. NBC's radio branch no longer exists.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had, since its creation in 1934, studied the monopolistic effects of network broadcasting. The FCC found that NBC's two networks and its owned-and-operated stations dominated audiences, affiliates and advertising in American radio. In 1939 the FCC ordered RCA to divest itself of one of the two networks. RCA fought the divestiture order, but in 1940 divided NBC into two companies in case an appeal was lost. The Blue Network became NBC Blue Network, Inc. (now ABC), and NBC Red became NBC Red Network, Inc. In January 1942, the two networks formally divorced operations, and the Blue Network was referred to on the air as either Blue or Blue Network, with official corporate name Blue Network Company, Inc. NBC Red, on the air, became known simply as NBC.

After losing its final appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court in May 1943, RCA sold Blue Network Company, Inc., for $8 million to Life Savers magnate Edward J. Noble, completing the sale in October 1943. Noble got the network name, leases on land-lines and the New York studios; two-and-a half stations (WJZ in Newark/New York; KGO in San Francisco, and WENR in Chicago, which shared a frequency with Prairie Farmer station WLS); and about 60 affiliates. Noble wanted a better name for the network and in 1944 acquired the rights to the name American Broadcasting Company from George Storer. The Blue Network became ABC officially on June 15, 1945, after the sale was completed.

In the golden days of network broadcasting, 1930 to 1950, NBC was at the pinnacle of American radio. NBC broadcast radio's earliest mass hit, Amos 'n' Andy, beginning in 1926–27 in its original fifteen-minute serial format. The show set a standard for nearly all serialized programming in the original radio era, both comedies and soap operas. The appeal of the two struggling title characters landed a broad audience, especially during the Great Depression.

NBC became home to many of the most popular performers and programs on the air. Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, and Burns and Allen called NBC home, as did Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra, which the network helped him create. Other programs were Vic and Sade, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Great Gildersleeve (arguably broadcasting's first spin-off program, from Fibber McGee), One Man's Family, Ma Perkins, and Death Valley Days. NBC stations were often the most powerful, and some occupied unique clear-channel national frequencies, reaching many hundreds or thousands of miles at night.

In the late 1940s, rival Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) gained ground by allowing radio stars to use their own production companies, which was a tax break. In early radio years, stars and programs commonly hopped between networks when their short-term contracts expired. In 1948–49, beginning with the nation's top radio star, Jack Benny, many NBC performers jumped to CBS.

In addition, NBC stars began moving toward television, including comedian Milton Berle, whose Texaco Star Theater on NBC became television's first major hit. Conductor Arturo Toscanini made ten television appearances on NBC between 1948 and 1952.

Aiming to keep classic radio alive as television matured, and to challenge CBS's Sunday night radio lineup, much of which had jumped from NBC with Jack Benny, NBC launched The Big Show in November 1950. This 90-minute variety show updated radio's earliest musical variety style with sophisticated comedy and dramatic presentations. Featuring stage legend Tallulah Bankhead as hostess, it lured prestigious entertainers, including Fred Allen, Groucho Marx, Lauritz Melchior, Ethel Barrymore, Louis Armstrong, Ethel Merman, Bob Hope, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Ella Fitzgerald. But The Big Show's initial success didn't last despite critical praise. The show endured two years, with NBC losing perhaps a million dollars on the project.

NBC's last major radio programming push, beginning June 12, 1955, was Monitor, a continuous all-weekend mixture of music, news, interviews and features, with a variety of hosts including well-known television personalities Dave Garroway, Hugh Downs, Ed McMahon, Joe Garagiola and Gene Rayburn. The potpourri show tried to keep vintage radio alive by featuring segments from Jim and Marian Jordan (in character as Fibber McGee and Molly); Peg Lynch's dialog comedy Ethel and Albert (with Alan Bunce); and iconoclastic satirist Henry Morgan. Monitor was a success for a number of years, but after the mid-1960s, local stations, especially in larger markets, were reluctant to break from their established formats to run non-conforming network programming. After Monitor went off the air January 26, 1975, little remained of NBC network radio beyond hourly newscasts and news features.

Beginning on June 18, 1975, NBC launched the NBC News and Information Service (NIS), which provided up to 55 minutes of news per hour around the clock to local stations that wanted to adopt an all-news format. NIS attracted several dozen subscribing stations, largely in smaller markets, but not enough for NBC to expect profitability, and NBC discontinued it May 29, 1977. In 1979, NBC started The Source, a modestly successful secondary network providing news and short features to FM rock stations.

The NBC Radio Network also pioneered personal advice call-in national talk radio with a satellite-distributed talk show in the evening entitled TalkNet, featuring Bruce Williams (personal financial advice) and Sally Jesse Raphael (personal / romantic advice). While never much of a ratings success, TalkNet nonetheless helped further the national talk radio format. For affiliates, many of them struggling AM stations, TalkNet helped fill the evenings with free programming, allowing the stations to sell local advertising in a dynamic format without the cost associated with producing local programming. Some in the industry feared this trend would lead to ever-more control of radio content by networks and syndicators.

GE acquired NBC in 1986, and it decided that radio did not fit its strategy; additionally, the radio division had not been profitable for many years. In the summer of 1987, GE sold NBC Radio's network operations to Westwood One, and sold off the NBC-owned stations to different buyers. In 1989 the NBC Radio Network as an independent programming service ceased to exist, becoming a brand name for content produced by Westwood One, and ultimately by CBS Radio. The Mutual Broadcasting System, which Westwood One had acquired two years earlier, met the same fate, and essentially merged with NBC Radio.

It should be noted that GE's divestiture of NBC's entire radio division was the first cannon shot of what would play out in the national broadcast media, as each of the Big 3 broadcast networks were soon acquired by other corporate entities. The NBC case was particularly noteworthy in that it was the first to be bought -- and was bought by a corporate behemoth outside the broadcast industry. Prior to the acquisition by GE, NBC operated its radio division partly out of tradition, and partly to meet its then-FCC-mandated requirement to distribute programming for the public good (the now-defunct "Fairness Doctrine"). Syndicators such as Westwood One were not subject to such rules as they owned no stations. Thus did GE's divestiture of NBC Radio -- "America's First Network" -- in many ways mark the "beginning of the end" of the old broadcasting era and the ushering in of the new, largely unregulated industry that we see today.

By the late 1990s, Westwood One was producing NBC-branded newscasts on weekday mornings only. About 2003 these were discontinued, and the remaining NBC Radio Network affiliates began to receive CNN Radio-branded newscasts around the clock. Westwood One also distributed a new service called NBC News Radio, brief news updates read by television anchors and reporters from NBC News and MSNBC.

For many years NBC was closely identified with David Sarnoff, who used it as a vehicle to sell consumer electronics. It was Sarnoff who ruthlessly stole innovative ideas from competitors, using RCA's muscle to prevail in the courts. RCA and Sarnoff had dictated the broadcasting standards put in place by the FCC in 1938, and stole the spotlight by introducing all-electronic television to the public at the 1939–40 New York World's Fair, simultaneously initiating a regular schedule of programs on the NBC-RCA television station in New York City. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared at the fair, before the NBC cameras, becoming the first U.S. president to appear on television on April 30, 1939. The David Sarnoff Library has available an actual, off-the-monitor photograph of the FDR telecast. The broadcast was transmitted by NBC's New York television station W2XBS Channel 1 (now WNBC-TV channel 4) and was seen by about 1,000 viewers within the station's roughly 40-mile (64 km) coverage area from their Empire State Building transmitter location.

The next day, May 1, four models of RCA television sets went on sale to the general public in various New York City department stores, promoted in a series of splashy newspaper ads. It is to be noted that DuMont (and others) actually offered the first home sets in 1938 in anticipation of NBC's announced April 1939 start-up. Later in 1939, NBC took its cameras to professional football and baseball games in the New York City area, establishing many "firsts" in the history of television.

Actual NBC "network" broadcasts (more than one station) began about this time with occasional special events — such as the British King and Queen's visit to the New York World's Fair — being seen in Philadelphia (over the station which would become WPTZ, now KYW) and in Schenectady (over the station which would become WRGB), two pioneer stations in their own right. The most ambitious NBC television "network" program of this pre-war era was the telecasting of the Republican National Convention in 1940 from Philadelphia, which was fed live to New York and Schenectady. However, despite major promotion by RCA, television set sales in New York in the 1939-1940 period were disappointing, primarily due to the high cost of the sets, and the lack of compelling regular programming. Most sets were sold to bars, hotels and other public places, where the general public viewed special sporting and news events.

Limited programming continued until the U.S. entered World War II. Telecasts were curtailed in the early years of the war, then expanded as NBC began to prepare for full service upon the war's end. On V-E Day, May 8, 1945, WNBT broadcast hours of news coverage, and remotes from around New York City. This event was pre-promoted by NBC with a direct-mail card sent to television set owners in the New York area. At one point, a WNBT camera placed atop the marquee of the Hotel Astor panned the crowd below celebrating the end of the war in Europe. The vivid coverage was a prelude to television's rapid growth after the war ended.

The NBC television network grew from its initial post-war lineup of four stations. The 1947 World Series featured two New York teams (Yankees and Dodgers), and local TV sales boomed, since the games were telecast in New York. More stations along the East Coast and in the Midwest were connected by coaxial cable through the late 1940s, and in September 1951 the first transcontinental telecasts took place.

The early 1950s brought success for NBC in the new medium. Television's first big star, Milton Berle, drew large audiences to NBC with his antics on the The Texaco Star Theater. Legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini, who had been conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra on radio since 1937, conducted ten concerts on NBC television between 1948 and 1952. All of these concerts were simulcast on radio, a pioneering event at that time. The simulcasts included a two-part complete performance in concert of Verdi's opera Aida, starring Richard Tucker and Herva Nelli, and the first complete televised performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The network launched Today and The Tonight Show, which would bookend the broadcast day for over fifty years, and which still lead their competitors.

While rivals CBS and DuMont also offered color broadcasting plans, RCA convinced a waffling FCC to approve its color system in December 1953. NBC was ready with color programming within days of the FCC's decision. NBC began with some shows in 1954, and that summer broadcast its first program to air all episodes in color, The Marriage. In 1955, on the television anthology Producers' Showcase, NBC broadcast a live production in color of Peter Pan, a Broadway musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie's beloved play, with its entire original cast, the first such telecast of its kind. Mary Martin starred as Peter and Cyril Ritchard played the dual role of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook. The broadcast drew the highest ratings for a television program up to then. It was so successful that NBC restaged it live a mere ten months later, and in 1960, long after after Producers' Showcase had ended its run, Peter Pan, with most of the 1955 cast, was restaged again, this time as a TV special on its own, and videotaped so that it would no longer have to be done live on television. In 1956 during a National Association meeting in Chicago, NBC announced that its Chicago TV station WNBQ (now WMAQ-TV) was the first color TV station in the nation (at least six hours of color broadcasts a day). The television edition of the Bell Telephone Hour premiered in color on NBC in 1959, and in September 1961, the Walt Disney anthology television series moved from ABC to NBC, where the show continued its very long run, this time in color. As many of the Disney programs shown in black-and-white on ABC had actually been filmed in color, they could easily be repeated on the NBC edition of the program. The 1962 Rose Bowl was the first color television broadcast of a college football game. By 1963, much of NBC's prime time schedule was in color, although some popular programs like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which premiered in late 1964, had their entire first season in black-and-white. Without television sets to sell, rival networks followed more slowly, finally committing to color in the 1965-66 season. Days of our Lives was the first soap opera to premiere in color.

In 1967, NBC acquired MGM's classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz after CBS, which had televised the film beginning in 1956, had been unwilling to meet MGM's increased price for more television showings. Oz had been, up to then, one of the few programs that CBS had telecast in color, but by 1967, color was the norm on TV, and the film became another in the list of color specials telecast by NBC. The network showed the film annually for eight years, beginning in 1968, after which CBS, realizing that they may have committed a colossal blunder by letting it go, now agreed to pay MGM more money so that the rights to show the film could revert back to them.

The 1970s started strongly for the network thanks to hits like Adam-12, Laugh-In, Emergency!, The Dean Martin Show, and The Flip Wilson Show, but this did not last. In spite of the success of such new shows as The NBC Mystery Movie, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, Little House on the Prairie, The Rockford Files, and Quincy, M.E., as well as continued success from veterans like The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and The Wonderful World of Disney, the network entered a slump in the middle of the decade. Disney, in particular, saw its ratings nosedive once CBS put 60 Minutes up against it in the 1975-1976 season. None of the new shows NBC introduced in the fall of 1975 earned a second season, all failing in the face of established competition.

In 1974 under new president Herb Schlosser, the network tried to go after younger viewers with a series of costly movies, miniseries and specials. This failed to attract the desirable 18-34 demographic, and alienated older viewers. NBC did launch the successful and influential Saturday Night Live, in a time slot previously held by reruns of The Tonight Show. In 1978 Schlosser was promoted to executive vice presidency at RCA, and a desperate NBC lured Fred Silverman away from number-one ABC to turn the network's fortunes around. With the notable exceptions of Diff'rent Strokes, Real People, The Facts of Life, and the mini-series Shogun, he couldn't find a hit. Failures accumulated rapidly under his watch (such as Hello, Larry, Supertrain, Pink Lady and Jeff, and The Waverly Wonders). Ironically many of them were beaten in the ratings by shows Silverman had greenlighted at CBS and ABC. A popular joke arose in the late 1970s on NBC is the "Nothing But Crap", "NoBody Cares" and "Nobody's Watching Network" to mock the network's slogan: "America's Watching Network".

Also during this time, NBC suffered the defections of several longtime affiliates in markets such as: Atlanta (WSB), Baltimore (WBAL), Charlotte (WSOC), Dayton (WDTN), Indianapolis (WRTV), Jacksonville (WTLV), Minneapolis-St. Paul (KSTP-TV), and San Diego (KGTV). Most were wooed away by ABC, which was the number-one network during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In markets such as San Diego, Charlotte, and Jacksonville, NBC was forced to replace the lost stations with new affiliates broadcasting on the UHF band. Other smaller television markets like Yuma, Arizona waited many years to get another local NBC affiliate (see TV stations KVIA and KYEL).

When U.S. President Jimmy Carter pulled the American team out of the 1980 Summer Olympics, NBC canceled a planned 150 hours of coverage (which had cost $87,000,000), and the network's future was in doubt. It had been counting on $170,000,000 in advertising revenues and on the broadcasts to help promote fall shows.

The press was merciless towards Silverman, but two of the most savage attacks on his leadership came from within. The company that composed NBC's on-air promo music created a spoof of the Proud as a Peacock ad campaign. Comedian Al Franken satirized Silverman in a Saturday Night Live sketch titled "Limo for a Lame-O." Silverman admitted he "never liked Al Franken to begin with", and the sketch may have hurt Franken's chance of succeeding Lorne Michaels as executive producer of SNL.

In the summer of 1981, Fred Silverman resigned. Grant Tinker became president of the network and Brandon Tartikoff became chief of programming. Tartikoff inherited a schedule full of aging dramas and very few sitcoms, but showed patience with promising programs. One such show was the critically acclaimed Hill Street Blues, which rated poorly in its first season. Instead of canceling it, he moved the Emmy-winning police drama to Thursday night where its ratings improved dramatically. He used the same tactic with St. Elsewhere. Shows like these were able to get the same ad revenue as their higher-rated, mass-audience competition because of their desirable demographics, upscale, 18-34 year-old viewers. While the network claimed moderate successes with Gimme a Break!, Silver Spoons, Knight Rider and Remington Steele, its biggest hit in this period was The A-Team, which, at tenth place, was the network's only top-20 rated show of the 1982–1983 season, and it reached third place the next year. These shows helped NBC through the disastrous 1983-84 season, in which none of its new shows gained a second year. It was the only time that a network's entire line of new series had failed to be renewed since the network's 1975 lineup.

In 1982 NBC canceled Tom Snyder's The Tomorrow Show and gave the time slot to 34-year-old comedian David Letterman. Though Letterman had had an unsuccessful daytime series in 1980, Late Night with David Letterman proved much more successful.

In 1984 the huge success of The Cosby Show led to a renewed interest in sitcoms, while Family Ties and Cheers, both of which premiered in 1982 to mediocre ratings, saw their viewership increase from having Cosby as a lead-in. The network moved from third place to second place that year. It reached first place in the Nielsen rankings in the 1985-86 season, with hits The Golden Girls, Miami Vice, 227, Night Court, Highway to Heaven, and Hunter. The network's upswing continued through the decade with ALF, Amen, Matlock, L.A. Law, The Hogan Family, A Different World, Empty Nest, and In the Heat of the Night. In the 1988-89 season, NBC won every week in the ratings for over a full year, an achievement not since duplicated.

In 1991, Tartikoff left NBC to take a position at Paramount Pictures. In one decade he had taken control of a network with no shows in the Nielsen Top 10 and left it with five. Warren Littlefield took his place. His start was shaky due to the end of most of the Tartikoff-era hits. Some blamed him for losing David Letterman to CBS after giving The Tonight Show to Jay Leno, following Johnny Carson's 1992 retirement. Things turned around with hit series Friends, Mad About You, Frasier, ER, and Will & Grace. One of Tartikoff's late acquisitions, Seinfeld, initially struggled, but became one of NBC's top-rated shows after it was moved into the timeslot following Cheers. The Must-See TV tag line was applied to Thursday night's strong lineup. After popular show Seinfeld ended its run in 1998, Friends became the most popular sitcom on NBC. It dominated the ratings, never leaving the top 5 watched shows of the year in its second through tenth season and landing on the number 1 spot in season eight (2001-2002 season). Frasier was also popular and, despite not being as highly rated as Friends, still landed in the top 40. Friends finished its run in 2004 along with Frasier and NBC's Must See TV declined. Friends spin-off Joey (despite a relatively good start) started to fail during its second season.

At the start of the 2000s, however, NBC's fortunes took a rapid turn for the worse. In 2001, CBS chose its hit reality series Survivor to anchor its Thursday night line-up. Its success was taken as a suggestion that NBC's nearly two decades of Thursday night dominance could be broken. With the loss of Friends and Frasier in 2004, NBC was left with several moderately rated shows and few true hits. Competing with CBS's popular CSI franchise, FOX's American Idol, and ABC hits Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy, NBC dropped to fourth in the ratings race. CBS led for most of the decade, followed by a resurgent ABC, and Fox (which would eventually become the most watched network for the 2007-08 season). Adding to its woes, all of the networks face shrinking audiences due to increased competition from cable, home video, and the internet.

With the 2004-05 season, NBC became the first major network to produce its programming in widescreen, hoping to attract new viewers. NBC saw only a slight boost.

In December 2005, NBC began its first week-long primetime game show event, Deal or No Deal, garnering high ratings, and returning multi-weekly in March 2006. On sustained success, Deal or No Deal returned in the fall of 2006. Otherwise, the 2005-06 season was one of the worst for NBC in three decades, with only one fall series, the sitcom My Name Is Earl, surviving for a second season. The 2006-07 season was a mixed bag, with Heroes becoming a surprise hit on Monday nights, while the highly touted Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, from the creator of NBC's hit drama The West Wing, lost a third of its premiere-night viewers by week six and was eventually canceled. Sunday Night NFL football returned to NBC after eight years, Deal or No Deal stayed strong, and its comedies The Office and 30 Rock won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series for three consecutive years. However, NBC stayed in fourth place, and has remained so ever since.

In March 2007, NBC announced that it will offer full-length prime-time television shows like The Office and Heroes on-demand to play on mobile phones. This will be a first for the United States, as the market shifts away from traditional television.

NBC presently operates on an 87-hour regular network programming schedule. It provides 22 hours of prime time programming to affiliated stations: 8-11pm(ET/PT)/7:00-10:00 pm(CT,MT,AT)/6-9 pm (HT) Monday through Saturday and 7-11 pm on Sundays. Programming is also provided 7-11 am weekdays in the form of Today, which also has a two-hour Saturday and one-hour Sunday edition; the one-hour weekday drama Days of our Lives; nightly editions of NBC Nightly News; the Sunday political talk show Meet the Press; weekday early-morning news program Early Today; late night talk shows The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Last Call with Carson Daly; sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live; Late-late-night poker series Poker After Dark; weeknight rebroadcasts of The Tonight Show under the banner NBC All Night; and a three-hour Saturday morning animation block under the name qubo. In addition, sports programming is also provided weekend afternoons any time from 12-6 pm. ET, or tape-delayed PT.

Returning comedies are in red; new comedies are in pink; returning dramas are in green; new dramas are in blue; returning reality shows are in yellow; new reality shows are in gold; returning game shows are in orange; new game shows are in beige; news programming is in brown; sports programming is in purple.

All times are Eastern and Pacific (subtract one hour for Central and Mountain time), with the exception of Sunday (see below).

NBC is currently the home of only one daytime soap opera, Days of our Lives, which has been broadcast on the network since 1965.

Long-running NBC Daytime dramas of the past include The Doctors (1963–1982), Another World (1964-1999), Santa Barbara (1984–1993), and Passions (1999-2007). NBC also aired the final four and a half years of Search for Tomorrow (1982–1986) after that series was dropped by CBS, although many NBC affiliates did not air the show in its final years. NBC has also aired numerous short-lived soaps, including Generations (1989–1991), Sunset Beach (1997–1999), and the two Another World spin-offs, Somerset (1970–1976) and Texas (1980–1982).

Notable daytime game shows that once aired on NBC include Concentration (1956-1973), The Match Game (1962-1969), Let's Make a Deal (1963-1968), Jeopardy! (1964-1975 and 1978-1979), The Hollywood Squares (1966-1980), Wheel of Fortune (1975-1989 and 1991), Password Plus/Super Password (1979-1982 and 1984-1989), Sale of the Century (1983-1989), Scrabble (1984-1990 and 1993) and Classic Concentration (1987-1991). The final game show to air on NBC's daytime schedule was the short-lived Caesars Challenge, which ended in January 1994.

Children's programming has played a part in NBC's programming since its initial roots in television. In 1947, NBC's first major children's series was Howdy Doody, one of the era's first breakthrough television shows. The series, which ran for 13 years, featured a frecklefaced marionette and a myriad of other characters and hosted by "Buffalo" Bob Smith. Howdy Doody spent most of its run on weekday afternoons.

In 1956, NBC abandoned the children's programming lineup on weekday afternoons, relegating the lineup to Saturdays only with Howdy Doody as their marquee franchise for the series' remaining four years. From the mid-1960s until 1992, the bulk of NBC's children's programming were derived from theatrical shorts like The Pink Panther Show and Looney Tunes, reruns of popular television series like The Flintstones and The Jetsons, foreign acquisitions like Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, original animated series (most notably The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks in the 1980s), cartoon adaptations of Gary Coleman, Mr. T, Punky Brewster, ALF and Star Trek, and original live-action series including The Banana Splits, The Bugaloos, and H.R. Pufnstuf.

From 1984 to 1989, One to Grow On PSAs were shown after the end credits of every show or every other children's show.

In 1989, NBC premiered Saved by the Bell, which originated at The Disney Channel as Good Morning, Miss Bliss. Saved by the Bell, despite bad reviews from tv critics, would become one of the most popular teen series in television history as well as the number one series on Saturday mornings, dethroning The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show in its first season.

NBC abandoned the animated series in August 1992 in favor of a Saturday edition of Today and more live-action series under the name TNBC (Teen NBC). Most of the series on the TNBC lineup were series produced by Peter Engel such as City Guys, Hang Time, California Dreams, One World and the Saved by the Bell spinoff, Saved by the Bell: The New Class. Though there were exceptions, the short-lived Just Deal, one of only two series without a studio audience and/or laugh track and the only "filmed" series was co-created and executive produced by Thomas W. Lynch. NBA Inside Stuff was also a part of the TNBC lineup during the duration of the NBA season. In 2000, after eleven years NBC discontinued the TNBC Saturday morning block.

In 2002, NBC began a deal with Discovery Communications' Discovery Kids channel to air their original FCC-mandated educational programming under the banner Discovery Kids on NBC. The schedule originally consisted of only live-action series, including a kid-themed version of Trading Spaces and J. D. Roth's Emmy-nominated reality game show Endurace, but has expanded to include some animated series such as Kenny the Shark, Tutenstein, and Time Warp Trio. In 2006, Discovery Kids on NBC was discontinued.

In May 2006, in order to replace the Discovery Kids Saturday Morning block, NBC announced plans to launch a new children's block on Saturday mornings starting in September 2006 as part of the qubo endeavor teaming parent company NBC Universal with ION Media Networks, Scholastic Press, Corus Entertainment and Classic Media/Mike Young. qubo will include blocks to air on NBC, Telemundo (the Spanish-language network owned by NBC Universal), and ION Media Networks's ION Television, as well as a 24/7 digital broadcast kids channel, video on demand services and a branded website.

The "Discovery Kids on NBC" block aired for the final time on September 2, 2006. On Saturday, September 9, 2006, NBC started airing the following qubo programs: VeggieTales, Dragon, VeggieTales Presents: 3-2-1 Penguins!, Babar, Jane and the Dragon, and Jacob Two-Two.

In April 2000, NBCi purchased a company that specialized with search engines that learned from the users' searches for $32 million, called GlobalBrain.

In 2001–2002, NBC briefly changed its web address to "NBCi.com", in a heavily-advertised attempt to launch an Internet portal and start page. This move saw NBC teaming up with XOOM.com, e-mail.com, AllBusiness.com, and Snap.com (eventually acquiring all four of them), launching a multi-faceted internet portal with e-mail, webhosting, community, chat, personalization and news capabilities. This experiment lasted roughly one season, failed, and NBCi was folded back into NBC. The NBC-TV portion of the website reverted to NBC.com. However, the NBCi web site continued as a portal for NBC-branded content (NBCi.com redirected to NBCi.msnbc.com), using a co-branded version of InfoSpace to deliver minimal portal content. In mid 2007, NBCi.com began to mirror NBC.com.

NBC has used a number of logos throughout its history; early logos were similar to the logo of its then parent company, RCA, but later logos included stylized peacock images.

Many cities in Canada receive many United States NBC affiliates either over the air, and on cable television and satellite television providers. In places far from the border, cable and satellite are the only ways to pick up NBC signals clearly. Aside from Simultaneous substitution, the programming and broadcasting are the same as in the United States.

NBC Nightly News, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien are shown on CNBC Europe. NBC is no longer shown outside the Americas on a channel in its own right. However, both NBC News and MSNBC are shown for a few hours a day on Orbit News in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. MSNBC is also shown occasionally on sister network CNBC Europe during breaking news. Border cities in the US-Mexican border can easily receive NBC on-the-air, as well cable and satellite subscribers across Mexico especially the Mexico City region.

In 1993, the Pan-European cable network Super Channel was taken over by General Electric, the parent of NBC, and became NBC Super Channel. In 1996, the channel was renamed NBC Europe, but was, from then on, almost always referred to as simply "NBC" on the air.

Most of NBC Europe's prime time programming was produced in Europe due to rights restriction associated with US primetime shows, but after 11PM Central European Time on weekday evenings, the channel aired The Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Later, hence its slogan "Where the Stars Come Out at Night." Many NBC News programs were broadcast on NBC Europe, including Dateline NBC, Meet The Press and NBC Nightly News, which was aired live. The Today Show was also initially shown live in the afternoons, but was later broadcast the following morning instead, by which time it was more than half a day old.

In 1999, NBC Europe stopped broadcasting to most of Europe. At the same time the network was relaunched as a German language computer channel, targeting a young demographic. The main show on the new NBC Europe was called NBC GIGA. In 2005, the channel was relaunched once again, this time as a free-to-air movie channel under the name "Das Vierte". GIGA started an own digital channel then, which can be received via satellite and many cable networks in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The Tonight Show, Late Night and NBC Nightly News continue to be broadcast on CNBC Europe.

In 1993, NBC began production of Canal de Noticias NBC. This service was beamed to Latin America from the NBC Newschannel headquarters located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over 50 journalists were brought to produce, write, anchor and technically produce a 24 hour news service based on the popular "wheel" conceived at CNN. The service folded in 1997 as sales departments were not able to generate any revenue. After Mexican Noticias ECO, Canal de Noticias NBC holds the distinction of being the first 24 hour news service to be seen in Latin America. Telenoticias, at one point owned by CBS, came later followed by CNN en Español.

In the Caribbean, many cable television and satellite television providers air local NBC affiliates, or the main network feed from WNBC-TV New York City or WTVJ in Miami, though a few locally-owned NBC affiliates do exist (in the case of Puerto Rico). The island and the nearby U.S. Virgin Islands are the main receivers of NBC programs available in English and Spanish via the SAP option.

NBC's full program lineup is carried by local affiliate VSB-TV, received from the network's East Coast satellite feed.

In Aruba, the network programming is carried on station ATV 15.

KUAM-TV is an NBC affiliate in Guam and carries the full NBC program lineup via satellite.

In 1995, NBC launched a channel in Asia called NBC Asia available in Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Like NBC Europe, NBC Asia featured most of NBC's news programs as well as the Tonight Show and Late Night. Like its European counterpart, it couldn't broadcast US-produced primetime shows due to rights restrictions. It also had NBC Super Sports for the latest action in selected sporting events. During weekday evenings, NBC Asia had a regional evening news program. It occasionally simulcasted some programs from CNBC Asia and MSNBC. On 1 July 1998, NBC Asia was replaced by the National Geographic Channel. Like in the case of NBC Europe however, selected Tonight Show and Late Night episodes and Meet the Press can still be seen on CNBC Asia during weekends. CNBC Asia shows NFL games and also brands them as Sunday Night Football.

The Philippines with a primarily fluent English-speaking population can receive NBC network programming via satellite feed on NBC Asia service, principally in the Manila region in the island of Luzon.

Through regional partners, NBC-produced programs are seen in some countries in the region. In the Philippines, Solar Entertainment's ETC airs The Tonight Show, Late Night,"Will and Grace and Saturday Night Live while 2nd Avenue airs NBC News programs like Today Show,Early Today,Weekend Today and Dateline.

The Seven Network in Australia has close ties with NBC and has used many of its slogans (including Let's All Be There). Seven News has featured The Mission as its news theme since the mid 1980s. Local newscasts were named Seven Nightly News from the mid 80s until around 2000. Seven rebroadcasts some of NBC's news and current affairs programming it includes.

All are dubbed in the Spanish language.

Over the years, NBC has produced many shows in-house in addition to airing content from other producers, notably Revue Studios and its successor Universal Television.

Notable in-house productions of NBC included Get Smart, Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie, Las Vegas and Crossing Jordan. NBC sold the rights to their pre-1973 shows to National Telefilm Associates in 1973, and are today owned by CBS Paramount Television/CBS Studios.

NBC continues to own its post-1973 productions, through sister company NBC Universal Television (the successor to Universal TV), and as a result, NBC in a way now owns several other series aired on the network prior to 1973 (such as Wagon Train).

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Late Night with David Letterman

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Late Night with David Letterman is a nightly hour-long comedy talk show on NBC hosted by David Letterman. It premiered in 1982 and went off the air in 1993, after Letterman left NBC and moved to The Late Show on CBS. Late Night with Conan O'Brien then filled the time slot. As of March 2, 2009, the slot has been filled by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

In the past ten years, one show has moved to the position of the leader in late night television in creativity, humor, and innovation. That program is Late Night With David Letterman. As one member of the Peabody Board remarked, "David Letterman is a born broadcaster." He is also a savvy co-executive producer. Along with co-executive producer Jack Rollins, producer Robert Morton, director Hal Gurnee, and musical director Paul Shaffer, Mr. Letterman has surrounded himself with exceptional talent and given them the go-ahead to experiment with the television medium. Particularly noteworthy is the work of head writer Steve O'Donnell and his talented staff. Together, the "Late Night" team manages to take one of TV's most conventional and least inventive forms — the talk show — and infuse it with freshness and imagination. For television programming which, at its best, is evocative of the greats, from Your Show of Shows, to The Steve Allen Show, and The Ernie Kovacs Show, a Peabody to Late Night With David Letterman.

Replacing The Tomorrow Show and host Tom Snyder, David Letterman's first show was on February 1, 1982, with the final show on June 25, 1993. After the battle for The Tonight Show, when NBC gave it to comedian Jay Leno, Letterman was angry and decided to take an offer from CBS for a late night talk show to compete with The Tonight Show. So in 1993, Letterman and his crew moved to CBS and Late Show with David Letterman was born, beginning on August 30, 1993, although NBC would air repeats of Late Night until September 10, 1993. Up until this, all the major television networks tried to create talk shows to compete with the success of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, but all failed. A total of 1,810 shows were broadcast during its eleven and a half year run (an episode on January 16, 1991 went unaired due to pre-emption for coverage the beginning of the Gulf War; the program had already been shot before word came out of Baghdad that United States airstrikes were beginning).

The program ran four nights a week, Monday to Thursday, from the show's premiere in February 1982 until May 1987 from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday shows were added in June 1987 (NBC previously aired Friday Night Videos in the 12:30 a.m. slot with occasional Late Night specials and reruns). Starting in September 1991, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was pushed back from 11:30 p.m. to 11:35 p.m., with Letterman starting at 12:35 a.m., at the request of NBC affiliates who wanted more advertising time for their profitable late newscasts (though Letterman had a different reason for the delay: "With the extra five minutes, I will make certain that my make-up is absolutely perfect!").

In September 1991, the A&E Network began airing reruns. The reruns lasted only until the summer of 1992. This first syndication deal was done against Letterman's wishes and he frequently made his displeasure known on-air (he felt having reruns air five nights a week, earlier in the evening and on another network, diluted the value of the first-run shows). Because of this the syndication run was ended early and not attempted again until he had left NBC.

In the summer of 1993, E! Entertainment Television purchased broadcast rights to Late Night. The network aired complete shows from various years five days per week from 1993 until 1996. Then Trio picked up reruns and showed them from 2002 until the channel went off the air in 2005.

A select number of programs were sold by "Goodtimes" Home Video in 1992–93. These episodes were stripped of the series theme, open and close. No DVD release is currently scheduled.

Letterman, who had hoped to get the hosting job of The Tonight Show following Johnny Carson's retirement, moved to CBS in 1993, when the job was given to Jay Leno. On April 25, 1993, Lorne Michaels chose Conan O'Brien, who was a writer for The Simpsons at the time. Conan O'Brien began hosting a new show in Letterman's old timeslot, taking over the Late Night name.

When Letterman left, NBC asserted their intellectual property rights to many of the most popular Late Night segments. Letterman easily adapted to these restrictions: the Viewer Mail segment was continued on the new show under the name CBS Mailbag, and the actor playing Larry "Bud" Melman continued his antics under his real name, Calvert DeForest.

Like other talk shows, the show featured at least two or three guests each night, usually including a comedian or musical guest.

Letterman frequently used crew members in his comedy bits, so viewers got to know the writers and crew members of the show. Common contributors included bandleader Paul Shaffer, Chris Elliott, Calvert DeForest as "Larry 'Bud' Melman", announcer Bill Wendell, writer Adam Resnick, scenic designer Kathleen Ankers, stage manager Biff Henderson, producer Robert Morton, director Hal Gurnee, associate director Peter Fatovich, stage hand Al Maher, camera operator Baily Stortz and the "production twins", Barbara Gaines and Jude Brennan.

Letterman's show established a reputation for being unpredictable. A number of celebrities had even stated that they were afraid of appearing on the show. This reputation was born out of moments like Letterman's verbal sparring matches with Cher and Shirley MacLaine.

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Conan O'Brien

Conan O'Brien with his wife Liza in 2007

Conan Christopher O'Brien (born April 18, 1963) is an Emmy Award-winning American television host, television writer and comedian, best known as host of NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien from 1993-2009. He was a writer for the popular animated series The Simpsons during the early '90s before leaving to pursue a career as a late night talk show host. He will replace Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show on June 1, 2009.

O'Brien was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Ruth (née Reardon), an attorney, and Thomas Francis O'Brien, a physician and professor of medicine, both Irish Catholic. Later, in a Late Night episode, O'Brien paid a visit to County Kerry, Ireland, where his ancestors originated.

O'Brien attended Brookline High School, where he served as managing editor of the school newspaper and interned for Rep. Barney Frank. After graduating as valedictorian in 1981, he entered Harvard University.

At Harvard, O'Brien lived in Holworthy Hall during his freshman year, and Mather House during his three upper-class years. He graduated magna cum laude in 1985 with a A.B. in History and Literature. His senior thesis concerned the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.

Throughout college O'Brien was a writer for the Harvard Lampoon humor magazine. During his sophomore and junior years, he served as the Lampoon's president, making him the second person ever to serve as president twice, and the first person to have done so since the 1920s.

Also, while attending Harvard, classmate Damon Krukowski of the band Galaxie 500, used O'Brien's drum kit in many of the band's early recordings.

In 2008, he received an honorary degree in Actuarial Science from Ball State University.

O'Brien moved to Los Angeles after graduation to join the writing staff of HBO's Not Necessarily the News. He spent two years with that show and performed regularly with improvisational groups, including The Groundlings.

In January 1988, Saturday Night Live's executive producer Lorne Michaels hired O'Brien as a writer. During his three years on SNL, he wrote such recurring sketches as "Mr. Short-Term Memory" and "The Girl Watchers," the latter of which was first performed by Tom Hanks and Jon Lovitz. O'Brien also co-wrote the sketch "Nude Beach" with Robert Smigel, a sketch in which the word "penis" was said or sung at least 42 times.

While on a writers' strike from Saturday Night Live following the 1987-1988 season, O'Brien put on an improvisational comedy revue, in Chicago, with fellow SNL writers Bob Odenkirk and Robert Smigel called, Happy Happy Good Show. While living in Chicago, O'Brien briefly was roommates with Jeff Garlin. In 1989, O'Brien and his fellow SNL writers received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series.

O'Brien, like many SNL writers, occasionally appeared as an extra in sketches; his most notable appearance was as a doorman in a sketch in which Tom Hanks was inducted into the SNL "Five-Timers Club" for hosting his fifth episode. O'Brien returned to host the show in 2001 during its 26th season, gaining notice for the sketch Moleculo.

O'Brien and Robert Smigel wrote the television pilot Lookwell, starring Adam West. The pilot aired on NBC in 1991, The pilot never went to series, but it became a cult hit. It was later screened at "The Other Network", a festival of un-aired TV pilots produced by Un-Cabaret, featuring an extended interview with O'Brien and rerun in 2002 on the Trio network.

From 1991 – 1993, O'Brien was a writer and producer for The Simpsons, credited as writer or co-writer of four episodes. Of all the episodes he wrote, he considers "Marge vs. the Monorail" to be his favorite. Years later, in his speech given at Class Day at Harvard in 2000, O'Brien credited The Simpsons with "saving" him, a reference to the career slump he was experiencing prior to his hiring for that show. As of 2004, O'Brien's office at The Simpsons was being used as storage. Along with that episode he has sole writing credits on "New Kid on the Block", "Homer Goes to College", and "Treehouse of Horror IV" on which he wrote the episode wrap-arounds. He produced several episodes of seasons 4 and 5 as well, meaning he would frequently contribute to scripts from those seasons.

On April 25, 1993, Lorne Michaels suggested O'Brien try out to be David Letterman's successor as host of Late Night with David Letterman, with Andy Richter signed on to be his sidekick. O'Brien auditioned on the set of The Tonight Show, where he interviewed Mimi Rogers and Jason Alexander. O'Brien resigned his position on The Simpsons, despite his contract not having expired.

Premiering on September 13 of that same year, Late Night with Conan O'Brien received generally unfavorable critical reviews for the first 2 to 3 years after its debut. O'Brien himself, a total unknown among the general public before being named host, was seen by many as not being worthy of the program. NBC even poked fun at this perception in a radio ad which aired shortly before the show's debut and had O'Brien relaying an anecdote where someone recognized him on the street and said, "Look, honey, there's the guy who doesn't deserve his own show!" Another source of criticism was the fact that O'Brien himself appeared to be very nervous and awkward during the show's early days. As a self-deprecating nod to this, the original opening sequence for Late Night With Conan O'Brien was animated and featured a caricature of O'Brien who sweated and pulled at his collar nervously.

Beginning in 1996, O'Brien and the Late Night writing team were nominated annually for the Emmy Award for Best Writing in a Comedy or Variety Series, winning the award for the first and only time in 2007. In 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2004 he and the Late Night writing staff won the Writers Guild Award for Best Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series.

In 2001, he formed his own television production company, Conaco, which subsequently shared in the production credits for Late Night.

On the first episode after the September 11th attacks, O'Brien told a story of how he went to pray for the first time since just after he had been announced as the host of Late Night, eight years prior. O'Brien was reported to have been shaken up and talked about a need to have faith.

After meeting Finnish actor/director Lauri Nurkse on October 11, 2005, O'Brien discovered that he was popular in Finland and began a long-running joke that he resembles the first female President of Finland, Tarja Halonen. After joking about this for several months (which led to the recurring segment "Conan O'Brien Hates My Homeland" and his endorsement of her campaign), O'Brien traveled to Finland and appeared on several television shows, and met President Halonen. The trip was filmed and aired as a special.

O'Brien ad libbed the fictional website name "hornymanatee.com" on December 4, 2006, after a sketch about the fictional manatee mascot and its inappropriate web-cam site. NBC opted to purchase the website domain name for $159, since the website did not previously exist. The network was concerned that someone might register the domain name and post content with which NBC would not wish to be associated, or that people would get upset and sue NBC when they found out the website is fictional. NBC now owns the rights to www.hornymanatee.com for 10 years, as per Conan O'Brien. According to O'Brien, it was decided that, since NBC owned the name, they might as well create the website. Late Night has since developed an actual website, which now has received millions of hits, reaching 4 million page views in four days. People send in "horny manatee" artwork, poems, and other content. According to the Alexa website ranking system, Hornymanatee.com has had over 10 million web hits.

A popular recurring bit on the show was Pale Force: A series of animated episodes in which comedian Jim Gaffigan and O'Brien are superheroes who fight crime with their "paleness." As Gaffigan introduced each new episode, O'Brien protested the portrayal of his character as cowardly, weak and impotent.

As of October 2005, Late Night with Conan O'Brien had for eleven years consistently attracted an audience averaging about 2.5 million viewers.

In 2004, O'Brien negotiated a new contract with NBC. As part of the deal, NBC announced that O'Brien would be taking over the Tonight Show from Jay Leno in 2009. Leno stated on the show that he wanted to avoid a repeat of the controversy and hard feelings that resulted when he was chosen by NBC to host the Tonight Show over David Letterman. On July 21, 2008, NBC announced that O'Brien's first Tonight Show would be on June 1, 2009.

O'Brien is an avid guitarist and music listener. When Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band appeared on the show as a musical guest, O'Brien joined the 17 piece band along with the Max Weinberg 7 and guests Jimmy Fallon & Thomas Haden Church and played acoustic guitar and contributed backup vocals for the song, "Pay Me My Money Down".

During the writer's strike in 2008, Conan O'Brien staged a feud with Comedy Central's Jon Stewart (of The Daily Show) and Stephen Colbert (of The Colbert Report) over a dispute about which of the three were responsible for giving Mike Huckabee's campaign to become the Republican presidential nominee a "bump." This fight crossed over all three shows.

On the June 13, 2008 episode of Late Night, O'Brien simply walked out at the start of the show. Instead of his usual upbeat antics and monologue, O'Brien announced that he had just received news about the sudden death of his good friend, fellow NBC employee and frequent Late Night guest, Tim Russert. O'Brien proceeded to show two clips of his favorite Russert Late Night moments.

On February 20, 2009, NBC aired the last episode of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. The show consisted of a compilation of previous "Late Night" clips, and was co-hosted by O'Brien's former sidekick, Andy Richter. Will Ferrell, John Mayer, and the White Stripes also appeared. O'Brien ended the episode by thanking a list of people that helped him get to that point in his career. Among those thanked were Lorne Michaels, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and O'Brien's wife and children.

O'Brien hosted the 58th Primetime Emmy Awards on August 27, 2006 to critical acclaim. He had previously hosted the Primetime Emmys in 2002, and Co-Hosted in 2003.

O'Brien appeared as a character in the 1999 film, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, voiced by Brent Spiner. O'Brien later appeared in South Park in the episode "Do the Handicapped Go to Hell?". In 2006, he voiced himself in a short South Park scene as part of the opening of the 2006 Emmy Awards. In 2005, he provided the voice of Robert Todd Lincoln in the audiobook version of Assassination Vacation.

O'Brien made an appearance on Robot Chicken: Star Wars, and Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II, on June 17, 2007 as the voice of the bounty hunter Zuckuss. In a parody of Late Night, Zuckuss hosts a talk show called "Late Night with Zuckuss. O'Brien's "Fake Celebrity Interviews" segment was even spoofed when Zuckuss did a "fake interview" with Emperor Palpatine. Typical of Conan's fake interviews, the fake Palpatine made a fool of himself; the implication was that the actual Palpatine was not pleased, as, in the final moments of the sketch, the Death Star can be seen approaching through a window in Zuckuss' studio, aiming and firing – then there is a "Technical Difficulties" test pattern. He also appeared in Season one on the show in two roles. First as a pizza delivery man who is not aware of his customer's sexy advances; and as a wrestling announcer with historical figures as pro wrestlers.

On the hit TV show 30 Rock O'Brien is depicted as an ex-boyfriend of lead character Liz Lemon, who works in the same building. In the episode "Tracy Does Conan", Conan appears as himself, awkwardly reunited with Lemon and coerced by network executive Jack Donaghy into having the character Tracy Jordan on Late Night, despite having been assaulted in Jordan's previous appearance.

O'Brien also made a cameo appearance on the US version of The Office. In the episode "Valentine's Day", Michael believed that he spotted someone that looks like former SNL cast member Tina Fey, but mistakes another woman for her. In the meantime, Conan has a quick walk-on and the camera-crew informs Michael when he returns from talking to the Tina Fey look-alike.

O'Brien starred in one of Bud Light's Super Bowl XLIII commercials as himself. In the ad, O'Brien agrees to do a Bud Light commercial where he dresses and acts suggestively and says "Vroom! Vroom! Party Starter!" The spot is only supposed to air in Sweden, but ends up being broadcast on the Jumbotron in New York City's Times Square. Two guys who spot O'Brien then mock him by saying "Vroom! Vroom! Party Starter!". Super Bowl XLIII aired on NBC, O'Brien's network.

O'Brien will be a guest star on a future episode of the Nick Jr. animated show The Backyardigans, providing the voice of Santa Claus. The episode is scheduled to air later in the show's upcoming fourth season.

In 2002, Conan helped write and produce Andy Richter Controls the Universe, a comedy series that ran for two seasons. It was cancelled mostly due to poor ratings.

On March 7, 2006, NBC announced a new adventure/comedy series entitled Andy Barker, P.I.. O'Brien was executive producer and also co-wrote the pilot. The show starred O'Brien's former sidekick Andy Richter. After six episodes and low ratings, the show was canceled despite being named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the Top Ten Shows of 2007.

O'Brien's long-time friend is Father Paul B. O' Brien, with whom he founded Labels Are For Jars, an anti-hunger organization based in Lawrence, MA. The two are not related.

O'Brien once was in a relationship with Lisa Kudrow until O'Brien decided to move to New York to pursue a television show. O'Brien met Elizabeth Ann 'Liza' Powell (who prior was dating actor Eric Schaeffer) in 2000 when she appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in an advertising skit involving Foote, Cone & Belding. The couple dated for nearly 18 months before their January 12, 2002 marriage in Powell's Seattle hometown. O'Brien and Powell have a daughter Neve (born October 14, 2003) and son Beckett (born November 9, 2005).

O'Brien repeatedly affirms his Irish Catholic heritage on his show. On a 2009 episode of Inside the Actor's Studio he told how both sides of his family moved here from Ireland in the 1850's and only married other Irish Catholics. He says his lineage is 100% pure Irish Catholic.

O'Brien donated $500 to the Senate campaign of Christopher Dodd in 1997 and again in 2004.

In January 2008, after his show was put on hold for two months due to the strike by the Writers Guild of America, he reemerged on late-night TV sporting a beard, which guest Tom Brokaw described as making him look like "a draft dodger from the Civil War." He grew the beard in support for his writers, but shortly after shaved it off.

Recently, O'Brien purchased a $10.5 million mansion in Brentwood, Los Angeles, California in preparation of his move there in 2009 from New York City to work his new job hosting The Tonight Show at Universal Studios Hollywood.

It was reported that since September 2006 that O'Brien had allegedly been stalked by the Father David Ajemian of the Archdiocese of Boston, who, despite multiple warnings to stop, had been sending O'Brien letters signed as "your priest stalker" and coming in contact with O'Brien's parents. Ajemian sent a letter to O'Brien, frustrated that he had been denied a spot in the Late Night audience. He stated in his letter to O'Brien that he flew to New York, "in the dimming hope that you might finally acknowledge me." He also stated in another letter that, "Is this the way you treat your most dangerous fans??? You owe me big time pal." Ajemian also seemed to have made a death threat to O'Brien in another letter; saying, "Remember Frank Costello once dodged a bullet in your building and so can you." Ajemian then tried to forcefully enter a taping of Late Night, but was caught and arrested. He was previously warned by the NBC security team to stay away from the studio. After a psychological evaluation, he was deemed fit to stand trial. He has since been bailed out of jail. He was then reported missing by his father around 3:15 PM EST on November 10, 2007. He was found and underwent evaluation at a hospital. It is known that the two had attended Harvard University at the same time. He was found fit to stand trial on April 4, 2008.

On April 8, 2008, Ajemian pleaded guilty to stalking, stating that "he never meant to cause anxiety or to upset anyone." He was ordered to pay a $95 USD court charge, and was also required to sign a two-year restraining order, barring him from coming near O'Brien.

On September 11, 2008, Ajemian checked himself out of his treatment at a hospital against the wishes of his cardinal, Seán Patrick O'Malley. Cardinal O'Malley then released a statement, saying that because he violated his Cardinal's wishes, Ajemian can no longer serve as a priest in the Catholic Church.

On Late Night, O'Brien has become known for his more active and spontaneous hosting style. He starts off every show by saying, "We have a great show for you tonight." His stage habits include, but are not limited to, mime, self-deprecation, dramatic expressions, various impressions, use of awkward pauses or responses and moving his hair and scalp back and forth. He frequently makes fun of and interacts with the audience. He commonly makes light of his own appearance including his hairstyle, his pale skin, his clumsiness and his height.

One of his trademarks is to perform the "string dance." He also does impressions of celebrities; among the most common are Arnold Schwarzenegger (where he pretends to bite off a piece of an imaginary sausage, only because his "Arnold always eats a sausage"), Donald Trump, whom he vaguely resembles, which generally includes the phrase, "You're fired," and Larry King where he circles both eyes with his fingers (to represent eyeglasses) and pretends to pull suspenders on his chest.

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Source : Wikipedia