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"The concept was ambitious. Bold. Insane."
January 24, 2013 3:33 AM   Subscribe

Inside The Greatest Writer's Room You've Never Heard Of
Twenty-five years ago, millions of Americans gathered around their sets to watch the launch of a show that would transform late-night TV. This show would fuse comedy and news, offering desk pieces, taped dispatches from correspondents, and interviews with political figures. It would instruct as well as entertain. Yes, a quarter-century ago, America got its first glimpse of a program that had many similarities to The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. It was called The Wilton North Report. The Wilton North Re-what? Exactly.
posted by the man of twists and turns (16 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
For all of the fuss that Nell Scovell makes over the fact that it was an early gig for Conan and Greg Daniels, the most interesting thing about this for me (and what might have gotten me to tune in) is that Paul Krassner was a regular on the show.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:01 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched an episode of this because they had the Jesus and Mary Chain as musical guests and I was (am) a big JAMC fan. Of course, this was in 87, when the JAMC were not known for being a particularly good live act.
posted by Legomancer at 5:07 AM on January 24, 2013


The story of the creator of Wilton North, a man by the name of Barry Sand, is told in the November 1990 issue of Spy Magazine in an article called "The Wrong Man in the Right Place at the Right Time". It's a fascinating tale of a man who hitched his wagon to David Letterman, took a whole bunch of the credit (despite having never done anything of substance for him), fell under the spell of a dental hygienist, failed with Wilton-North, then got a final chance to do something when he revived the old "House Party" format that Art Linkletter established. But instead of the beloved Art Linkletter, he hired the vapid empty suit Steve "Fox and Friends" Doocy.
posted by inturnaround at 5:22 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


While it may have been the first news/comedy show to go daily, the two were being done together well before that. TWTWTW aired in the 1960s.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:22 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't forget about "Not Necessarily the News" (which wikipedia informs me was based on a BBC show "Not the Nine O'Clock News")
posted by octothorpe at 6:49 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I came here to talk about Lloyd Dobbins and Linda Ellerbee on NBC News Overnight.
(Which was probably bolder and definitely older than the WNR and also quite a bit similar to the Daily Show)
posted by Fupped Duck at 7:06 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have tapes of a third of the episodes in my garage but the format — 3M 3/4 inch — is no longer in use. (If you want them, Paley Center for Media, call me.)

I actually would assume the Paley Center would want these, given the talent involved. I hope they call her.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:41 AM on January 24, 2013


I actually would assume the Paley Center would want these, given the talent involved. I hope they call her.

Indeed. But maybe someone should shoot them an email or something, 'cause unless they're regular self-googlers, the odds of their reading a random blog post are not particularly good.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:46 AM on January 24, 2013


Oh, lord, how I loved Dobbins and Ellerbee on NBC News Overnight!

I liked the Wilton North Report, too.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:49 AM on January 24, 2013


Don't forget about "Not Necessarily the News"...

Which both Conan O'Brien and Greg Daniels also wrote for.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2013


3/4" no longer in use? Maybe by those high-falootin' techno-whizkids, but I've got a fine Sony U-Matic deck right here that works just fine.

Although I did use this one as a coffee table in my dorm room in college back in the 90s that was too damaged to fix.

It's such a tease, seeing that tape, looking over at my U-Matic deck and desperately wanting to watch it. I gotta contact this guy.
posted by chambers at 9:56 AM on January 24, 2013


NBC News Overnight first broadcast
NBC News Overnight intro from 1982
NBC News Overnight, 25 JUN 2983
Final Edition Of Overnight, Part I

Linda Ellerbee and Nick News may have turned me into the info junkie I am today.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:19 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I gotta contact this guy.

Nell Scovell, not Neil Scovell. I made the same mistake.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:46 AM on January 24, 2013


Indeed - I caught myself as I was writing the message when I read the "She lives in Santa Monica with her husband and two kids" line at the end, but alas, it was too late to edit. I'm going to place the blame on the font and blinding nerd-out concerning 3/4" videotape for my misreading.
posted by chambers at 11:34 AM on January 24, 2013


Oh, lord, how I loved DobbinsDobyns and Ellerbee on NBC News Overnight!

Let's not forget where both got their start -- NBC's Weekend, which aired in the same time slot as the first season as SNL (when it was known as NBC's Saturday Night, and both were experiments). I'm pretty sure my family got hooked on SNL for the simple reason that it aired in the same time slot as Weekend....
posted by dhartung at 2:10 PM on January 24, 2013


Interesting story. But I'm pretty sure "Technically, it was the shortest-lived late-night network show of all time" belongs to ABC's The Paula Poundstone Show (only 2 episodes)
posted by Mchelly at 6:09 PM on January 24, 2013


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