And so it went.
March 19, 2017 12:27 PM   Subscribe

NBC News Overnight, a live one-hour news program, aired for about seventeen months starting on July 5, 1982. Its debut coincided with a lunar eclipse, and despite science reporter Robert Bizel’s disappearance during the live broadcast (he went for some coffee), it was a success from the first night. It was probably the best-written, best-executed news program ever produced. It never talked down to its viewers because, from day one, it never assumed that the lowest common denominator was the way to go. Entirely the opposite, in fact. The writing was crisp, witty, and smart. Overnight closed its doors in the first week of December 1983, after NBC management dropped it because of low ratings. -- Never mind Jon Stewart, I still miss NBC News Overnight posted by Room 641-A (30 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
I forgot this link: NBC News Overnight: And So It Went

This post is my attempt to recreate a much better but long-lost post I was working on years ago. If anyone can find the theme to the sports segment, please post it.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:31 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

I remember this show! I loved this show! Linda Ellerbee was the coolest with her little half grin. Thank you for this post!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:01 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 1:43 PM on March 19 [5 favorites]

"It never talked down to its viewers because, from day one, it never assumed that the lowest common denominator was the way to go. [...] Overnight closed its doors in the first week of December 1983, after NBC management dropped it because of low ratings."

posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 1:52 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]

I was in my freshman year of college when Overnight was on, and fell into a habit of watching first the nightly rerun of Star Trek: TOS (which of course we just called Star Trek as there were no other series -- we had a competition to see who could name the episode the fastest), and then follow it up with Overnight. Somewhere in there we often got poor man's pizzas from the guy in the truck around the corner from the dorm.

35 years later, and we still don't have a news program anywhere near this good. Sigh.
posted by suelac at 1:55 PM on March 19 [7 favorites]

I was in high school, and my boyfriend would come over and we'd watch Letterman and then Overnight, like it was the Late, Late Show. That highlight reel will make you cry.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:03 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

"Don't cry; it's only television."
posted by KingEdRa at 2:11 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Linda Ellerbee is a hero of mine!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:14 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]

"... the four-mile routine, with different steps for different surfaces. It is an annual, long distance tap dance. The group is the San Francisco Super Tappers, and if nothing else, it gives you an idea of what kind of news day it was."
posted by Room 641-A at 2:24 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

I loved Overnight. Best news show ever. Linda Ellerbee was one of my heroes, and my ancient copy of And So It Goes finally got boxed away or discarded from old age.
posted by LovelyAngel at 2:27 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

If you go to 59:00 on the highlight reel there is a jogger with his dog and a big turkey and the theme from Chariots of Fire.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:41 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Oh my gosh- Linda Ellerbee was my nighttime companion on many an insomniac night that summer in Miami. Thanks for this blast from the past!
posted by pjern at 2:55 PM on March 19

suelac, you went to Cornell, I'm guessing? And if the PMP truck was that close to your dorm, I'm guessing West Campus?
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 3:01 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

science reporter Robert Bizel’s

And so it actually goes: Robert Bazell
posted by hal9k at 3:26 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

I remember being transfixed by an Overnight report about an Asian (Japanese I think) jazz singer; I would love to see that clip again if anyone remembers who it may have been.
posted by Camofrog at 3:41 PM on March 19

I watched the clips linked to here. I remembered. I almost wept. What a great show. For one year, Linda Ellerbee seemed to own the world. And then her world fell down ...
posted by Modest House at 5:12 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Overnight and Tom Snyder are forever linked in wistful memories of my young adult years.
posted by davebush at 6:09 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]

I was a serious night owl during the first two years of college, and the second year I had a single room, so no one was there to bug me if I stayed up to watch Overnight every night. And so I did.
posted by briank at 6:17 PM on March 19

I was a teenager with a bad habit of staying up late, so I watched a lot of Overnight. I so loved Linda Ellerbee. I wanted desperately to be just as sharp and funny and erudite as she is.
posted by ob1quixote at 6:48 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]

Another Ellerbee fan here, although I was a bit too young for Overnight, and knew her primarily from Our World, which I loved obsessively. I read And So It Goes in high school, and was probably the only kid at that school to submit my reaction to it as a book report.

It's weird, isn't it, that with several 24-hour news networks and the the traditional three networks still cranking out daily news broadcasts, that no one is doing anything in the mold of Overnight? It seems to me that in the fractured news market a witty but non-satirical news program would have a chance of gaining enough of a following to continue. Then again, I've often overestimated how many people share my tastes. Smart Indie Film leaves the theaters before I get a chance to go, but Explosion-Filled Megahit 6 rolls on week after week.

And so it goes.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:30 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that in the fractured news market a witty but non-satirical news program would have a chance of gaining enough of a following to continue.

The popularity of topical night time comedy, from Stewart to the current Colbert and Seth Meyers I think supports that position.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:08 PM on March 19

I would like to see a topical night time comedy without a live audience, though. Without a laugh track and so on. I actually think Fox News' Red Eye had the right idea as far as format goes. Greg Gutfield is a sack of shit, but the format was right.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:39 PM on March 19

I went through a spell in my teenage years of staying up really late, like getting to bed around 4 or 5 am late. During that time I watched and loved Overnight and I still miss it. I still smile at them fixing the Earth rotation graphic.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:36 PM on March 19

I found out about this program when I read the PopMatters piece when it dropped. Being born in 1985, I was not alive to see the program, but YouTube provided me a glimpse into this beautiful, powerful yet quiet entity that assuredly I would have bemoaned the loss of like that group in NYC who held a candlelight vigil. For me, Linda Ellerbee was the host of Nick News, and I can see how her respect for the audience was an asset in bringing information and critical thinking skills about complex issues to children like myself camped out in front of the television for our daily dose of entertainment. I have watched the final broadcast of Overnight and shed tears for a program I had no real experience with — an indication that the kind of show it was and the worldview it put forth is sorely lacking.

Much like Fred Rogers exhortation in front of Congress regarding the funding/state of public television, I believe in his article of faith that programming like the Neighborhood (and Overnight) can make the world and our feelings about it mentionable and manageable. He said that "two men could be working out their feelings of anger -- much more dramatic than showing something of gunfire," and I think that Overnight's visuals and finely wrought and considered language are more powerful than the noise that passes for the same today. And it was funny too. It entertained. It brought smiles. It was something I daresay could make the viewer a better person.
posted by theartandsound at 11:04 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Overnight was great. I watched it most nights after Letterman, and thought that was pretty much the height of TV at the time, (along with SCTV and the local Minnesota show KSTP's Sunday Extra).

The only news program since then that really filled the same sort of niche for me was the CBC's radio show As It Happens, which I used to listen to devotedly in the late nineties early aughts when Michael Enright, Barbara Budd, and Mary Lou Finlay were the hosts. Something in the tone of their approach reminded me of Overnight, which is what kept me listening, even as it wasn't quite the same thing.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:00 AM on March 20

"Don't cry ... it's only television!"

posted by chavenet at 4:40 AM on March 20

I don't know if this is a "I was cool before you" or a "damn, I'm old," but I remember this crew fondly from their earlier show, "Weekend," which just ran once a month, in the Saturday Night, (before it was called Live) time slot, when SN(L) had the week off. At first I was disappointed that my favorite comedy show wasn't on, but I quickly realized that this wasn't just another news show.
It was a funny time. In Atlanta, at least, this was a dead zone for programming. The local 11 o'clock news was an extremely stripped-down affair, with a single unmoving camera on a single anchor. And the ads were so low-end; it would be the same homemade hair-replacement ad over and over. And then they would play these smart, urbane shows in the 11:30 slot. Nobody saw it coming.
posted by bitslayer at 9:15 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]

Linda Ellerbee of NBC News Shatters the Glamour Image of TV's Female Anchors

Thank God we had Roger Ailes around to repair it, and then some.
posted by non canadian guy at 12:18 PM on March 20 [1 favorite]

I still miss it...
posted by UhOhChongo! at 3:13 PM on March 20

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