DAVID BIANCULLI

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1998: NBC Launches 'LateLine'
March 17, 2017  | By TV WW
 
On this day in 1998, NBC introduced the sitcom, LateLine, starring comedian-turned-senator Al Franken.

The series was a spoof of ABC's late-night news program, Nightline. Former Falcon Crest star Robert Foxworth played the show's anchor, Franken — who also created and wrote for the show — played LateLine's chief correspondent; Miguel Ferrer portrayed the fictional news show's executive producer.

During its short run, the show featured a number of guest stars, actual Washington figures, actors and television personalities — including Jocelyn Elders, Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Michael Dukakis, Jerry Falwell, Barney Frank, Richard Gephardt, Robert Reich, John Kerry, Pat Schroeder, Jimmy Breslin, Joan Lunden, Regis Philbin, Kathie Lee Gifford, Dominick Dunne, Arianna Huffington, Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter, Martin Sheen, Rob Reiner and Vanessa Williams — all playing themselves.

In one episode, Watergate operative G. Gordon Liddy helped Franken's character, Al Freundlich, break into Princeton, New Jersey's Educational Testing Service, administrators of the SAT, to see if Freundlich's daughter's SAT scores were deliberately lowered in retaliation for a LateLine program about test score accuracies.

The series was pulled off the air partway through its second season. A few of the unaired episodes were seen on cable's Showtime.


 
 
 
 
 
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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is available on Amazon for $20.

Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. A high point is the author’s interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer and many others...Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post

 

This Day in TV History