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The Tomorrow Show

The Tomorrow Show (also known as "Tomorrow" and "Tomorrow Coast to Coast" after 1980) was an NBC network late-night talk show hosted by Tom Synder.

The show aired from October 15, 1973 to December 17, 1981.

It featured many prominent guests, including John Lennon (in his last televised interview), Paul McCartney, "Weird Al" Yankovic (in his first televised appearance), Ayn Rand, Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead, Public Image Ltd, Ken Kesey, Charles Manson, The Clash, KISS, Ramones & U2 (in their first American television appearance).

Los Angeles news anchor Kelly Lange (a good friend of Tom Snyder) was the regular substitute guest host.

ProductionEdit

In the fall of 1973, NBC made the decision to launch a nightly program after "The Tonight Show" was prompted by the 1970 Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act which banned tobacco advertising on television which resulted in a loss of revenue for the network. The thinking was that extending the broadcast day by one hour could help recover some of that income.

NBC had begun programming the 1:00 a.m. time slot on early Saturdays (on late Fridays) with "The Midnight Special" which began regular airings (initially brokered) eight months before "Tomorrow" had launched; the success of "The Midnight Special" was a likely factor in expanding programming in the time slot to five days a week.

Established as more of an intimate talk show, "Tomorrow" differed from "The Tonight Show" and later late-night fare, with host Tom Snyder conducting one-on-one interviews sans audience, cigarette in hand, alternating between asking hard-hitting questions and offering personal observations that made the interview closer to a genuine conversation.

Making the show work financially became a challenge for NBC due to extremely low prices for commercial spots that a program at 1:00 a.m. could command. Since, according to Snyder, a 30-second spot on the show brought in only US$3,000, the network's primary concern initially was cutting production and distribution costs.

As satellite transmission was only used for rare special events at the time (the seminal Aloha from Hawaii had just unveiled the technology earlier in 1973), the show was sent from coast to coast over the terrestrial microwave facilities (also used for long-distance telephone calls as well as broadcast video & audio at the time) of AT&T Long Lines and it reportedly took NBC the entire first year of the series broadcasting before they succeeded in getting lower usage tariffs from AT&T.

Unique and often revealing one-on-one exchanges were the program's staple.

As Johnny Carson had mostly abandoned the highbrow, intellectual guests that were common on "The Tonight Show" in its early years (especially during Jack Paar's hosting run), and during the show's run from New York, many of those types of guests ended up on the show.

Notable interviews included those with author Harlan Ellison, actor and writer Sterling Hayden and novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand.

A one-on-one program with David Brenner as the sole guest revealed that Snyder and Brenner worked together on several documentaries. In a 1979 interview, the author and activist James Baldwin explained why he first left the country to live in Europe.

By late summer 1980, as a consequence of Johnny Carson's legal battle with NBC over the terms of his contract that was settled out of court and led to the host finally succeeding in scaling "The Tonight Show" running time down to an hour (something that he petitioned NBC for years), the show's starting time was moved half an hour earlier to 12:30 a.m. while its running time expanded to 90 minutes.

In order to fill the extra 30 minutes, NBC decided to turn "Tomorrow" into a more typical entertainment talk show by taping it in front of a live studio audience, including live musical performances, and announcing the addition of gossip reporter Rona Barrett as co-host.

Snyder resented all three changes, repeating his often stated discomfort with doing "big television", instead preferring the intimate setting that allows real conversations as well as sincere and genuine personal moments to take place.

He also felt live audiences turn up at TV shows for specific reasons such as winning prizes or getting uproarious laughs, and since the show provided neither, he thought them entirely unnecessary on his program.

The first episode in the new time slot aired on September 8, 1980 with Snyder interviewing Rona Barrett as guest and announcing her arrival on the show on October 27, 1980.

The program alternated between Snyder who was in New York City interviewing general interest guests and Barrett who was in Hollywood, filing entertainment reports.

In January of 1981, the show's name was changed to "Tomorrow Coast to Coast." The network wanted the show to attract younger viewers and thus started booking younger musical and entertainment acts for interviews followed by performances.

These would on occasion cross over into bizarre territory such as a March 1981 appearance by the punk band, the Plasmatics,, during which lead singer Wendy O. Williams sledgehammered a TV in the studio.

The explosion disrupted a live broadcast of "NBC Nightly News" with anchorman John Chancellor being produced in a studio two floors above. Snyder himself referred to this occurrence on a May 1981 follow-up appearance in which the Plasmatics blew up a car.

"Weird Al" Yankovic's first television appearance was on the April 21, 1981 installment of the show, where he performed "Another One Rides the Bus." A few months later, in June of 1981, Irish rock band U2's first American television appearance also took place on "Tomorrow Coast to Coast."

In an effort to attract more viewers, NBC turned to spectacle television.

On June 12, 1981, Snyder's prison interview with mass murderer Charles Manson aired. Manson was by turns quietly mesmerizing and disturbingly manic, suddenly getting a wild look in his eyes and spouting wild notions at Snyder before temporarily returning to a calm demeanor.

Though it brought the show a huge ratings number, Snyder was never comfortable with the interview, feeling that it "established absolutely nothing, other than what was already well known — that Manson is a nutcase."

Behind the scenes and sometimes even in front of them, Snyder and Barrett never got along and a feud between the two erupted. Barrett would end up leaving the series not long before it ended.

CancellationEdit

The show lasted for barely over a year in its new format. Among the terms of Carson's agreement to stay with NBC was that he would gain control of the time slot following "The Tonight Show".

On November 9, 1981, NBC and Carson's production company Carson Productions announced the creation of "Late Night with David Letterman", a program that was to premiere in early 1982 in the 12:30 a.m. time slot Monday through Thursday.

NBC offered Snyder the 1:30 a.m. time slot following Letterman, but he refused and the show was canceled.

The last first-run "Tomorrow Coast to Coast" show aired on December 17, 1981 with Snyder's old favorite Chevy Chase as the final guest; Chase famously criticized the network during the broadcast for cancelling the show. Chase's segment was followed by one of earlier guest Peter Allen performing his song, "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love."

Reruns of the show subsequently aired until January 28, 1982. The slot that Snyder had been offered had he agreed to continue the show was given to "NBC News Overnight" in July of 1982.

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