Los Angeles -- A new tomorrow starts tonight for Tom Snyder. At 58, the talk show host with the big, bad ego and the fierce, black eyebrows, is back on network TV after almost everyone said he was washed up.
"The Late Late Show With Tom Snyder" premieres tonight on CBS which has scheduled it at 12:35 a.m., right after "The Late Show With David Letterman." But many affiliates, like WJZ (Channel 13) in Baltimore, are delaying the show. In Baltimore, it will be seen at 3:05 a.m. Monday through Friday.
Snyder met with television critics here over the weekend to plug the launch of his new show. He got a little help from Letterman, who popped up during the press conference on a giant TV screen via satellite from New York.
Letterman's contract with CBS allows him to control the hour following his show in the same way Johnny Carson programmed the hour after his "Tonight Show" on NBC. Letterman's Worldwide Pants Incorporated produces "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder," which means Letterman is Snyder's boss.
They say they are not worried about independent-minded affiliates, like WJZ, delaying the show into the wee hours of the morning.
"You know, when my 'Tomorrow' show went on the air on NBC, [in 1973] we had only 108 [affiliates] out of 208 carrying us, which was terrible. And when we finished in 1982 we had, like, 198," Snyder said. (NBC Chairman Fred Silverman fired Snyder from his 12:35 a.m. show in 1982 and replaced him with Letterman.)
"And, you know, when CBS tried to sell David a year-and-a-half ago, a lot of stations said, 'We're not taking him at 11:30.' Or, if they did take him at that time, they moved whatever [syndicated or local programs] they had back, and now they are committed to that schedule.
"So, we're going to have a rocky start in terms of full clearances [from CBS affiliates], and I accept that. But, you know, it's nothing new. I've been down the road before, and I have absolutely no concerns or qualms about it," Snyder concluded.
Letterman said, "When we started, I think our clearances were, like 65 or 70 percent. And we still are not at 100 percent. But we still are -- week in, week out -- able to dominate [in ratings]. So, I think, with a little bit of time and just daily attention to the quality of the product, it's not going to be a problem for Tom either."
Viewers who have seen Snyder's most recent talk show on the CNBC cable channel, or remember his "Tomorrow" show on NBC, already know what "The Late Late Show With Tom Snyder" is essentially going to be, Snyder said.
"I'm not going to change myself from what I was at CNBC or even on ABC Radio," he said. (Snyder got a job as a late-night talk show host on the ABC Radio Network in 1987. ABC canceled the show, and Snyder was back on the street for a short while, until Andy Friendly -- who had been a producer on "Tomorrow" and had become CNBC's programming boss -- called his mentor and offered the CNBC job.)
So, "Late Late Show" viewers can expect mainly interviews, with some call-in from viewers. Tonight, Snyder will interview Robert and Kathleen Gingrich, parents of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, via satellite, with Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich in their home in Pennsylvania. Snyder will also interview Candice Bergen, star of the CBS sitcom "Murphy Brown," in his Los Angeles studio.
When Snyder said he was eager for Saturday's press conference to end so he could start in on the cocktails that CBS was providing for a promotion party, Letterman said, "Isn't your life more or less one long cocktail party anyway, Tom?"
"You ask what it's like working for Dave," Snyder said to the critics. "Everyday is an experience, not necessarily a good one."