When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

22 November 2005

Adios, Ted Koppel

So tonight is Ted Koppel's last Nightline show. (See, e.g., the AP story for the kind of wet, sloppy farewell sendoff he's been getting in the media for the last several days.)

I am old enough to remember Nightline before it had that name... back when it was a nightly briefing about the Iranian Embassy crisis called "America Held Hostage: Day (#)" (where the number represented the number of days the hostages had been in captivity.)

Like any program that's been on the air for twenty-five years plus, Nightline has had its ups and downs, but it has consistently been one of the most intelligent news shows on network television.

In all the coverage of Koppel's legacy, however, I haven't read or heard *anyone* make, to me, what is the most pertinent observation. (And pardon me while I channel Joe Franklin for just one second...)

My friends, Koppel is the only person in the history of the television medium to go up against Johnny Carson, in Carson's time slot, and survive.

In fact, moving Nightline onto the permanent roster in 1980 was a masterstroke of counterprogramming. Nobody was going to compete with Johnny in a talk-show format. But it turned out that there was a late-night audience for hard news, and Nightline found it, and developed it, and made a bunch of money for ABC over the years.

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