Friday, September 18, 2009
Retro Friday: Fox's Ill-Fated Joan Rivers Experiment
In 1985, Joan Rivers -- who had served as Johnny Carson's permanent "Tonight Show" guest host -- got word that she wasn't likely a contender to officially replace Carson once he retired. At the same time, Rupert Murdoch had just bought the Metromedia TV stations and was preparing to launch a fourth TV network. Fox dangled a proposal Rivers couldn't refuse: Her own nightly talk show. Rivers split -- which caused a permanent rift with Carson, who never spoke to her again -- and on Oct. 9, 1986, the Fox network launched with a late night show: "The Late Show with Joan Rivers."
Above, it's Joan's show number one, which featured an eclectic guest list: Elton John, Cher, Pee-Wee Herman and David Lee Roth.
Alas, the show was not meant to be. Rivers and Fox quickly clashed... and by mid-1987, she and Fox parted ways. Fox relied on a series of guest hosts for a while -- but then settled on a young comedian, Arsenio Hall, to take over. Hall hosted for 13 weeks -- but then left to star in "Coming to America." He later came back with his own syndicated talk show, which ran from 1989-1994.
Below, here's what it looked like 25 years ago when Rivers was still the "Tonight Show" guest host.