Wednesday, May 12, 2010

King of the Night

With the exception of five years from 1980 to 1985, Lorne Michaels has been the man in charge of Saturday Night Live week in and week out since the very first episode aired in 1975. That's a pretty remarkable run in any profession, but in the executive musical chairs that are played in network TV, it's darn near unprecedented. One doesn't rack up that kind of longevity without knowing when to take a stand for creative decisions and when to stroke egos and play the role of company man.

In addition to his ongoing SNL duties, in 1993 Michaels elevated Conan O'Brien from obscurity by anointing him to host Late Night post-Letterman, and subsequently chose Jimmy Fallon to succeed O'Brien. In fact, one of the theories I saw tossed around as to why Conan had such a rough go in this year's late night dustup was because, in taking his show out west, the host had moved out from under Michaels' protective wing. Whether or not that's actually the case is anyone's guess, but in this in-depth interview with The Daily Beast, Michaels offers his thoughts on O'Brien and other topics with the perspective that can only come from decades of experience in the industry.

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