Carson Daly Prepares to Pull a Late-Nighter … Bill O’Reilly Marches On … Drew Carey Gets Maximized

Wednesday, Nov. 14

It’s being kept on the down-low for now, but the transmogrification of Carson Daly from apple-cheeked MTV idol to contemplative adult chat-show host is well underway. Executives at NBC studios in Rockefeller Center are busily prepping Mr. Daly’s launch as the host of a 1:30 a.m. program, following Late Night with Conan O’Brien . The yakfest’s set to launch this January.

Mr. Daly’s show, as yet unnamed, will bear a passing resemblance to Later, the cozy interview program Bob Costas turned into a smart cult hit before it devolved into a cheesy, back-slapping parade hosted by B-list celebrities. Like Later, Mr. Daly’s show will often feature one guest for the full half-hour. And it’s likely that Mr. Daly will sit in a chair.

But the show’s producers don’t want to Tom Snyder–ize Mr. Daly and simply wedge his spiffy astronaut’s haircut into a format best left to codgers. Executive producer David Friedman wants to mix it up; in an interview about the show, he theorized that one night Mr. Daly could have Dave Matthews on for a free-form show of songs and questions, and the next night he could host a “town hall” meeting featuring Rudolph Giuliani. “The key to the format of our show is that there is none,” Mr. Friedman said.

The trick, of course, will be getting the insomniac, mostly male, mostly college-age, mostly lonely audience to buy into Mr. Daly as a host (but at the same time maybe-hopefully-injecting some estrogen into NBC’s post-midnight viewership). The 28-year-old former D.J., who hosts the video screamathon Total Request Live , a.k.a. TRL , has been the biggest personality on MTV for some time now, combining boy-next-door looks with a low-key mien that contrasts well with the belly-pierced boppers he interviews. If you’ve ever wandered near the MTV studios in Times Square on a weekday afternoon, you know that pubescent girls are absolutely cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs about him.

But now Mr. Daly’s apparently eager to establish himself outside the eardrum-rattling, tiny T-shirted world of bubble-gum pop and Alien Ant Farm videos. “We have to prove Carson can do more,” Mr. Friedman said. “And he can.”

Of course, Mr. Daly-who will continue to work for MTV-is not going to shun his music roots altogether. NBC’s banking that he’ll be able to convince his sizable posse of pop-star pals to come on the program. “I was over at MTV meeting with Carson, and Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray was like, ‘Dude, anytime-let me know,’” Mr. Friedman said. Also lending some star-wrangling power will be Guy Oseary, the hyper-connected big shot from Madonna’s Maverick records, who is serving as an executive producer for Mr. Daly’s NBC show.

But the show’s handlers-which include a third executive producer, Lisa Leingang-are trying to be careful. Mr. Friedman thinks that Mr. Daly’s show should be rolled out with minimal hype. The idea, he said, would be for the show to raise its profile organically, and not be saddled with a publicity hurricane that could unfairly raise the stakes and put pressure on Mr. Daly. “Overall, our feeling is not about ‘Da-da-da … here comes the big show!’” Mr. Friedman said. “We’re going to do something cool, we hope.”

Still, Mr. Daly is a significant acquisition for NBC. The host, who previously had a development deal at CBS that really didn’t amount to much besides hosting a beauty pageant and a Super Bowl half-time show, is the first new late-night player on a broadcast network since the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn was foisted upon the world. NBC has committed to a full year of Mr. Daly’s program, and hopes that the star can be used in other capacities as well.

“If he’s the young Barbara Walters and does an hour before the Golden Globes, that would be awesome,” said Mr. Friedman, himself a veteran of the Today Show who followed his boss, Jeff Zucker, into showbiz when Mr. Zucker became NBC’s entertainment president. “If he does the Olympic stuff, awesome. He can do whatever he wants-and hopefully the network uses him-but I think our main focus is the show.”

Indeed, the show will come first. And while this will break some hearts, Mr. Daly will not be opening each night with a joke-filled monologue.

“Look, he’s not a comedian,” Mr. Friedman said. “If he’s like the way Costas was, we’ll be thrilled. A younger, hipper Costas? That would be awesome.”

And what about the girls? Mr. Daly’s show will take place before an audience of 75 people. Will screaming girls be allowed into the studio?

“We don’t want screaming teens, but I don’t think we’ll ban anyone,” Mr. Friedman said. He explained: “It’s just a different vibe. We don’t want screaming kids, but in the same respect, we want energy, so it’s kind of a fine line. We have to grow up a little bit from TRL , but in the same respect, he is young. We’re not going to try to [be] something that we’re not.”

Tonight on MTV , DisMissed . In which America’s young learn the delights of screwing around with two people at the same time. [MTV, 20, 11 p.m.]

Thursday, Nov. 15

Self-flagellation time! Remember those meat-headed television writers ( cough, cough ) who suggested that the war on terrorism might mean a depreciation of Bill O’Reilly mania, since fearful audiences would be more focused on plain old news coverage instead of hankering for the Big O’R’s pointed rants?

Well, so much for that ! Lesson learned: Nothing topples the Factor, muchacho ! War or no war, the Fox News Channel superduperstar keeps chugging along, barking up a storm and breaking his own ratings records. In fact, October was Mr. O’Reilly’s biggest month ever: From Oct. 1 through Nov. 9, The O’Reilly Factor averaged 1.735 million households-up 120 percent from last year. Meanwhile, Mr. O’Reilly’s latest tome, The No Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America , sits at numero uno on the New York Times best-seller list, right above Straight from the Gut by that punk Jack Welch.

The only sour note, of course, is the strained relationship between Mr. O’Reilly and George Clooney. The two GQ darlings are currently at odds because Mr. O’Reilly’s been a real party-pooper, asking questions about how the money from Sept. 11 celebrity fund-raisers is being distributed. Mr. Clooney got steamed and banged off a huffy letter to him, which is sure to find its way into The No Spin Zone II: More Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America.

Speaking of which, that was pretty funny how Tom (“Mr. President”) Hanks called Mr. O’Reilly’s critique of celebrity fund-raising a “sweeps stunt.” There are, of course, no sweeps in cable television. Someone’s been watching too much Bosom Buddies.

Tonight on The O’Reilly Factor , Mr. O’Reilly spends half the show heaping praise upon the Frank Sinatra version of Ocean’s 11. [FNC, 46, 8 p.m.]

Friday, Nov. 16

You can sit in your little loveseat and moan about how there’s nothing interesting on local TV news anymore, that’s it’s all bad and barreling toward the worse. But you would be wrong.

Consider, for example, the continued rise of the local Spanish-language news on Univision Channel 41, the success of which is bucking just about every piece of conventional wisdom about New York news as it becomes a major player in the market.

Much of Univision’s growth is a no-brainer: as the city’s Spanish-speaking population expands, so does Channel 41′s clout as a local news organization. (Just ask Mayor-to-be Michael Bloomberg, who advertised like crazy on the channel.)

But Univision’s place as a New York news organization was rarely more evident than on Nov. 12, when an American Airlines jet carrying more than 250 passengers to the Dominican Republic crashed in Queens. While most news teams focused primarily upon potential causes, Univision’s local New York operation-known to its viewers as Noticias 41 -was thrust into the added role of providing critical information about passengers and counseling to the city’s substantial Dominican community.

Of course, the New Jersey–based Noticias 41 crew has been aware of the station’s audience power for some time.

“I think we have come a tremendous way, a very long way,” said the station’s local-news director, Norma Morato. Of the Nov. 12 coverage, Ms. Morato said: “We have a great group of people here, and they did what they had to do.”

Tonight, you try to quit Blind Date reruns cold turkey and expand your horizons with Noticias at 11. [UNI, 41, 11 p.m.]

Saturday, Nov. 17

Ladies and gentlemen, may you live long enough to pick up the phone one afternoon and hear these eight delightful words: ” You are on the line with Byron Allen!”

But there he was on the horn the other day, the great Mr. Allen himself, to talk about his new arrangement with American Forces Radio and Television to supply the troops with a whole mess of episodes of Entertainers with Byron Allen , as well as some of the other shows he produces.

For the uninitiated, Entertainers with Byron Allen is one of the more amusing curios in the vast, wacky universe of syndicated television. The program, which airs in this city after the bats go to bed, typically features Mr. Allen-a comedian and former Real People host-sidling up to a Hollywood Squares –ish array of both top-shelf and low-wattage stars and posing shiny, happy questions about their work and lives. It’s kind of like La Dolce Vita meets the apotheosis of The O’Reilly Factor -or Jiminy Glick without the mean jokes and donuts.

Mr. Allen said that he recently began prefacing his interrogations by asking his guests if they’d like to deliver a personal message to the troops. Apparently, the stars have been tickled to contribute. “Everyone said, ‘Thank you!’” Mr. Allen said.

Just what the troops need, of course: some mad props from Matt Damon. Apparently, Mr. Allen-who is something of a mini–TV mogul, with a number of syndicated shows under his auspices-has been supplying shows to military personnel for years. If you’re on an aircraft carrier right now, you probably already knew this.

More Byron Allen trivia: Did you know that a teenage Mr. Allen wrote jokes for Jimmie Walker with a pair of smart-aleck greenhorns named David Letterman and Jay Leno? It’s true! “Jay was sleeping in his car, and David was in a studio apartment with a hot plate and a bunch of Campbell’s soup cans!” Mr. Allen said. So what else is new? Tonight on Entertainers , Mr. Allen quizzes Robert Redford, Jack Black, Brittany Murphy, Steve Martin, Luther Vandross and Vince Vaughn. You thought we were kidding, didn’t you? [WWOR, 9, 2 a.m.]

Sunday, Nov. 18

Hey, if you watched the Nov. 14 live episode of The Drew Carey Show and noticed that the dialogue was particularly lusty and rife with manly references to beer, sex and gadgets, you detected the neo-Hef handiwork of guest scriptwriter Keith Blanchard, editor of Maxim .

Mr. Blanchard met Mr. Carey at a William Morris Agency party in L.A. awhile back. “We hit it off real well,” the editor said. “We kind of ditched the party and went downstairs and hung out with a couple other people, and one thing led to another and …. “

Whoa! Where’s this story going?

“… we invited Drew to our editorial retreat in Jamaica, which was happening the following weekend.”

Oh, well. Mr. Blanchard and Mr. Carey became beach buddies, and it was agreed that the Maxim honcho would pen a script for Mr. Carey’s show and write about the experience for his magazine. Mr. Blanchard also scored Mr. Carey’s exclusive first-hand account of his recent angioplasty. Yikes.

“He molded it quite quickly into the Maxim style,” Mr. Blanchard said. “I didn’t have to edit him very heavily.”

Mr. Blanchard said that the Drew Carey people didn’t have to edit him that heavily, either. TV writing isn’t such a bad deal, he said.

“I wouldn’t mind doing a couple of shows a year, whether it’s Drew Carey or a different show,” Mr. Blanchard said. “But I don’t think I’m ready to give up the mantle of Maxim yet.”

Tonight on CBS, The Education of Max Bickford , a hearty show that appears to be guestwritten by Louis Lapham. [WCBS, 2, 8 p.m.]

Monday, Nov. 19

On ABC’s Monday Night Football, the New York Football Giants and the Minnesota Touch Football Vikings duke it out for adequacy. [WABC, 7, 9 p.m.]

Tuesday, Nov. 20

Tonight on NBC, Jennifer Lopez in Concert . Now this, Tom Hanks, is a sweeps stunt. [WNBC, 4, 8 p.m.]