Nightline ‘Throws’ to Kimmel, Refuses to Die

On typical evenings, the anchors at ABC News’ Nightline wrap up the show just after midnight with a quaint sign-off to viewers, “Good night, America.” But on the night of Monday, March 2, with the entire landscape of late-night television undergoing the first major shift in years, Nightline broke with protocol.

“That is our report for tonight,” said Cynthia McFadden. “Stay tuned now for Jimmy Kimmel. Jimmy’s got a special guest, the bachelor himself, Jason Mesnick.”

In the long history of the show, it was the first time that Nightline anchors had “thrown” to their colleagues at Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Why now?

The anomalous move coincided, not coincidentally, with the debut on Monday night of Jimmy Fallon as the new host of NBC’s Late Night.

Not long ago, for the seemingly billionth time since the advent of television, reports surfaced that (with changes to NBC’s late-night lineup looming) ABC executives were once again considering killing off Nightline. Shortly thereafter, in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable, Jimmy Kimmel admitted that, yes, he would like to move his show to 11:30, should the opportunity arise.

But over the years, Nightline has proven to be the Rasputin of broadcast news: shoot it, poison it, throw it in a frozen river—it refuses to die. And for the time being, whatever tension might exist between the news and entertainment divisions at ABC, Nightline is staying put and will continue to serve as the important lead-in in the looming battle between the late night Jimmys. 

When the dust had settled Monday night, according to The Hollywood Reporter, both Mr. Fallon (who’s debut earned a 2.3 rating) and Mr. Kimmel (who scored an impressive 2.5 rating) had put up solid numbers.

But in the end, the friendly “throw” from Nightline to Jimmy Kimmel was less about ratings and more about extending an olive branch between ABC’s news and entertainment divisions. It was orchestrated in part by Dave Davis, the executive vice president of ABC News, who not only has deep ties in the newsroom but is also said to be close to Disney executives from his former role as the successful general manager of WABC-TV.

A source at ABC News said that before the broadcasts, Jill Leiderman, the executive producer of Jimmy Kimmel Live, sent a convivial email to James Goldston, the executive producer of Nightline, thanking him for the gesture. Mr. Goldston, in turn, responded that he was happy to help out on Mr. Kimmel’s big night.

Said our source at ABC News: “It’s nice to see everybody playing well together.”

fgillette@observer.com

Nightline ‘Throws’ to Kimmel, Refuses to Die