This Was Television On August 18

1969: Merv Griffin moves—briefly—to CBS late night

 Griffin was well-established in TV Land, thanks to an NBC morning show and a syndicated program that aired midday in most markets. In 1969, CBS enlisted Griffin and his eponymous talk show to help break Johnny Carson’s stranglehold on late night. The move backfired. Not only did Griffin fail to make a dent in The King’s ratings, he stirred up unwanted controversy with his unabashed opinions on hot topics such as the Vietnam War. Griffin’s CBS tenure came to an end the following year, and he returned to the syndicated talk show arena where he flourished until the mid-1980s.

The Merv Griffin Show was just one of CBS’s many failed attempts at seizing late night market share from The Tonight Show prior to the Leno-Letterman realignment of 1993. That spotty history also includes the likes of Pat Sajak, the M*A*S*H spin-off Klinger After Dark, and for one week in 1985, a Johnny Carson-shaped android which was destroyed in a fiery collision with the McMahon-O-Tron 3000.  -A.D.

Today’s Birthdays: Denis Leary, FX firefighter (55); Kaitlin Olson, Sweet Dee (37); Martin Mull, Fernwood emcee (69); Andy Samberg, Islander (34); Christian Slater, broken in (43); Madeleine Stowe, queen of the Hamptons (54); Malcom-Jamal Warner, Cosby kid (42).

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