On January 10th, 1995 — twenty six years ago today — The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder premiered on CBS in the 12:35am timeslot after The Late Show with David Letterman.
After Letterman left NBC to come to CBS, his deal basically gave him ownership of the timeslot after his show as well, which at the time was being filled by Canadian imports under the banner Crimetime After Primetime. Not exactly appointment television.
After Garry Shandling turned down the opportunity to host, Letterman decided to return a favor of sorts to Snyder, the veteran newsman most famous for his in-depth, intimate conversational interview style as the host of The Tomorrow Show on NBC, which naturally followed The Tonight Show from 1973 until 1982, when Letterman's new Late Night show replaced it. So in a sense, it was as if Letterman had taken a show from Snyder, only to give it back to him 13 years later.
Snyder's guests on his first show were Candice Bergen and Kathleen & Bob Gingrich — the parents of then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich — who as it happens (and as they discuss at 19:26 in the clip above) were such big fans of the Murphy Brown star that they named their daughter after her.
Snyder's version of The Late Late Show was markedly different from what it is today with host James Corden. There was no band, no studio audience, no sidekicks other than the occasional staffers to whom he'd make asides during his monologues. Snyder told stories and aimed to have more substantive interviews than standard late talk show, although when he did find something funny, he had a loud, boisterous, infectious laugh that could make up for the lack of an audience. He also broadcast his show live, simulcasting with CBS Radio, so he could take phone calls from viewers with questions for his guests.
Snyder never won his time slot up against Late Night with Conan O'Brien, a show geared toward the younger people who would normally be up that late, and when he left the show in 1999, CBS revamped it by bringing in Craig Kilborn, the acerbic original host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Kilborn was replaced on that show by Jon Stewart, who had occasionally served as a gust host for Snyder.
Kilborn left The Late Late Show in 2004, which allowed Craig Ferguson to eventually get the job and completely deconstruct the whole late night format for a decade, in part by emulating Snyder's conversational interview style, before Corden came on in 2015.
Snyder died of leukemia in 2007, while Ferguson was host, and they put together this tribute to him. As Snyder would say, "fire up a colortini, and watch the pictures now as they fly through the air."
Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.