Wilton North Report

The Late Show With Joan Rivers was the first attempt by the then-new Fox Network to launch late night programming in competion with the seemingly-indestructible Johnny Carson. When Ms. Rivers crashed and burned, she disappeared suddenly from the show and was replaced by a couple of guest hosts while Fox scurried to come up with something else for the time slot. Just when Arsenio Hall began clicking as host of The Late Show, the new program was ready…and Arsenio fled elsewhere, becoming (for a time) a lot more successful than his replacement on Fox and giving Mr. Carson a brief, unprecedented dosage of competion.

The new Fox show was the Wilton North Report — which, like the earlier mock sitcom Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, drew its name from the geography near the studio. Ms. Hartman lived in Fernwood, a street which bordered the KTTV Studios. Wilton was another such street and it seemed like a dandy name to hang on a show of fake news. Similar in concept to the later, successful Daily Show on Comedy Central, the Wilton North Report didn’t look like such a hot idea when it debuted. Its hosts, Phil Cowan and Paul Robins, were disc jockeys with little TV experience. The producer, Barry Sand, had plenty having once produced David Letterman’s show in New York. The writing staff (which included a novice named Conan O’Brien) later faulted Sand for watering down the show and chopping out the best and most controversial moments.

The Wilton North Report debuted December 11, 1987. It was gone less than four weeks later but its ticket remains.