The Merv Griffin Show (1962)
Despite his high profile, Griffin couldn’t really compete with Johnny Carson, but at least he welcomed unusual guests.
Late Night With David Letterman (1982)
Before he settled into his role as one of the old guard, David Letterman was a weirdo former weatherman who pulled odd stunts.
Jimmy Breslin’s People (1986)
Newspaper columnist and champion of the common man Jimmy Breslin had a brief late-night run that ended when he “fired” his own network for constantly pre-empting him.
The Tonight Show (1954)
The Tonight Show went through several hosts before finding perfection with Johnny Carson (1962-1992), then imperfection with Jay Leno (1992-present).
The Pat Sajak Show (1989)
The Wheel Of Fortune host learned his lesson from his late-night fiasco, and didn’t try it again.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (1999)
It was only when Stewart took over that The Daily Show really found its own voice. The former MTV star became a bona fide star.
The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn (1999)
The original host of The Daily Show—he used to deliver your “moment of Zen”—Craig Kilborn went on to this middling late show, where he was replaced by Craig Ferguson.
Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (2009)
The former Saturday Night Live goofball seemed doomed to fail, but his nice-guy persona was hiding some seriously funny material.
After losing the late-night wars, Conan O’Brien returned to the arena via basic cable, as funny as ever.