The Midnight Special (TV series)
|The Midnight Special|
Chuck Berry as guest host, November 2, 1973.
|Genre||Music variety show|
|Created by||Burt Sugarman|
|Presented by||Helen Reddy (1975-1976)|
|Narrated by||Wolfman Jack|
|Opening theme||"Midnight Special" performed by Johnny Rivers|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||450|
|Executive producer(s)||Burt Sugarman|
|Running time||90 min|
|Production company(s)||Burt Sugarman Productions|
|Original run||February 2, 1973– May 1, 1981|
The Midnight Special is an American late-night musical variety series that aired on NBC during the 1970s and early 1980s, created and produced by Burt Sugarman. It premiered as a special on August 19, 1972, then began its run as a regular series on February 2, 1973; its last episode was on May 1, 1981. The ninety-minute program followed the Friday night edition of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
The show typically featured guest hosts, except for a period from July 1975 through March 1976 when singer Helen Reddy served as the regular host. Wolfman Jack served as the announcer and frequent guest host. The program's theme song, a traditional folk song called "Midnight Special", was performed by Johnny Rivers.
The Midnight Special was noted for featuring musical acts performing live, which was unusual since most television appearances during the era showed performers lip-synching to prerecorded music. The series also occasionally aired vintage footage of older acts (such as Bill Haley & His Comets). As the program neared the end of its run in the early 1980s, it began to frequently use lip-synched performances rather than live. The program also featured occasional comedic performances such as Richard Pryor and Andy Kaufman.
In 1973, producer Sugarman pitched the program as a means for NBC to capitalize on The Tonight Show's large audience. At the time, none of the Big Three television networks had programming on after 1:00 a.m., as common practice was to sign-off after the final program. Despite this lack of competition in the time-slot, NBC initially rejected the idea. The rejection led Sugarman to buy the air time for the premiere on his own, convincing Chevrolet to become the show's first sponsor. It premiered with ratings high enough for NBC to reconsider its decision, and the network subsequently bought the program. The program remained a part of NBC's late night lineup until 1981.
The pilot for the series aired on August 19, 1972. It was presented as a 90-minute special encouraging young people to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. Several months later, on February 2, 1973, it premiered as a weekly series.
In 1978, at the height of the disco craze, the set was changed to resemble a disco nightclub complete with a platform dance floor. Wolfman Jack stood behind an elevated DJ booth. By fall 1979, as the genre's popularity waned, the disco set was gone.
Some notable guest stars and hosts included:
The show sponsored the last performance of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust and was broadcast on November 16, 1973 in an episode taped a month earlier from specially-commissioned performances at the Marquee Club in Soho.[unreliable source?]
- McNeil, Alexander M. (1980) Total Television, New York: Penguin Books, Ltd. ISBN 0-14-004911-8
- The Midnight Special Comes to VH-1, a 1997 article by pop culture critic Ed Robertson
- Promotional site for the DVD re-issue
- a fan's detailed website focused just on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
- Dick Ebersol, from the Museum of Broadcast Communications