Bob Costas has bid, "Later, folks." And that means a new day is dawning on NBC-8's wee-hours Later program.
Greg Kinnear (pictured), best known to cable fans of the E! Entertainment channel's Talk Soup, makes his debut as Later host (1:35 a.m.) when he welcomes Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld) to the couch.
The show has changed venue: from New York to NBC's Burbank, Calif., headquarters in order that Kinnear continue on the west coast his love affair with the camera and crew as the Talk Soup host, on which he doles out snippets of talk television's best (or worst), all the while mugging in mock, disgust, disdain and disbelief. How this 30-year-old's wit plays into the talk show format is yet to be determined.
Kinnear is quite happy to be entertaining folks who can't sleep, working stiffs laboring on the night shift and new parents struggling in vain to soothe their colicky infants.
"It is very flattering to me to be competing against test patterns," Kinnear joked in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Daily News last week.
Well, maybe not test patterns. But close.
"I'll blow the infomercials out of the water," Kinnear said. "I feel confident going up against the guy who runs that Hair Club for Men and the other one who leveraged his house in Beverly Hills using a Visa card and can do the same for you."
The short-term plan for Kinnear's version of Later is to do some cosmetic surgery on the concept, adding what he calls "a few bells and whistles" that will include a five-minute parody of the day's events leading off the show.
Kinnear will continue to feature a single guest on the show. And also like Costas, he plans an eclectic roster that won't offer merely the promotional tour of the moment but also politicians, athletes and other figures from off the beaten talk track.
Also scheduled this week are Martin Short, Phil Hartman, Roseanne Arnold, George Carlin, Jason Alexander and Brett Butler.
The perception exists that Kinnear won't remain a Not-Ready-for-Civilized-Time Player for long and could be on-scene replacement insurance for NBC in case Conan O'Brien bombs out of his 12:35 a.m. slot.
He's a man with a record, that Pierre Cossette. An irrepressible showman going on five decades, he even had his own record label -- and signed Three Dog Night and the Mamas and the Papas to record for it. He discovered Ann-Margret and masterminded Ronald Reagan's nightclub act. He produced Andy Williams' TV series and kayoed Broadway with The Will Rogers Follies. Building on that record, Cossette oversees his two-dozenth Grammy Awards broadcast Tuesday night. The three-hour live extravaganza begins at 8 p.m. on CBS- 13. Wearing a jaunty houndstooth golf cap and stage pass No. 1 around his neck, the 65-year-old Cossette was a grinning, back-patting ambassador of calm as stagehands and technicians buzzed around. Anxious? Nahhh! he scoffed. "But you shoulda seen me the first six or seven years."
ABC has scheduled premieres of two new sitcoms. These Friends of Mine, starring comic Ellen DeGeneres as a bookstore-cafe owner, airs Wednesdays beginning March 30, with a preview in the Coach time slot following Roseanne the night before. Sister, Sister, about newly reunited identical-twin girls, airs Fridays, beginning with a two-episode premiere April l. Grace Under Fire and Hangin' With Mr. Cooper go on hiatus, returning later this season.