Editor's note: this morning I was thinking about Dick Cavett, and when I looked at his listing on Wikipedia this morning I noticed that his wife of more than 40 years passed away last Friday. We're sorry for his loss.
This morning I was thinking about Dick Cavett, because a couple of weeks ago Lauren got us his interviews with John Lennon and Yoko Ono on DVD. It was fascinating because it was exactly the opposite of the short format interviews you see on modern late-night talk shows, and Dick had the opportunity to have a long conversation with John and Yoko. The closest approximation I can find on modern TV might be Charlie Rose, but there's no studio audience, which Dick and John and Yoko get to play off of during the interviews.
I'm an unabashed Lawrence Welk fan, and I'm lucky enough to enjoy it without having to assume an a mask of ironic detachment, even though any modern viewer can enjoy the throwback hilarity of the segments. It's good TV! There was no effort at diversity, and it was hopelessly square, but it's fun to watch. Modern TV lacks a true variety program, and a great long-format interview program that covers serious topics in a light way. The Daily Show has moments when guests and audience are in sync like this, but the interview segments are far too short to get to the root of any substantive issues. Likewise, the reason that tens of millions of videos have been viewed on YouTube is that people are hungry for a wider variety of entertainment than is available from mainstream sources - and even fringe channels on cable are mainstream. I would feel dumb mentioning such an obvious idea, but for the fact that multitudes highly educated, highly paid employees at television networks have not been able to draw the same conclusion and put a new Lawrence Welk back on the air.
Here's my idea, for the TV network bold enough to implement it: take off shows about modeling and bad dates, and devote one evening to a variety show followed by an hour long interview with a live audience. There are no famous bandleaders any more to assume the Welk role, but there are MCs - so pick one who understands how to work a room, give a monologue and doesn't mind being second to the acts for part of the evening. For the interview program, you need someone smart, flexible, friendly, and hilarious. It so happens that I'm available after 7 most evenings, which I believe coincides with the neccesary timeframe. Keep an eye on this space, we'll see if anyone makes me an offer.