It's been six years since Craig Kilborn caught his fans and the industry off guard by walking away from his job as host of CBS' "The Late Late Show." Now he's attempting a comeback with a new show that is being rolled out on Fox TV stations in several big cities across the country, including locally on KTTV-TV Los Angeles Channel 11.Kilborn, who first came to prominence as a wisecracking ESPN "Sports Center" anchor and then went on to put Comedy Central on the late-night television map with "The Daily Show," returns as host of "The Kilborn File," a half-hour topical comedy show. He'll have a female sidekick in former child actress Christine Lakin and also will have interviews and his trademark five questions.
Kilborn's show will be a humorous look at the news, along with the
obligatory star interviews and a roundtable discussion of the day's
headlines. But don't look for Kilborn to go down the same road that Jon
Stewart took at "The Daily Show."
Not only does Kilborn have to recapture his fan base, he also will have to do it in a time period when they may not be accustomed to watching his style of show. See, "The Kilborn File" is not another late-night show -- it'll air in the early evening hours. Locally, he'll be on at 6:30. In other cities, he'll be on between 7 and 8 p.m.
Traditionally, those hours are home to game shows, sitcom reruns and magazine shows such as "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood." The industry wisdom has been that deviations from those genres won't work.
But there is a bit of a drought when it comes to sitcom reruns -- long the staple for Fox stations. Although it's easy to dismiss the chances of a show that might seem more at home in late night, local television stations and the syndication companies making the shows for them need to start taking a gamble.
"What we're trying really has never been done before," said Frank Cicha, senior vice president of Fox TV Stations. "You make a bet here and it doesn't come up, you’ve lost a lot of money."
"The Kilborn File" will have a six-week run. If the numbers are promising, Twentieth Television, the show's distributor, will look to roll it out nationally next year.
Kilborn, who said in an interview he had grown tired of the repetitiveness of late-night TV, had been taking it easy for the last few years. Besides working on his new show, he also has a sitcom idea he's been developing. He also was relaxing with his time off, and it showed during a recent TV appearance.
"I enjoyed retirement the right way ... linguine con vongole, red wine and plenty of truffle cheese. It was my Orson Welles stage." He's since lost 15 pounds and, in his words, is back to his "slender self -- I feel like a French woman."
For more on Craig Kilborn and his new show, see our story in Monday's Los Angeles Times.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Craig Kilborn on the set of "The Kilborn File." Credit: Roger Erickson / Twentieth Television