Maher canceled, Kimmel lands slot at ABC
NEW YORK -- Goodbye Bill Maher, hello Jimmy Kimmel.
The Associated Press is reporting that ABC is canceling Bill Maher's late-night topical talk show, "Politically Incorrect," and replacing it with an entertainment show led by Comedy Central's Jimmy Kimmel. Daily Variety confirms that Kimmel has been signed to a contract.
"Politically Incorrect" has been on thin ice since just after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when host Maher was quoted as referring to past United States military actions as "cowardly." FedEx and Sears pulled their advertising from the show.
But, according to the AP report, ABC Chairman Lloyd Braun said Maher's controversial comments had nothing to do with the decision to replace him.
"We made a decision to go with straight entertainment programming in late night," Braun said on Tuesday. "That's just basically a scheduling opportunity that we felt over the long term had more potential."
Even before the current move, ABC had signaled its willingness to make changes in its late-night lineup. In March, sources revealed the network had had talks with David Letterman about joining the network, which likely would have displaced both "PI" and Ted Koppel's news show, "Nightline."
Letterman stayed at CBS and "Nightline" received a two-year commitment from ABC, but the status of "Politically Incorrect" remained up in the air.
Variety observes that its cancellation is no surprise to many in the industry, particularly after Maher's post-September 11 comments. Whereas Disney executives often publicly supported Koppel and "Nightline" after the Letterman flap, there was little support for Maher and "PI."
Maher's contract expires in the fall. It's unclear when the final "PI" will air or how ABC may fill any gap between the demise of "PI" and the premiere of Kimmel's new series, Variety reports.
"Politically Incorrect" had its debut on Comedy Central in 1993 and moved to ABC in 1997.
Kimmel's half-hour show will bow in January, Variety reports, most likely in conjunction with ABC's broadcast of the Super Bowl. Details are still sketchy, though the show is expected to be in the same comedy/entertainment vein as Kimmel's other work.
Kimmel has hosted "The Man Show" on Comedy Central since 1999, and also was Ben Stein's original sidekick on "Win Ben Stein's Money."
"The Man Show" will have several months of original episodes, but the show will end production with Kimmel's departure.
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