Nobody knows better than O'Brien, after all, how talk shows—even good ones—can go splat. After you check out our list, you'll know, too:
1. The Chevy Chase Show: Now that the Saturday Night Live icon is back in the good graces of the Community, you'd think we'd all be able to laugh fondly at that little late-night misfire of his. You'd think that. Until you rewatch a clip. And cringe all over again. And to think, this went on, night after night, for six loooooong weeks.
2. The Magic Hour: You know how many otherwise-successful folks have hosted short-lived talk shows? More than the likes of Sharon Osbourne would like to recount. What distinguished Magic Johnson's flameout was his—and/or his producers'—desperation to book Howard Stern so that he, Stern, could explain everything that he, Magic, was doing wrong. At least Magic succeeded in one regard: He made The Chevy Chase Show seem watchable in comparison.
3. The David Letterman Show: Remember: Not all disasters are equally disastrous. This show, for instance, was, like its then-fledgling host, smart, ironic—and completely out of place in the a.m. Check it out: Letterman even looks sleepy in the opening titles. That the experiment lasted only about four months was good—for Letterman, for late night and for all the shut-ins angry that Dave had messed with Card Sharks.
4. The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers: When she got the gig, Johnny Carson shunned her. When she lost the gig, her husband committed suicide. Oh, we can't bear to tell the whole terrible table—so we'll let Rivers do it.
5. The Jay Leno Show/The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien: Well, on the upside, nobody died… Plus, we got O'Brien's nifty beard out of the whole, network-mismanaged deal.