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The Forgotten Late Night Programming Block: NBC All Night

Late night has always been a vast programming space of informercials about Time Life products, hair growth in a can, and Ron Popeil. Fall in love to the music, run your hands through your luscious hair, and set it and forget it.

If you’re a night owl (something I pretend to be these days, though I do have my days – like this week, since I’m minding my boyfriend’s 11-year-old Chihuahua while he is away for his job), you may remember a programming block that NBC aired in the wee hours from September 1998 until December 2006 called “NBC All Night.”

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It was a seven-day-a-week programming block that aired on weeknights beginning at 2:05 am ET (after Later and, well, later, Last Call With Carson Daly) and would show a week-old episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, on Saturday Night/Sunday Mornings (after Saturday Night Live) by airing a classic episode of Saturday Night Live, and on Sunday Night/Monday Morning at 1:05 am by airing an encore of Dateline: NBC. The Saturday night programming block depended on the market you lived in – the New York NBC station and Philadelphia NBC stations each had different starting times (one started at 1 am, the other at 2 am).

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The block began during premiere week in September 1998, and was discontinued in December 2006. It was a good opportunity to see last week’s late night talk shows if you had missed them (or were up with nothing better to do, and wanted to see them again), but also good if you liked classic Saturday Night Live reruns and wanted to see the full 90-minute versions of the episodes (which is rare, bordering on impossible, in reruns). For someone like me, who loved classic SNL, my VCR (and later, my DVD recorder) got a workout each week.

I’m not really sure what happened to this programming block, and why it was discontinued, though I’d like to think (in a sarcastic, conspiracy-theory way), that it was another misstep in NBC’s decision-making abilities. I guess they figured that the late night market was a saturated one, complete with old sitcom reruns and Time Life CD infomercials (I should note, I used to watch The Ultimate Love Collection almost every week after Saturday Night Live was over, pre-NBC All Night programming being established). and their breath of fresh air was apparently quite stale by 2006.

The reality of late night television, post Saturday Night Live until September 1998, was a barren wasteland that didn’t have sitcom reruns like it does now. You either watched a movie, put on HBO, or watched infomercials. There was always Showtime at the Apollo, but seriously, did anyone watch that?

I’m only guilty of sticking around for the opening credits, folks. I never actually watched the show.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really much I can find on the programming block, though I do have the bumpers that aired before and during the classic Saturday Night Live episodes.

Wouldn’t you love to see that?

You would?

Then click “play!”

I really wish I had more for you, but I don’t. I just don’t.

Well, that turned out to be depressing.

Allison has a collection of rare, unusual, and not-so-rare and not-so-unusual material in her archives, this included. She amassed a respectable number of classic Saturday Night Live episodes as a result of eight years of this programming block. If you like what you’ve seen, then check out her blog, Allison’s Written Words. You can also follow her blog on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

The SNL host bumper is Jeremy Irons.

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