The Midnight Special (TV series)

Infobox Television
show_name = The Midnight Special
format = music variety show
runtime = 90 minutes
creator = Burt Sugarman
executive_producer = Burt Sugarman
starring = Helen Reddy (1975-1976) (host)
Wolfman Jack (announcer)
country = USA
network = NBC
first_aired = February 2, 1973 detailed summary] ]
last_aired = May 1, 1981
num_episodes = 450 [ The Midnight Special Comes to VH-1] , a 1997 article by pop culture critic Ed Robertson]
imdb_id = 0229907
tv_com_id = 2974

"The Midnight Special" was a weekly musical television series that aired during the 1970s and early 1980s, created and produced by Burt Sugarman and airing on NBC. It premiered as a special on August 19, 1972, then began its run as a regular series on February 2, 1973; its last episode was on May 1, 1981. (promotional site for the DVD re-issue)] The ninety-minute program followed the Friday night edition of "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson".

The program featured over 1,200 performers during its runFact|date=February 2007. Some notable guest stars and hosts included The Three Degrees, Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, Elton John, Ray Charles, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Rod Stewart, AC/DC, Tina Turner, Heart, Barry Manilow, Steve Martin, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye, Billy Joel, Rick James, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Billy Crystal, Beach Boys, Diana Ross, B.B King, Kiss, Gordon Lightfoot, Andy Kaufman, Doobie Brothers, Cheap Trick, Richard Pryor, The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Wolfman Jack, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Cars, Eddie Money, Blondie, Jim Croce, The Spinners, Dolly Parton, Fleetwood Mac, War, and ABBA.

The show mostly featured guest hosts, except for a period from July 1975 through March 1976 when Helen Reddy was the regular host. Wolfman Jack served as the announcer.

The show was noted for featuring musical acts performing live, which was unique since most television appearances during the era showed performers lip-synching to prerecorded music. The series also occasionally aired vintage footage of older acts (such as Bill Haley & His Comets).


Sugarman proposed the program as a way for NBC to take advantage of "The Tonight Show"'s large audience. At the time, none of the Big Three television networks had programming on after 1:00 a.m., as common practice was to air a test pattern after sign-off. In spite of this lack of competition, NBC initially rejected the idea. The rejection led Sugarman to buy air time for the premiere on his own, convincing Chevrolet to become the show’s first sponsor. It premiered with ratings big enough that NBC changed its mind and bought the program.

The show sponsored the last performance of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust — it was broadcast on November 16, 1973, [, a fan's detailed website focused just on "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"] in an episode taped a month earlier from specially-commissioned performances at the Marquee Club in Soho.

The series was cancelled by NBC at the request of Dick Ebersol as part of a deal for him to take over then-ailing "Saturday Night Live". [ [ Dick Ebersol] , from the Museum of Broadcast Communications] Two years later, after the conclusion of a run of the Canadian import "SCTV Network," "Midnight Special" was eventually replaced by the music video show "Friday Night Videos", also produced by Ebersol.

In 2006, a DVD collection entitled "Burt Sugarman's Midnight Special" was made available by Guthy-Renker through television and radio informercials.


The show was parodied by Ray Stevens in 1974 on the novelty single, "The Moonlight Special", in which Stevens even lampooned Wolfman Jack by playing a character called "The Sheepdog". The single contained three short songs each performed by different "artists", including:
*Mildred Queen & The Dips (a parody of Gladys Knight & the Pips)
*Agnes Stuka & his Chicken
*Jerry Joe Harry Lee Jimmy Billy (a parody of Jerry Lee Lewis)

The show was referenced in Tammy Wynette's 1976 hit "(I'd Like to See) Jesus on the "Midnight Special".

The theme song was performed by The Guess Who.

See also

* List of late night network TV programs
* List of guests appearing on The Midnight Special

External links

* [ Midnight Special complete episode guide]


General reference:
*McNeil, Alexander M. (1980) "Total Television", New York: Penguin Books, Ltd. ISBN 0-14-004911-8Specific references:

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