Norm Macdonald is getting the last laugh.
The former "Saturday Night Live" regular is returning to guest-host the show Oct. 23--not quite two years after being canned by NBC's top-ranking program executive.
Macdonald anchored "Weekend Update," the show's mock newscast, for several years--until he was very publicly cashiered in the middle of the 1998-99 TV season by NBC West Coast President Don Ohlmeyer.
Macdonald-ites charged that Ohlmeyer whacked him because of the many swipes the comic took in "Update" at Ohlmeyer pal O.J. Simpson.
Ohlmeyer denied this and noted that other NBC late-night stars were also making jokes about the football star turned TV sportscaster turned accused murderer.
Ohlmeyer-ites insisted Macdonald was yanked because network research showed viewers tuning out of "SNL" when Macdonald's segment began. And Ohlmeyer told Macdonald he was being yanked off "Update" because he wasn't funny. Which was a very gutsy statement for a guy who had "Caroline in the City," "Suddenly Susan" and "Working" on his prime-time schedule.
The not-funny defense kind of broke down, however, when Macdonald went out and got another job, starring in the feature film "Dirty Work," and Ohlmeyer banned ads promoting the movie on NBC. This time Ohlmeyer said it was because Macdonald was bad-mouthing the network on talk shows.
Press accounts at the time said Macdonald was actually confining his crack-making to comments about Ohlmeyer, and it was the talk show hosts who generally filled in with snipes at NBC.
Ohlmeyer retired last spring and, suddenly, Macdonald is funny again over at NBC.
He was among the invited guests for "SNL's" 25th-anniversary prime-time special that NBC broadcast two Sundays back, at the outset of the 1999-2000 TV season (so was onetime guest host Simpson, who was a no-show).
NBC won't confirm that Macdonald has been invited to co-host the late-night show later this month. But sources say the network is working out scheduling details with the actor and Warner Bros., which produces his ABC sitcom, "The Norm Show."
The hosting gig won't be the last laugh for Macdonald alone; it'll be a hoot for "SNL" Executive Producer Lorne Michaels. Michaels had strongly protested Macdonald's firing, to no avail. This led to several news reports saying the incident proved Michaels was no longer in charge of the landmark show that he created back in the 1970s.
NBC begins rerunning its morning news program "Today" on MSNBC today. The show will be reshown each day on the cable news network, which NBC owns with Microsoft. On the East Coast, "Today" redux will run at 1 p.m.--four hours after the program wraps up on broadcast network NBC. But on the West Coast, the cable-cast comes at 10 a.m.--just one hour after its initial broadcast ends, which has got to make station execs on the Pacific side very unhappy.
Throwing them a bone, NBC has promised its broadcast stations that it will not promote the "Today" rerun during its initial broadcast, but the cable net will promo the next day's NBC broadcast of "Today" during each "Today" rerun.
A few changes will be made to the program each day for its MSNBC reincarnation, including updating Ann Curry's news segments with live inserts from MSNBC's Lori Stokes, as well as weather updates.
Same-day reruns of broadcast programming on cable networks is a very hot topic these days. Earlier this year, MSNBC aired same-day reruns of NBC's "Meet the Press." And MSNBC already reruns segments from each week's "Dateline" broadcasts during the weekend, called "Weekend Edition."
CAPTION: Norm Macdonald in 1995 as the "Weekend Update" anchor on "Saturday Night Live," before he was run off the show.