Monday, July 30, 2007

Goodbye Tom, I Hardly Knew Ye

Bow your heads, please and could we have a moment of silence? Tom Snyder died Sunday in San Francisco from complications associated with leukemia.

When I was young and stayed up to watch my own little black & white TV (not a euphemism, people! Clean it up, damn it!), there was all kinds of good stuff on TV. All kinds of movies, Brit TV, monster movies, and of course Johnny Carson which I got. Because he was silly enough for my pre-teen and teenage years.

Tom Snyder? I didn't have a clue. I barely recognized some of his guests like Elvis Costello and I was too young to get cats like Vidal and Capote. The politicians he had on were even more obscure to me, though I would recognize most of them now, as well as the lower-tier movie stars that were obscure to me back then.

I understood enough of him to enjoy Dan Ackroyd's lampoons of him and especially, the gratuitous smoking. When he came back on the air in '95, I was sorry that I didn't get him the first time around. He was sublime, a real treat and he seemed a little more humble with this go around.

He had on David Milch, it seemed like every other episode I watched, since Friday is typically the only weekday I have off. Yet here was Milch and I was just working out this thing called screenwriting. Tom Snyder had on a working screenwriter that wasn't an author, for Pete's sake. No other talk shows want to acknowledge screenwriters before or since, I guess they're afraid that their staff will revolt.

I used to look forward to Friday's with Tom and for once, there was a talk show for opposed to Leno being ultra-smarmy or one for drunk college kids (not that there's anything wrong with that, hic!). Then Craig Kilborn's star went through the roof on the original "The Daily Show" and Tom got the boot. The great part about that was that John Stewart could finally catapult to the forefront where his deserved to be and the bad aspect was that we the audience, were stuck with a Kilborn that was on the verge of burnout.

Craigers started to condescend to his guest within months and there was a void for intelligent talk shows for adults, not that everybody in this house doesn't love Letterman. It's just that Letterman is only allowed to be serious for only a few moments each show.

Now mind you, I'm not talking about "The Daily Show" or "The Colbert Report" when I say adult talk shows pretty much begin and end with Charlie Rose. I'm talking about a show that is riff or spoof-free, where thoughtful ideas are exchanged. This something that is missing and now that Tom is gone, the void has somehow deepened.



Blogger Beth said...

Lovely tribute, WP. I was saddened to read of Tom Snyder's passing this morning. Snyder was cool, while the others are smarmy or silly. (And I love, truly love, Letterman, so that's not a total slam.) He was smart, he was class. I felt robbed when Kilby got that slot.

Mon Jul 30, 08:56:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Bubs said...

Wow, I just found out here that Tom died. Nice tribute.

I remember watching him in his heyday, pre-cable tv for me, in 1979/80/81. Watching his eyes bug out interviewing Wendy O Williams, asking if she was "going to do that thing with the, uh, shaving cream" gesturing at her nipples. Classic!

Mon Jul 30, 12:26:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...


Thank you and he was both cool and class when CBS yanked the rug right out from under him.


Thanks and I've only seen bits of the Wendy O. incident. I do remember the guests pushing the envelope a hellva lot further than any talk show before, because of the slot and that Snyder took almost a minute to get mad.

Mon Jul 30, 05:16:00 PM PDT  
Blogger The Moviequill said...

I fired up some YouTube last night and watched Tom interview U2, PLasmatics and The Clash... I used to stay up with my mom and watch it all the time... btw, Charlie Rose still does screenwriter interviews

Tue Jul 31, 05:25:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...


This is two signs that I have to get with the 21st Century. The Dial-up Hell guarantees that I can't watch something like that and I have to plunk down in September for a DVR of some sort, as Charlie seems to only have pundits on when I watch him.

If I want to watch pundits for more than two minutes, I'll watch Stewart or Colbert put them in their proper context and/or place.

Tue Jul 31, 08:27:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Dale said...

That's a beautiful tribute Write Procrastinator. I remember being mesmerized by Tom Snyder but couldn't always figure out why either. You said exactly what I would have loved to. Thanks.

Thu Aug 02, 07:01:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...


Thanks, but Tim "Mr. Cranky Pants" Goodman, our local newspaper's TV critic said it a little better.

"Snyder is probably the most underrated host in television history. There's a part of the DVD when he squares off with John Lydon. Now, everybody who knows anything about music or at least the marketing end knows that the former Johnny Rotten liked to be, in his words, a difficult, 'snot-nosed little git.' Though Snyder couldn't understand it, he wasn't ruffled by it, gave as good as he got and ended up dismissing Lydon rather handily. Any modern host would have taken the bait, made a rude comment and gone to a commercial. But the real beauty of Snyder, a misunderstood visionary of the highest order, was that you couldn't shake him off. You could try to embarrass him or be cooler than him or be disdainfully aloof, but he could bring the high heat in return better than anyone."

Thu Aug 02, 09:48:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Malcolm: said...

Since I was too young to catch Tom during the "Tomorrow" era, I didn't get into him until he hosted "The Late Late Show" in the 90s. He will be missed.

Thu Aug 09, 09:39:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Hello Malcolm and welcome! Wow, yet another pop cultural blog for me to peruse and I've had "Route 66" in my head since the 50th Anniversary of the publication of "On The Road" has just passed us by recently.

Yeah, Tom was the man and now that I've had some time to think about it, I wish that PBS gave him a show after CBS gave him the shaft. He would've been perfect in the slot between Charlie Rose and Tavis Smiley.

Thu Aug 09, 03:09:00 PM PDT  

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