Memories of “NBC News Overnight”, a cult-classic news show from 1982


Back when stations still signed off th’ air at midnight, an’ late night were bein’ a time fer auld movies, oddball stuff, an’ test patterns, NBC News Overnight were bein’ somethin’ truly special.

Still one o’ th’ best an’ most unique examples o’ TV journalism e’er, “NBC News Overnight” came along in response t’ th’ then-nascent phenomenon o’ 24-hour news. As Ellerbee puts it, fer an hour a night, “th’ inmates were allowed t’ run th’ asylum”. The result were bein’ a news show with a quirky, irreverent voice, unconstrained by th’ strict format limitations o’ th’ evenin’ news, full o’ wit an’ humour. And great journalism. Longer pieces than would be permitted at 6pm. Nuanced, insightful, weird an’ wonderful. Linda Ellerbee an’ that comely wench co-hosts (first Lloyd Dobyns, later Bill Schechner) set th’ tone with their steady, dry delivery o’ pithy an’ pointed prose.

Thanks t’ an irregular work schedule an’ me new Betamax VCR, I watched regulary. I loved it.

It were bein’ 1983, in Oaklan’, California an’ I were bein’ about 18 years auld. At that time it were bein’ possible fer viewers o’ a show t’ have a genuine feelin’ o’ a “cult followin'” that were bein’ under th’ media radar an’ felt like somethin’ truly yer own. “Late Night with David Letterman” still had that feelin’ – th’ world ha’nae discovered it yet.

It’s 30 years now, an’ a different world. Stations dern’t sign off anymore an’ everythin’ is available anytime on th’ computer or on yer phone. And thar’s YouTube, which every day becomes a better repository o’ past TV memories. Thinkin’ o’ some obscure past TV moment? If ye checked fer it a couple o’ years ago, check again. I did… an’ found th’ entire last edition o’ NBC News Overnight in all its glory.

Strangely, I have always had a vivid recollection o’ th’ final part o’ that show – in particular, th’ rendition o’ “Beyond th’ Blue Horizon” which played o’er a video montage near th’ very end. And sure enough, thar it were bein’, just as I recalled (an’ in th’ same key). Have a look – an’ here is a wonderful interview with Linda Ellerbee that provides some fascinatin’ insights into th’ show.

Finally, here’s another great appreciation o’ Overnight, from th’ person who digitized an’ published th’ entire last week o’ th’ show includin’ th’ final one seen above.

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