LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tavis Smiley, who has brought rare diversity to late-night TV for a decade on PBS, will add another two years to his run.
The “Tavis Smiley” show has been renewed through 2015, PBS said Thursday.
“The highlight for me is surviving,” Smiley said, noting the growing competitiveness in the late-night talk show realm.
He said he’s unfazed by the coming shake-up that will see Jay Leno step down (again) as host of NBC’s “Tonight,” with the venerable show heading east as Jimmy Fallon takes over in February.
“For us, it’s the same old, same old — another white guy joins the line up,” Smiley said. “In some ways, it might benefit us because ‘Tonight’ is moving to New York. So that’s one less option that guests in LA have to be booked on.
“I love Jay, but I was teasing him the other day that we actually benefit by him going off the air,” Smiley said.
He’s not alone in breaking up the largely white men’s club in late night, with Arsenio Hall’s return this fall in syndication. Hall already made a dent with his 1989-94 series, but Smiley’s 10-year-old program makes him the minority host with the most staying power.
Smiley is proud of the perspective he brings as an African-American. But it’s his mix of guests, which goes beyond ethnic diversity, that he believes have contributed to his longevity.
“What’s made our show work is that it’s hybrid: We’re both entertainment and information,” he said. His guests have ranged from celebrities including Tom Cruise and Mary J. Blige to Hillary Clinton and others in politics and public affairs.