I’ve been binge-watching some episodes of “Later with Bob Costas,” which followed “Late Night With David Letterman” on NBC from 1988 to 1993. In those days, I captured every episode on VHS tapes but, after watching them, I re-used them, so I never kept any in my permanent collection.
Thankfully, other fans of the show saved their copies and have digitized and uploaded them to YouTube, where I’ve found Costas talking with Steve Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert, Ned Beatty, and Dick Schaap, to name a few. The conversations are as wonderful as I remembered because Costas has always been a consummate professional broadcaster who knows how to lead his guests with interesting questions, then give them the time to offer thoughtful responses. Though others followed Costas as host of “Later,” including Greg Kinnear, Cynthia Garrett, and Carson Daly (who renamed the show “Last Call”), none of them were nearly as good at the simple one-on-one interviews Costas mastered.
I have long wondered why NBC hasn’t repackaged original episodes of “Later,” either selling them as DVD packages (a la Dick Cavett and the estates of Tom Snyder and Merv Griffin). Better yet, in this on-demand era, why aren’t those shows available on NBC’s streaming platform, Peacock?
The answer can’t be that such an effort would be too expensive, since the network always owned the show. All it would have to do is come to some overall agreement with Costas and perhaps pay union scale to the guests. After all, if there can be a dedicated channel on Pluto that streams old Johnny Carson “Tonight” shows 24 hours a day, how hard could it be to spend a few dollars — easily made up for by inserting new ads — to revive such classic content as “Later”?