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ABC: Before Jimmy Kimmel, there was Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett attends The East Hampton Library's 8th

Dick Cavett attends The East Hampton Library's 8th Annual Authors Night at Gardiner's Farm in East Hampton. (August 11, 2012) Photo by Rossa Cole for Rob Rich (Credit: Rob Rich/

Before Jimmy Kimmel moves to 11:35 this January on ABC where  pundits have already declared he will "Change the Face of Late Night Forever," l wanted to take a quick look back at another ABC late night star who already changed late night, and changed it very much for the better: Dick Cavett.

(And before Cavett was Long Beach's own Les Crane, whose ABC late nighter was the first network show to go after "The Tonight Show;" and "The Joey Bishop Show," which aired just a year before "Cavett." Its chief claim to fame: sidekick Regis Philbin.)

Check out these clips from the forthcoming third season of "Pioneers of Television" on PBS. Cavett's section will air sometime next year. His late-night ABC show actually had a pair of runs — briefly, in 1986, while the groundbreaking run was from 1968 to 1974, when it was finally axed for who-knows-what-reason. As a host of various talk show iterations (most successfully on PBS), viewers certainly came to know all of Cavett's many attributes: A keen intelligence, urbanity, wit and a quality that's particularly hard to define, but I suppose the word "comfortable" hints at it. Check out the Bill Cosby encounter below . . .

In the clip below, Cavet talks about how his ABC late nighter was damaged by a mismanaged Nielsen count; in this one, he notes how he landed on Richard Nixon's enemies' list in part because he had guests on who had criticized the "SST" — the supersonic transport that Nixon had championed.  (Nixon had other issues too, not noted here, including a debate over the Vietnam War between veterans John Kerry and Nixon supporter John O'Neill.)

Tags: dick cavett , jimmy kimmel , the dick cavett show , pioneers of television , pbs

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