Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Jimmy Kimmel today downplayed the high ratings his show has enjoyed in its new 11:35 PM time slot. “The first week doesn’t mean anything,” he said during a TCA session at the Jimmy Kimmel Live studio in Hollywood. “It would mean something if we did poorly.” Today’s panel came after Kimmel topped new time-slot rivals Jay Leno and David Letterman in the 18-49 demo last night, when the show set a new ratings high in its third night of head-to-head competition with The Tonight Show and Late Night. “It was just one night”, he told critics. Kimmel also said Letterman called to wish him well — the day before the show’s debut, which beat his longtime hero in the demo. “I’m not killing Dave”, Kimmel insisted. “We did not put a dent in his numbers. I don’t think it will hurt him.” Kimmel said he has not heard from another new rival, TBS’ host Conan O’Brien. “I don’t know him,” Kimmel said today. “I’m a fan of his. I think he’s a very funny guy.”
Kimmel said he was “happy for 10 years” in his old slot and “it’s better to be a newcomer than an old timer.” He said that he ultimately expects to be “the No. 3 show in late-night” because The Tonight Show and Letterman have such long histories. “We’ll be very happy with No. 3.” He added that no one would ever take the late night crown from Johnny Carson.
Kimmel said that talks about his time slot move began when Ted Koppel left ABC because any late-night change tends to launch such discussions. But he added he never went to ABC and asked for the move. “I never asked them, never once,” Kimmel said. “I made it known that I felt I was ready to do it.” When was that? He joked; “Probably on the first night.”
Kimmel said the actual decision about the move was very fast and was made “at a strange time, right after the upfronts. There were a lot of people involved. There was no one reason.”
Kimmel laughed when asked whether he had been asked by ABC to make his show less edgy in the new time slot and be “more like Leno.” “No no no, not at all. It would be nice if they bought me some cars.”
Kimmel confirmed he would be doing an Oscar special this year but said he would not attend the Golden Globes because he isn’t into that kind of stuff and “I wasn’t invited.” He also said faux-rival Matt Damon would appear on the show January 24, joking that he did not really want to make the announcement because of his “unpleasant history” with the actor.