TCA 2019: ‘Busy Tonight’ Time Slot Shift Seen By Producers as Positive

Tina Fey, executive producer on Busy Tonight, among many other things, shed light on how she got involved in the Busy Philipps-helmed talk show on E! Fey and Philipps worked on a pilot that did not advance years ago, and got to know each other.

“She was incredibly charismatic and telegenic and knew her way around a joke,” said Fey.

Fey shared her philosophy on producing: “Set people up to succeed and get out of their way,” she said.

Philipps spoke of a “very natural progression” from social media star—she has 1.5 million Instagram followers—to talk-show host. She called the show’s shift from 10 to 11 p.m. earlier this month a positive thing for Busy Tonight.

“It’s a marathon,” said Philipps. “We’re building a four-night-a-week, late-night talk show. E! has been incredibly supportive of us finding our footing and figuring out the best ways to connect with your audience.”

Showrunner Caissie St.Onge called it “a vote of confidence” from E!

Philipps said part of her motivation for creating the show was offering “a little treat” for viewers at the end of the day, saying she was tired of Friends repeats.

“I wanted to make a show that I could watch before I went to sleep,” said Philipps.

Fey called it “a conversation, a place to unwind at the end of your day.”

She and Philipps said they’re not looking to other late-night shows for tips. “We’re not out there trying to be any of the Jimmys,” Fey said.

Philipps did mention borrowing from Seth Meyers’ early game-plan in late night, booking close friends as guests to get more comfortable in the role.

Busy Tonight represents the first time Philipps has had a female showrunner out of all the projects she’s worked on across 20 years. St.Onge previously worked on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.

“It’s a fresh start with a fresh host,” St.Onge said. “I’m having a blast.”

Philipps isn’t likely done with scripted television, but noted that hosting Busy Tonight, and being a mother, takes up a bit of time. “I doubt I will never act again,” she said. “But for the time being, I gotta do this show, man.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.