Jimmy Breslin is mad as hell, and he’s not going to take it anymore. He is furious that Jimmy Breslin’s People, his new ABC talk show, is being buried alive in a graveyard time slot (12:30 and 1:30 a.m.) in his hometown. Now New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Breslin, the Pulitzer prize-winning columnist of the New York Daily News, wants to play in prime time rather than dream time. “They can put me on at 5 o’clock in the morning anywhere else,” grouches Breslin, “but don’t put me on after David Brenner and Joan Rivers in New York. I have more to say to people on a street corner here than he does on his show, and she can’t even finish a sentence!” Reverting to type, the 57-year-old ink-stained kvetch struck back at TV in print. “ABC Television Network,” he trumpeted in a front-page ad in the New York Times, “your services, such as they are, will no longer be required as of 12/20/86 [the end of his 13-week contract].” Breslin, who walked away from a $15,000-a-week salary when he bought the $540 Times ad, may be the first TV star to fire a network. “I don’t think people should grovel to be on TV,” he says.
Unaccustomed to being canceled, ABC maintains that it had already decided to ax Breslin at the same time that Breslin penned his public resignation. (“What a coincidence!” says a sardonic Breslin.) ABC executives say they love the streetwise show, which was praised by TV critics. The problem, they claimed, was “clearance,” meaning that, by the time ABC informed local stations of its late-night plans, the stations had already scheduled other programs in Breslin’s planned midnight slot.
Bitter but unbowed, Breslin is back in his pre-TV element. “I can’t believe the network guys couldn’t stand up to their own stations,” he says, smoking a cigar and resting his feet on a garbage can in his paper-strewn office. “After TV, the Daily News building looks like it’s covered with ivy.”