Comedy Central has been getting a lot of publicity lately for those foul-mouthed brats on "South Park." But the cable network has more than its share of problems - including trying to hold onto its non-animated personalities.
The recent announcement that Craig Kilborn, the host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," will be leaving to replace Tom Snyder as the host of CBS's "The Late Late Show" is the second such major defection, which has to trouble the folks running the cable channel.A year and a half ago, Comedy Central's most successful program was "Politically Incorrect," the five-nights-a-week talk/comedy show hosted by Bill Maher. But the producers of the show got a better offer from ABC, which took "PI" - lock, stock and barrel - directly to the broadcast network.
Comedy Central executives learned at least one lesson. The channel owns the show that replaced "PI" - the nightly news parody "The Daily Show" - so no one can take it away from them.
They do not, however, own the man who hosts the show. Thus, Craig Kilborn jumped at the chance to jump to CBS.
Whether the show can survive his defection remains to be seen. It's certainly possible, depending on who Comedy Central gets to replace him, but Kilborn is quick-witted, bright and personable.
It will be sort of like E! trying to replace Greg Kinnear when he quit "Talk Soup" to be the host of NBC's "Later." "Soup" has never been the same.
Comedy Central made much of "The Daily Show" as its "signature series" when it replaced "Politically Incorrect." But whether whoever the new host is can sign that signature as well as Kilborn remains to be seen.
Of course, if that person does turn out to be really good, who knows when a broadcast network may come knocking at his or her door?
KILBORN TO CBS: Meanwhile, the restraints of broadcast TV might be good for Kilborn, who has a tendency to go a bit too far and get a bit too raunchy on "The Daily Show."
And we can only assume that Kilborn, a former co-host of ESPN's "SportsCenter," will also be a bit more circumspect when he's giving interviews.
It was only five months ago that Comedy Central suspended him for a week for his rather impolitic comments to Esquire magazine. In the story, he called the women who work on "The Daily Show" a derogatory name and suggested that the show's female head writer, Lizz Winstead, would perform a sex act on him if he asked her to.
Kilborn said it was only a joke, but Winstead was not amused. He apologized, but she quit - and Kilborn was suspended for a week without pay.
Once upon a time, this sort of thing would have kept someone from getting a job at a major network. But in an age when the CBS-owned stations sign Howard Stern to do a Saturday late-night show, Kilborn's mistake seems relatively minor.
NOT TILL NEXT YEAR: When exactly Kilborn will replace Snyder on "The Late Late Show" - and when he'll leave "The Daily Show" - remains to be seen.
Snyder hasn't decided exactly when he'll step down, only that it will be sometime next year. His contract runs through September 1999.
Comedy Central, meanwhile, has Kilborn under contract until August 1999 - and is insisting it won't let him leave early.
Stay tuned . . .
NOT SO SIMPLE: CBS has announced that it will premiere the sitcom "The Simple Life" on Wednesday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Judith Light ("Who's the Boss?") stars as yet another Martha Stewart clone - "America's foremost authority on ways to achieve a relaxed, homespun lifestyle" despite the fact that her own life is a mess.
If you're wondering why this series debuts after the end of the May sweeps, there's a simple answer - "The Simple Life" stinks.
Off the record, one CBS exec admitted months ago that the show was produced only to fulfill a contractual commitment to "The Nanny" star Fran Drescher, whose production company is behind "The Simple Life." (Drescher also appears in the dreadful pilot.)