‘Wayans,’ ‘Vibe’ ready to join latenight fray

After months of talking up their new talkshows, the time has come for Keenen Ivory Wayans and Chris Spencer to just do it.

Today marks the debut of the competing syndie latenight strips, “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show” from Disney’s Buena Vista TV and “Vibe,” hosted by Spencer, from Columbia TriStar TV Distribution.

Both studios are investing tens of millions of dollars in a bid to give urban Generation Xers — a demographic group increasingly hard for advertisers to find in latenight — a hip-hop alternative to NBC’s Jay Leno and CBS’ David Letterman. And Fox’s Twentieth TV is right behind BVTV and CTTD with plans to launch a latenight talker with NBA legend Earvin (Magic) Johnson early next year.

With so many similarities between “Wayans” and “Vibe” — both are fronted by black comedians, both promise to be hipper than Dave and Jay and both hosts even sport goatees — the nightly guest lineup is likely to be the distinguishing factor for viewers.

It would seem all roads to disaffected Gen-Xers run through Samuel L. Jackson, the one thesp known to be booked for both shows.

“Vibe’s” debut-week guests also include Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Jimmy Smits, rappers LL Cool J and Blackstreet, “Moesha’s” Brandy and “Vibe” visionary/executive producer Quincy Jones, who patterned the show after his monthly music mag of the same name.

Wayans’ invite list includes Babyface, Salma Hayek, Pamela Lee, Jada Pinkett, Brendan Fraser and the musical acts Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony, En Vogue and Foo Fighters.

And what’s Magic Johnson gonna do while his syndie rivals duke it out in the dog days of August? On Thursday, he’s going to Burbank to appear on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

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