Letterman pal Morton added to TBS latenight talkshow

As TBS’ “Lopez Tonight” readies its shift to midnight, the yakker is undergoing an exec shakeup.

TV veteran and former “Late Night with David Letterman” exec producer Robert Morton is set to be named exec producer of “Lopez,” replacing Mike Gibbons, whose option for a second season wasn’t picked up. Jim Paratore, a principal at paraMedia and former president of “Lopez” producer Telepictures, will remain an exec producer but step away from day-to-day responsibilities.

The hourlong “Lopez” airs at 11 p.m. but will be pushed an hour later when Conan O’Brien’s new talkshow begins Nov. 8. Typically, Lopez opens each show with a monologue, partakes in sketches and a comedy bit, chats with guests, and presents a variety of bands and musicians.

Telepictures wouldn’t confirm how that might change, but there was an indication some tweaks would likely be made.

“Lopez Tonight,” which bowed last November, averages an ethnically diverse aud of 912,000 viewers. About 20% of viewers are Latino and 34% are black. To compare, “The Tonight Show With Jay

Leno” averages 4.2 million viewers while “Late Show with David Letterman” attracts 3.7 million.

Lopez, who also is a popular standup and headlined his own ABC sitcom for six seasons, gave his blessing for O’Brien to come to TBS when the former host of “The Tonight Show” was looking for a new network home following his bitter exit from NBC.

Morton began working on NBC’s “Late Night With David Letterman” as a segment producer when the show debuted in 1982 and remained with Letterman through 1996. At that time, he exited CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” as exec producer. He has also produced shows with Drew Carey, Carlos Mencia and Wayne Brady.

Sources said when Morton arrives at “Lopez,” he will take an undisclosed period of time to see what changes — in personnel and the structure of the show — may be needed.

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