After seven years at Access Hollywood, Pat O'Brien has taken his hypester act over to Entertainment Tonight's new spin-off, The Insider (debuting tonight; check TV Guide listings). The professional schmoozer took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to give us the scoop on the new gig, his ugly split with Access and a certain farewell e-mail that got leaked to the New York Post.
TV Guide Online: How will The Insider be different than, say, the 78 other ET clones on the air?
Pat O'Brien: A four-letter word: Time. We'll have more time to do things. Entertainment Tonight will be the record of the day and we'll be able to fill in a lot of blanks.
TVGO: Conventional wisdom says that viewers' attention spans are decreasing, though.
O'Brien: But their appetite for celebrity news is not. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think it would work.
TVGO: What's the big "get" of the moment?
O'Brien: Everyone wants Mary-Kate and Ashley. And at the end of the day, we'll get them.
TVGO: How long until you call on your good friend Michael J. Fox for an exclusive sit-down?
O'Brien: [Laughs] That's a great f---ing question. [Pause] I'm flying to New York tonight [to interview him].
TVGO: Are you gonna hold it for sweeps?
O'Brien: [Laughs] No. Michael and I always like to do stuff together. Somehow, it always seems to time out [around sweeps], but it's not intentional. The timing [is good] right now because of the stem-cell stuff from the Republican Convention. It's not like we're pulling him out [for the premiere].
TVGO: Where do things stand between you, NBC and Access?
O'Brien: The lawsuit with NBC is completely over with. It was over with as soon as the judge figured out it was ridiculous to be suing me when I was doing 126 hours of live Olympics for NBC. It's all behind us. We're moving forward.
TVGO: And your relationship with the folks at Access?
O'Brien: Well, it's not what it was, because I think a lot of them took it personally that I left. It isn't Christmas Eve over there with them. But they're all my friends and they're still a part of a family that I cherish.
TVGO: So, set the record straight for me. Was it your decision to leave or did they drop you for Billy Bush?
O'Brien: I was not squeezed out. As Conan O'Brien said, "The Saudis did not replace me with a Bush." I left on my own.
O'Brien: It was time to change.
TVGO: How exactly did the New York Post get ahold of that rather nasty e-mail you sent to Access colleague Shaun Robinson before you left? (Excerpt: "It must be sad for you to realize that you are literally hated by most.")
O'Brien: Well, I certainly didn't leak it there. It was a pretty strong e-mail. It's how I felt. You'll have to ask the people over at Access Hollywood that. Ask Shaun. I sent it to her and nobody else. It had to leave her computer somehow.
TVGO: What was going through your mind when you saw it in the Post?
O'Brien: Well, I was a little surprised that anybody would want that out about her. But I'm over it. It was my mistake. I shouldn't have done it. I should have thought before I pushed send.
TVGO: What do you think about Mark McGrath joining Extra?
O'Brien: Well, I was [surprised] to see the promo that said, "Mark McGrath has all the connections in Hollywood and is the ultimate insider." I thought he was a rock musician. But Mark is a friend of mine and I welcome the competition. As John Kerry says, "Bring 'em on!"