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?
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.
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?
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?
[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?
[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?
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?
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?
I was not squeezed out. As Conan O'Brien said, "The Saudis did not replace me with a Bush." I left on my own.
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.")
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?
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?
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!"