A paragon of interviewing skill and one of the most engaging personalities on the glitter box, Tom Snyder did much to reshape broadcasting in the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. Snyder brought his unique temperament to bear on the talk-show format, with a sharp, cutting, straight-to-the-point attitude, a wry, subversive sense of humor, and complex politics that often could not be pinpointed. All of these elements elevated programming to an entirely new sphere by adding a level of class and polish rarely seen before or since.
Born in 1936 in Milwaukee (a fact that he seldom let viewers forget), Snyder first came to national attention with his Tomorrow Show, the series that followed Carson on a nightly basis from 1973 to 1982. The program will always be remembered for its unique look. Gone was the amiable Mike Douglas style of a broad stage with guests filmed in full shot, in comfortable chairs, and beneath soft studio lighting -- Snyder replaced this with harsh, unflattering light; tight, uncomfortable close-ups; and a slightly intrusive style. He also puffed away on his cigarettes throughout interviews, lending a smoky atmosphere to the studio set -- and responded to quips and amusing stories with an abrasive, clipped laugh. All of this led The New York Times to summarize in an October 1973 headline: "NBC's Brash 'Tomorrow' Aims to Provoke." Yet those elements also kept the program on-air for nine years. The program was nothing if not colorful; Snyder's memorable guests during this period included Charles Manson, Johnny Rotten, and Wendy O. Williams. In 1982, the network's decision to shift format to a late-night variety series, Tomorrow Coast to Coast, with Snyder and Rona Barrett, proved disastrous; it obliterated ratings and brought the series tumbling down.