Last call for 2011: Carson Daly brings in new year


Many people debate how they'll spend New Year's Eve.Carson Daly is not one of them.

For the past seven years, the MTV alum, current host of "The Voice," and star and executive producer of NBC's weeknight "Last Call With Carson Daly" has covered the traditional countdown in New York's Times Square for NBC. He'll do so again as "New Year's Eve With Carson Daly" airs Saturday, Dec. 31.

"When I got to NBC, I told them that I was just used to working that night," says Daly, who previously did such duty for MTV, "and that I wanted to get into the game there by creating and producing a special that was more about Times Square than what ABC was doing (with Dick Clark's annual special, much of which originates from Los Angeles). We've just had great success with it, and it's become a really nice piece of event television for the network and for me."

Amy Robach ("Today") and actor-comedian JB Smoove will help Daly cover the festivities, which also will involve music as well as a social media component. On-air hashtags shown during the special -- which will begin during the last hour of prime time, then resume after NBC affiliates' late local newscasts -- will encourage viewers to participate via Twitter.

"It's something we've always tried to find some way to use," Daly says. "New Year's Eve is a great time to be connected and to tell your own story. And by the time we get to the ball drop in Times Square, it's all about bringing that excitement right into your living room."

"New Year's Eve With Carson Daly" isn't the only custom television will maintain that evening. ABC continues "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest," with Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber among the performers, and a "40th Anniversary Party" for the franchise earlier in the night. And Fox stages another "New Year's Eve Live," slated to have a country-music flavor this time.Other networks will ring out 2011 with another holiday staple, the series marathon. AMC goes heavy on its hit "The Walking Dead"; Food Network offers a big menu of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"; TBS celebrates its recent addition of "The Big Bang Theory" with a feast of that sitcom; USA Network splurges on "NCIS," as it often does on weekends; and Syfy does what it usually does, showcasing Rod Serling's classic anthology "The Twilight Zone."

Back on NBC, as he does with his mix of interviews and new-artist performances on "Last Call," Daly will try to pack as much variety as possible into his New Year's gala. "That's kind of the fun of producing the show," he reasons. "It's really a pop-culture reflection, so we get into politics a little bit, but we also like to have fun. We really are able to do it all."

Energizing as it may be to stage a New Year's Eve bash, Daly admits it has added much activity to an already busy holiday season that now includes his 2-year-old son. He's been taping segments for "The Voice" -- which starts its second NBC season on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5 -- right up to Christmas, and he also has been doing his weekday morning Los Angeles radio show. And he's glad for it all.

"At this point, it's tradition," Daly says of his hectic year-end schedule. "For 13 out of the past 14 years, I've been in New York in Times Square, watching the ball drop. And selfishly, there's no place I'd rather be."

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