After spending years hosting New Year’s bashes on MTV, Carson Daly found himself in an unusual situation as 2003 became 2004. Vacationing in St. Barts, Daly ushered in the new year without the presence of a single television camera and without the screaming hordes of New York’s Times Square. Daly missed the buzz.

“I just kept standing around looking at my watch, figuring, “When do I go live?”‘ Daly laughs. “It was really bizarre. I’m trained that night to work.”

Daly will return to the New Year’s real estate for “NBC’s New Year’s Eve with Carson Daly,” a prime-time special which will air live Friday night at 10 p.m. EST. On his MTV specials, Daly used to routinely poke fun at venerable Times Square figure Dick Clark and while he publicly professes nothing but respect for the legendary host, he clearly sees his special as a necessary alternative.

“We wanted to be a little smarter than MTV, yet cooler than Dick Clark,” he says.

Clark will be missing New Year’s Eve as he recovers from a recent stroke, but Daly has desired the real estate for some time.

“He really has had a bit of a monopoly on New Year’s Eve and it’s something that I’ve always had my eye on,” he says. “When I got to NBC, I immediately expressed that there were things at the network I wanted to do other than just develop a late night show and that included the territory of New Year’s.”

The former “Total Request Live” host will deliver an impressive line-up of musical stars, featuring performances by Avril Lavigne, Maroon 5, and Duran Duran.

Daly will also dedicate plenty of time to pleasing his NBC overlords. Donald Trump, Conan O’Brien and new “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams are just a few of the NBC personalities expected to drop by – live or, in the case of Trump, via satellite – to plug. Things won’t be dull on the Rockefeller Center set.

“The quintessential shot of the night that we’ve seen for as long as Dick’s been on the air … is just an hour or more straight of watching a million people stand around in Times Square waiting for a ball to drop,” Daly notes. “It’s obviously a historic occasion when it does and it’s kinda the money shot you want to see at 11:59 when it turns the stroke of midnight, but as far as we’re concerned, there’s still 99 percent of a television show occurring around that event.”

Daly doesn’t have any plans for the hour between when his show goes off the air and the moment the ball drops, nor does he have any ambitious plans for where this new tradition goes next.

“Our thing was basically let’s try and just hit a double,” he says. “If we can put together a fun and entertaining special this night and do OK, then we’ll talk about what the future is for this franchise the very next day.”

(c) 2004,

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AP-NY-12-29-04 1447EST

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