Just because someone is good at something, doesn't mean they are good at everything. You wouldn't ask David Letterman to play point guard. Yet someone at Fox decided Magic Johnson would be a good host for a talk show. The man played in nine NBA final series, but America never saw him visibly nervous until he was delivering a nightly monologue and interviewing stars of the era like Dan Cortese. "The Magic Hour" was a favorite target for Howard Stern and his still-over-the-airwaves talk show. Magic the basketball great would have blocked it out and stunned the crowd, but Magic the talk show host with desperately low ratings had no choice but to invite Stern on his show for a calamity of a publicity stunt.
For a brief period in the summer of 2002, comedian Zach Galifianakis's late-night program combined the traditional talk-show format with the absurdity of his stand-up to create a unique kind of variety program that at times managed to subvert the entire talk-show genre itself. Needless to say, it didn't last long on VH1, who would soon see the untapped potential in filming Hulk Hogan purchase tampons for his daughter. "Late World," which incorporated many of Galifianakis's performance trademarks (non-sequiturs, deadpan deliveries, piano playing, the elderly), predicted the comedian's more-recent work, including the warped Adult Swim program "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!," and a beloved Kanye West video set on a farm.
As the short-lived Fox dramas "Tru" Calling and New "Amsterdam" both illustrate, pun-based titles are often harbingers of a doomed show. And when that pun is based on the dad from Growing Pains, it doesn't exactly restore confidence. In addition to Thicke of the Night's regrettable title, host Alan Thicke's wholesome national persona didn't cross-over well into the relatively edgier realm of after-hours programming. This was Mr.Seaver, for Christ's sake! The father who once scolded Kirk Cameron(now a Christian televangelist) for gambling! The show's guests only intensified the culture clash: A particularly off-putting segment had the overly earnest Thicke sweating through his beige tweed jacket as drag-queen Divine belted out "Born to be Cheap" in an XXL pink miniskirt.
Internet video has quickly become so comprehensive that it seems like everything, ever, is out there. So imagine our surprise when we couldn't find any footage of Dennis Rodman's short-lived Rodman World Tour online. After ebay-ing the Best Of Rodman World Tour VHS, we soon understood why. Dennis Rodman's World Tour isn't just barely a talk show, it's barely television. Despite promises of uncensored footage and aggressively shoehorning Dennis Rodman into bizarre situations (Tennis with Jon Lovitz! Poker with Frasier and someone from Melrose Place!), the show feels artificial and sterile. You're never worried that Rodman is ever going to anything more outrageous than moon the camera. For a show that debuted in just 1996, not even making it to YouTube is the ultimate mark of shame.
John McEnroe wasn't meant to a host a talk show. CNBC originally conceived the program as something closer to The Best Damn Sports Show than Conan. McEnroe would have been the sports guy on a panel with a political expert, a c-list celebrity, an entrepreneur, etc. It kept getting narrowed down until, somehow, a tennis pro most famous for his temper tantrums was delivering a nightly monologue. McEnroe certainly tried a fan of the Upright Citizen Brigade Theatere's long-running Asssscat improv show, he gave free reign to future Human Giant stars Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel. Unfortunately, after twice registering a 0.0 Nielsen rating, the show was canceled. McEnroe premiered 6 years after The Magic Hour failed,and 7 years after Rodman World Tour. We figure Tony Hawk should be M.C.ing a variety show before the end of the decade.
Before he made a fortune off of flatulence and Chris Cocker jokes with his "Scary Movie" series, Keenan Ivory Wayans ventured into late-night territory with less-than-stellar results. Even as the former host of the beloved "In Living Color" years earlier, Wayans's awkward opening monologues were just a formality to be endured until "Homey the Clown" or "Fire Martial Bill" swooped in and made us laugh our 12-year-old asses off. If Wayans was too understated, however, everything else about his talk show was gross overkill: Neon colors abounded on set, cameras tilted left and right as they swung down from the rafters, and Kenan's "all-girl punk band" was probably more detrimental to mid-'90s rock than heroin.
The seeds of Alf: The Talk Show were actually planted almost twenty years earlier on Alf: The Sitcom. In an episode so big it had to be a two-parter, Alf falls asleep and dreams of hosting The Tonight Show. In 2004 his dream became a reality (or as real as Alf gets anyway). Ed McMahon was even available to second banana. Alf was everything a talk show host needs to be charming, witty, and well-known. Sure he's a puppet, but who on TV isn't? Unfortunately, TV Land yanked the inaccurately titled Alf's Hit Talk Show off the air after an experimental seven-episode run.
You'd think years of experience as a network game-show host would prepare someone for the duties of a network talk-show host. But, as it turned out, eight years of spinning wheels and sounding out complete sentences weren't requisite training for Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak. "The Pat Sajak Show" was burdened with an ominous premiere episode featuring guest Chevy Chase, who would go on to host his own disastrous late-night program three years later, and who during the maiden broadcast solemnly admitted he pretended to be a homosexual to avoid being drafted to Vietnam. Then he asked to use the bathroom.
Imagine it's 1993, and it's your birthday. How would you like to celebrate? Whatever the answer, we doubt it would involve your mother singing "Happy Birthday"to you on national television while Chevy Chase deliberately throws a cake at your feet. But when Goldie Hawn is your mother and Chevy Chase has his own talk show, this is the Hell you get instead of a Nintendo. Chase's (totally unplaned) birthday surprise represents the utter discomfort that filled every second of The Chevy Chase Show. As host, Chase (allegedly not Hollywood's friendliest resident) comes off like a stubborn supervisor forced to make nice for the company picnic. Just watch the aforementioned on-air cake-tossing above andstay tuned for the host's impromptu dance with Hawn. He's Chevy Chase, and we're not. Thank God for that.