Many people wonder with so many late night shows, which one was the biggest misfire of all time? And many of those people would say that without a doubt, the biggest late night failure of all time has got to be The Chevy Chase Show:
So, everybody remembers where Chevy Chase got his start, on Saturday Night Live, where his biggest hit was doing Weekend Update every week for the first season and it was hilarious, it was great:
So, where did it all go wrong, I mean, you had a guy who got his start in late night television, why not give him his own talk show? What went wrong? Let’s find out…
Fox originally asked country musician Dolly Parton to host a new late night program—the network’s first since 1987’s The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. Parton turned the network down, and suggested Chase for the job. Chase reportedly signed a $3 million deal with Fox.
Days before the show’s premiere, the name of the venue where the show was recorded was changed from the Aquarius Theater to the Chevy Chase Theater, and Fox spent $1 million in renovations.
So, right off the bat, Fox, which was still an up and coming network at the time is already putting up $4 million into this trying to make it into the next late night hit.
The Chevy Chase Show was one of several talk shows that various networks put on the air after Johnny Carson retired. The show premiered a week after the first Late Show with David Letterman and a week prior to the first Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In keeping with the formula Carson and David Letterman had established, the show featured a house band that Chase called the best band in the world: the Tom Scott-led MBC Orchestra (which would later be called The Hollywood Express). Chase produced the show through his company, Cornelius Productions. The show’s set featured a tank with live fish (visible during interviews), basketball hoops, and shelves of toys.
The program’s lead-in featured a clay-animated Chase stealing letters from notable Los Angeles landmarks to spell the name of his show. As the credits rolled at the end of each episode, Chase was seen shooting basketballs at an onstage backstop.
Television critic Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the show an F. Tucker noted that “the audience that fills Hollywood’s new Chevy Chase Theatre has steadily turned into the worst-behaved crowd in late-night television; they hoot and yell and cheer over whatever pitiful chatter Chase is attempting to wring out of a luckless guest.” Time panned the show: “Nervous and totally at sea, Chase tried everything, succeeded at nothing.” The magazine criticized Chase for having “recycled old material shamelessly,” taking pratfalls, and even pleading with the audience to stand up and dance in their seats.
Advertisers had been promised that the show would bring between five and six million viewers nightly. By contrast, the Late Show with David Letterman guaranteed fewer than four million viewers to their advertisers. The Chevy Chase Show’s actual ratings were much lower, averaging fewer than three million viewers. Fewer than two million people tuned in during the show’s final weeks.
Lucie Salhany, the then-chairwoman of Fox Broadcasting, announced on October 17, 1993 that the network had decided to cancel the show “in the best interests of both its affiliated stations and its star.” Salhany spoke about Chase’s first episodes: “He was very nervous. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch it.” Chase issued a statement regarding the cancellation, in which he called the talk-show format “very constraining” and promoted his upcoming film, Cops and Robbersons. Chase had never intended the show to be a long-term series, even if it had been successful, and admitted in an interview that he would “never be tied down for five years interviewing TV personalities.”
Although Fox dropped the show after four weeks, it ran for a week after the cancellation announcement. The entire last week was dedicated to making light of the show’s “success”. Within 48 hours of the final show, workmen had already dismantled and painted over the Chevy Chase Theater’s sign. The theater is now known as Nickelodeon on Sunset. Fox ran reruns of In Living Color in the former time slot of The Chevy Chase Show after the cancellation.
In a 2007 interview with Time, Chase spoke of the show, saying that it was “an entirely different concept than what was pushed on me. I would never do it again. What I wanted had a whole different feel to it, much darker and more improv. But we never got there.” In an A&E Biography on Chase in 2009, Chase explained that because he had signed a contract with Fox, he was obligated to do the show the way the network wanted.
Fox has not attempted to air late-night network programming on weeknights since The Chevy Chase Show left the air.
In 2002 TV Guide ranked the show number 16 on its TV Guide’s 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time list.
In 2010, TV Guide Network listed the show at #16 on their list of 25 Biggest TV Blunders alongside The Megan Mullally Show.
First problem that this series had, trying to think it would have more viewers than David Letterman, who had just come off of a huge battle with NBC at the height of his popularity, and launching a new late night show to CBS that would eventually become the biggest success of the new late night shows that year. I mean, I know Fox had high expectations for this but that was their first problem right there.
Second problem, the network getting involved, nothing good ever comes from studio interference, as we’ve talked about in the past, and Fox, again, still young in its’ age thought that by taking control of the show, it would be better but nope.
Third, Chevy Chase. I know the guy made his career boom when he did Saturday Night Live but that was 18 years ago, the guy went on to become one of the biggest comedic actors of the 80s and by the 90s, his career took a huge downfall and he was just making these awful movies. He wasn’t the funnyman he was back then and that was the problem, by not letting Chevy Chase be Chevy Chase again, the show suffered. When his idea of trying to appeal to the audiences of today is to shoot a basketball from the hoop placed in every episode, that’s low.
And that brings us to the final problem with why this show failed, it was so poorly done, Chase’s staccato monologue, his way he’d talk to guests, his attempts to try to get comedy bits going, it just didn’t work. It was embarrassing, how embarrassing? Guess how long this show lasted, a year? Six months? Five weeks….that’s it, this thing lasted 5 weeks on the air. This show didn’t even air when The Simpsons were airing their Treehouse Of Horror episode for the year, that’s how long this lasted. Most late night shows are given between six months to a year to find their way, that’s why The Nightly Show lasted as long as it did because Comedy Central gave it a chance, but when a late night talk show starring Chevy Chase lasts only 5 weeks, there’s a huge problem here.
It’s so embarrassing that when Talkshow With Spike Feresten, Fox’s later attempt to create a new late night talk show franchise started its’ second season in 2007, airing on Saturday nights only, it gloated about the fact that it was Fox’s longest running late night talk show…because it got a second season…that is how low the bar is for Fox late night.
At this point, Fox should just give up on late night television because besides MADtv, none of their late night shows lasted more than three years. Chevy Chase only lasted 5 weeks and there’s a good reason why, it was shit. Plain and simple, it was just shit. It took a relatively funny guy and ruined his reputation for many, many years by not being funny, not being enjoyable and not being creative whatsoever.
Do yourself a favor folks, just don’t even bother watching The Chevy Chase Show on Youtube because it’s not even worth the watch for nostalgia’s sake…but boy did it make for a good post to talk about how bad it was.
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