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On January 26, 2003, ABC trotted out a new late-night show for the 12:05 am to 1:05 am time slot featuring a former Comedy Central host. Still skewering pop culture with ease, Jimmy Kimmel Live is going strong on the network years later. Below is The Hollywood Reporter’s first review of the show’s debut:
After Sunday, more people are going to take newsman Ted Koppel seriously. Koppel warned viewers that his program was being pre-empted so that ABC could bring “this piece of garbage.” What followed, the premiere of Jimmy Kimmel Live, was the clearest explanation yet as to why ABC went all out to lure Dave Letterman.
You expect that with any show, particularly one broadcast live, there are going to be little glitches and technical flubs, and in that respect, Kimmel didn’t disappoint. What is harder to overlook, though, was the aimlessness of the entire production, the disorganization of the host and the overall lack of anything remotely resembling humor.
ABC picked Kimmel, former host of the jiggle-and-giggle Man Show on Comedy Central, to distinguish itself from the established leaders, Jay Leno and Letterman. Not only would Kimmel be aiming for a younger demo, he would be doing the show live (at least in the East and Midwest) from Hollywood’s ornate El Capitan Entertainment Centre before an audience treated to an open bar.
Also unique was the concept of a guest co-host who would stay with the show for a full week. First up was rapper Snoop Dogg, whose initial awkwardness eventually faded, giving way to gratuitous grins, handshakes and the occasional trite comment.
“I notice you’re off marijuana,” Kimmel said to Snoop Dogg. “Why did you decide to do that?”
Snoop Dogg never answered the question, but in light of his lack of wit or charm, it certainly seemed worth asking. The rapper did manage, on three occasions, to trigger an ABC logo from censors, which nearly kept viewers from seeing the middle finger he extended each time.
It’s been reported that Kimmel has a budget for writers, but nothing in the premiere indicated any had been hired. Three taped pieces of comments at the Super Bowl by Arnold Schwarzenegger looked as though they had been picked up from the Entertainment Tonight cutting-room floor.
Even worse was the repeated display of a picture of exec producer Daniel Kellison, seen with a woman riding on his shoulders. Kimmel used the photo as a running gag, except he ran it into the ground. Finally, even Kellison had enough and, during one of six commercial breaks, mercifully took the photo away.
Kimmel’s first guest was George Clooney, A-list actor and director of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Obligatory clips of the film were followed by, well, nothing. Clearly in over his head as an interviewer, Kimmel seemed utterly unprepared to ask anything of any interest.
More and more, the show began to look like beer commercial outtakes, with one guest after another smiling and shaking hands and saying absolutely nothing of consequence. The impression became more solidified following the arrival of Warren Sapp of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an affable guest with an infectious smile and little to say.
Without substantial and rapid improvement, a lot of viewers are going to find themselves missing Bill Maher or, for that matter, even Chevy Chase. — Barry Garron
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