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Is Fox taking another plunge into the late-night talk show wars? If there’s one thing that’s for certain, they don’t have much of a track record. First, they tried Johnny Carson-sub Joan Rivers in the 1980s, who not only failed, but sacrificed her relationship with the King of Late Night in the process. Then, in the 90s, they gave the 11pm slot to Chevy Chase, who’s attempt at a talk show has now become a industry byword for “disaster.” Now, the network is looking in-house for their next attempt to enter the Jay-vs-Dave battle: Sportscaster Joe Buck.
According to Broadcasting and Cable, Fox has shot a pilot featuring their lead football and baseball announcer. The plan is for him to host a half-hour, weekly talk show with incorporates comedy, interviews and a small studio audience (almost like the concept of the original Later, which was hosted by Bob Costas).
Although the show is planned to be once a week, the project shows the commitment Fox has to taking a shot at late night programming by 2009, when a huge shake-up in the after 11:30 landscape will take place. 2009 is the year when Jay Leno is “supposed” to retire from The Tonight Show, and hand the reigns over to Conan O’Brien. But if Jay won’t give up his show (which all signs are pointing to), Conan would be paid a penalty for $45M and would be free to chase a deal at another network. So even if they don’t give Joe Buck a show, they have to give the appearance that they want a late-night show, just to be a contender in a potential O’Brien sweepstakes. But if NBC can secure the both of them, Fox could always fall back on Buck.
But is Buck really a good fall back position? Admittedly, the guy isn’t known for his ability to get big laughs. The only time I can really even remember him being funny is when he said “Slama-Lama-Ding-Dong” in those Budweiser commercials. And giving a talk show to someone who’s main claim to fame is sports never goes well (Costas eventually gave up his Later slot, and we won’t even go into The Magic Hour).
So will Fox go with their golden boy Buck, who they moved their entire Fox NFL Sunday pre-game show to accommodate his play-by-play duties, or is he just a ploy to get a bigger name in late-night if things go bad in 2009 for NBC? Personally, I wouldn’t bet a buck on Buck.