tirsdag, november 14, 2006

Who Wants to Resurrect a Career?

NBC broke out the defib pads on the primetime game show with Deal or No Deal after a welcomed lull in the genre. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had blossomed for a spell, buoyed by the spastic, sinus-challenged Regis, but a swarm of far crappier shows (for example, The Chair and The Weakest Link) extinguished the market's flame.

Perhaps that's why a cost-conscious NBC went obscure with their choice of a host on Deal or No Deal: Howie Mandel. Who could have called that one? His name wasn't even billed on the initial commercials, nor were we given a good look at him. We see the arrival of a gaudy new spectacle hosted by some Freddie Kruger-ish bald guy in a sharp suit.

The show took off. Howie's name was reborn in pop culture.

Now NBC is trying to build momentum behind a rather unthrilling show called 1 vs. 100.

The network took a similar approach to choosing a host: go for recognition, but on the cheap. POOF!! Bob Saget of Full House fame has returned from the dead.

This begs the question: Who will be dragged from the grave next? The Minnesota Indian Casino odds:

Dave Coulier, 5 – 1. Immigration is a touchy issue right now, but this Canadian is no stranger to millions of American homes. Like Saget, he’s a Full House alum, having played quipping goofball Uncle Joey. This puts him in pretty cozy company with the networks. And in a rather conservative America, the stable family-sitcom background makes him a safe choice. Plus, he may possess what we might call an all-important sense of tasteless edginess. Consider: Saget and Mandel share a rather awkward, outdated, borderline harassing sense of humor with women, which is why models and beauty pageant winners are placed on their shows. Does Coulier fit this mode? Probably. One, he’s always got extra baggage at the beltline. Male pattern fatness (MPF), you might say. Not too much, but just enough to indicate some lack of restraint. Also, the Internet rumor mill suggests that he’s the man being skewered by Alannis Morrisette in her 1995 hit “You Oughta Know.” (Note for those who know the lyrics: Do not sit in front of Coulier at the theater!) If this is true, it makes him the clear front-runner. He’s got the total package: a recognized but currently forgotten persona, a family show background, the ability to jest persistently—Hell, an entire show might be built around that “Cut! It! Out!” one-liner and scissor gesture he’s used since his Out of Control days on Nickelodeon—and the possibility of a publicly acceptable dark side.

Marc Price, 8 – 1. Here’s the real money bet, the profit potential for the savvy, serious bettor. Price played Skippy throughout the series run of Family Ties. Having played a side character, though, he’s pretty much been left behind by pop culture, though he’s certainly tried to lift himself out of Skippy’s image. He’s had a standup career, which is to say he’s done standup, including self-denigrating “I was Skippy, damn it!” humor during the 1990s on MTV’s Half-Hour Comedy Hour and most recently on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. He’s likable, and like many nerdy—or nerdy-seeming—people, he may harbor that requisite awkwardness with women.

Jason Alexander, 16 – 1. He’s got plenty of star power, and he certainly had more presence as a character on Seinfeld than Price’s Skippy on Family Ties, but Alexander has failed more than once to return. Also, his disastrous series of KFC commercials were totally mailed in. Yes, he’s desperate to remain in pop culture, and he’ll be given his chances. He’s a figure people like. But he’s so very Costanza—that Seinfeld shadow is on him, as Kramer might say, like stink on a monkey—and, again, he’s flopped in other opportunities. His odds are decent, but don’t overbet.

Steve Martin, 50 – 1. It’s highly unlikely that Martin will ever leave his film opportunities for a television gig, but he’s got the family background (Father of the Bride, Cheaper By the Dozen), crassness (The Jerk and his old standup routine), and huge star power. He’s no stranger to taking the easy money, but he does it in way that people don’t mind. He’s funny but subtle enough (these days) to be regarded as smart. He could be a Regis-like figure: a big name who steps out and launches a show, then departs when it’s clear it’s going to come off the rails.

Dennis Miller, 75 – 1. True, these odds seem a little kind, but Miller has been surprisingly able to find steady work. He’s all over the map in his political positions and references, but he’s likably unlikable, recognizable, and darkly jovial. Against him: he’s unlikably likable, we know what he’s done, and behind his humor one senses not only self-loathing but real disdain for his audience and the entertainment industry.

Yakov Smirnoff, 100 – 1
. No joke: Smirnoff is still going. What a country! He has worked steadily in Branson, Missouri—and I mean as a performer—and his Web site issues a warning about explosive laughter that may result from his dynamite Russian comedy. (This is supported by a graphic of a clueless Yakov holding a stick of dynamite and hawing as it explodes.) He’s the true steeplechase candidate. Big hurdles stand before him: one, he’s annoying by design. Two, after 20+ years of that bronchial-shattering, hard-on-the-listener jackass laugh, I question who, including Smirnoff, wants to accept the risk. Third, Vegas and Branson, while thriving, are generally locations where performers go to pasture and seed. We accept that they are there, but we accept them only if we go to them. Finally, immigrant yucks are palatable only in controlled doses: Balky on Perfect Strangers, Fez on That ‘70s Show, etc. Believe me, the Borat schtick has been more than enough for quite some time.

Dana Carvey, 125 – 1
. I’d like to limit this response to his George Bush impression: “Not gonn’ happen.” But he’s constantly fighting to get back into the spotlight, has proved remarkably formidable against our common efforts to stop it, and he’s got network connections.

Martin Short, 125 – 1. Oh, lord. These odds probably ought to be more like 35 – 1, but we can’t bring ourselves to admit that. If his Jiminy Glick character can make it to Broadway (Guh?), Short can pull this off. But with all those annoying characters in his repertoire, he’s as much a liability as Carvey. The two are really quite interchangeable.

Joe Piscopo, 150 – 1. We really ought not waste time on this, but we’re sure someone will want to post cash on the matter. We’ll take it. However, the wise bettor will recognize that rampant impressions and self-indicting coke-addict humor is the sort of thing one cannot come back from. But he’s welcome to Law & Order appearances, as is anyone willing to work for booze (I'm talking to you, Liza!).

Gallagher – 200 – 1. While putting a sledgehammer to chilled produce is less wasteful for a network than, say, giving cash to contestants, it’s just stupid, even if one of those melons is stuffed with a million dollars. Hey, wait a minute.

George Carlin, 225 – 1
. Only Dick Cheney can drop the f-bomb so frequently and maintain some support in middle America.

Chevy Chase, 500 – 1
. Forget it.
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