January 30, 2003

Jimmy Kimmel Drunk

I promised myself I wasn't going to, but after reading Carina Chocano's piece on Jimmy Kimmel Live (she's definitely worth clicking through those Benzo ads) and listening to TV Barn's Aaron Barnhart talking about it, I figured I'd check out last night's show just because I don't like myself very much. The episode was still sitting there on the Tivo, too depressed to go anywhere. "Mister, would you please watch me? Or don't, whatever." So I locked up all the sharp objects and cleaning supplies in the house and settled in.

Where to start... Well, each night so far, the show has opened with Kimmel walking down the street and directly into the studio. Genuinely nice touch. Symbolic, self-deprecating. "Look, folks, I'm just a guy they dragged in off the street!" And it's a good opportunity for sight gags. The first night, right after the Super Bowl (well, 7 freaking hours after), he stopped along the way to console a heartbroken member of the "Raider Nation." The next couple of nights also had sight gags that I can't remember off the top of my head. Good idea, though.

But last night, he just slouched down the street looking at his shoes, for all the world like any other hangdog shlub about to walk into a job he dreads. It took me almost 5 years at my last job to get that look on my face walking in, and he's there after only 4 nights. The only attempt at a joke was a "BAR CLOSED" sign next to the door.

It was all downhill from there. I keep hearing about this great writing staff he's got -- Steve O'Donnell (Letterman's original head writer), Joel Hodgson from MST3K, even the Sports Guy from ESPN.com -- but I'm not sure what they've been doing for the last six months. There's no monologue, which I guess is actually merciful. But they haven't given him much else to do at the top of the show, so he resorted to getting bombed with co-host Snoop Dogg. After showing a montage of all the "entertainment news" reports about the show getting its liquor license revoked, Kimmel brought out a quart carton that said "Goat Milk" and poured out shots of a clear liquid that made even the Dee-Oh-Double-Gizzle-for-Shizzle wince and shudder like a 16-year-old girl at her first frat party. Everything's funnier when you're drunk, right?

Then Kimmel started in on Oprah, saying he wanted to celebrate her birthday. He sent one of the crew (his uncle, I think?) out into the audience with a church basket to collect money to buy her a present from the Home Shopping Network. Kind of a funny idea, and it might have worked if the audience hadn't been dead quiet the whole time. Don't they have an APPLAUSE sign? A PLEASE LAUGH WE'RE BEGGING YOU sign?

So they collected nine dollars and some change for Oprah, and he brought up HSN on the big plasma screen behind him and dialed them up. Except when he went to put the sales clerk on speaker phone, he kept pushing the wrong button and cutting them off. He did this 3 times, switching from HSN to QVC, each time having to redial and go through the process of asking for permission to put the sales rep on the air. "Hi, I'm Jimmy Kimmel, we're doing a show, can I put you on the air?" Then he'd hang up on them, thinking they'd hung up on him. All of this on live national TV. Excruciating. He finally asked Snoop for a gun so he could shoot himself. Has there ever been a suicide on live TV? He'd had several shots of Everclear or whatever it was, so who knows if he'd have gone through with it.

He finally got through to somebody at one of the shopping networks and tried some Lettermanesque banter with her, but she was having none of it. She must have seen an episode of The Man Show. I think he ultimately succeeded in buying a few pairs of stretch pants for Oprah's birthday. Wow, Jimmy, point proven. Oprah sucks, and women who buy from and work for shopping channels are dumb. And it only took about 75 minutes, with approximately 0 laughs. All this on live TV, remember. I'm almost feeling his naked panic just typing this.

Then the night's first guest was Adam Carolla, not wearing a big sign that said NOBODY WANTS TO APPEAR ON THIS SHOW, and not having to. He bellowed out strings of words at the audience (I was starting to shut down emotionally at this point, so I can't remember the particulars), the three of them did more shots, and he and Kimmel were kind enough to repeatedly remind Snoop that he's black. Say, "desperate" and "despair" have the same Latin root, don't they? Oh, no reason.

Sweet Christ, I'm crying, I'm actually weeping with borrowed shame as I type this. So then there was a cooking segment with a very nice old lady, some sort of deep-frying expert, who Kimmel proceeded to torment. They battered up various food items and threw them in a deep fryer, Kimmel and Carrola yammering to be heard over each other the whole time. I don't know how many shots they had in them here at the 30-minute mark, but it was more than me. Anyway, they got a wristwatch from somebody in the audience and deep-fried that. Ha ha. Just chaos, and not wacky, madap chaos either. More of a please-somebody-help-them chaos.

Then Kimmel asked the woman, who was very short and squat, "How do you eat this stuff all the time and stay so thin?" That was when my sympathy for him snapped to hatred. What the fuck, Kimmel? You were lucky to get her on the show at all, you dumbass! Your first guest was Adam Carolla! Well, when he grabbed the poor woman and started kissing her full on the mouth, that's when I just had to shut it off.

(Update: I just watched 10 more minutes of it. There was this inept "ventriloquist" who spoke English as his 3rd or 4th language and couldn't possibly be funny even in his 1st, and Kimmel kept interrupting his act, and the poor dumb bastard brought everything to a dead stop to haltingly demand some respect, and under the circumstances I think he more than deserved it. I had to turn it off again at that point, but I hope the audience rushed the stage to get some of that booze before their ordeal was over. Maybe tomorrow I'll try to finish the episode and find out.)

So to recap: Live broadcast and apparently no rehearsals. AWOL writers. No ideas. No guests. Millions spent on a set with an open bar that they used for one night. Bewildered studio audience. Depressed, panicky, and now openly drunken host. The whole mess locked in a death spiral, halfway through its first week.

Chevy and Magic, a nation forgives you.

P.S. Sorry, Snoop. You did actually provide a few good moments. If the porno thing didn't hurt your career, this probably won't either.

Posted by Jim Treacher at January 30, 2003 12:48 PM