Tough case of the Mondays for fans of sports-themed comedy news programs, as Comedy Central decided not to renew either of its new series -- canceling both Sports Show with Norm Macdonald and Onion SportsDome.
I cannot say I'm surprised. More people were watching A&E's Storage Wars than they were Macdonald. And for all of the comedians I know who love Norm, none of them reside within Comedy Central's target demographic of man-boys 18-24. Besides, anyone who has been paying attention to the the basic cable network recently has known that when they like a new series, they often renew it before the initial episode order is up, touting the show's ratings in men 18-24 as proof. See: Workaholics. See: What I wrote about Workaholics getting renewed.
Macdonald, who couldn't stop abusing his Twitter feed during the U.S. Open golf tournament this weekend, hasn't commented there yet about his show's cancellation. He did, however, make a few comments to Entertainment Weekly. Among his ideas: “An Internet campaign to save the show, almost like they do with shows about witches and vampires and aliens from outer space…. Maybe I’ll call [the network] and ask them to bring it back. I’ll say, ‘Just bring it back. How much could it hurt television, really?’”
As for Onion SportsDome, which hadn't been on the air in months anyhow, its inaugural season was a joyful enough parody of ESPN's SportsCenter, but all too often had to rely on segments that didn't even cover actual sports to fill the 22-minute weekly hole. The Onion people still can feel good about themselves today, as their trumped-up bid to win an actual Pulitzer gained plenty of mainstream media attention and celebrity starpower. And the organization's other new TV show, The Onion News Network, will return for a second season this fall on IFC.
Norm Macdonald got into a weird, public discussion with Steve Martin today on Twitter, and Macdonald even told Martin via Twitter that he mentioned it to David Letterman.
Norm wasn't kidding. So to speak. He kids a lot. You know that. Here's the evidence, from tonight's Late Show with David Letterman.
Background: This is the first Tweet of Steve Martin's that Norm was reading. And this was the second one that confused him and Dave.
Eleven months after his "first actual Tweet," comedian Norm MacDonald resurfaced overnight on Twitter with a flurry of messages, jokes and non-sequiturs. He apologized for his spelling. And then he vanished into the night, writing:
Norm had 36,508 Twitter followers as of this writing. How long will it take to get him back with 40,000?
And will he bring @RealTracyMorgan back with him? Where did you go, Tracy? Where did you go?
Turns out Norm MacDonald is getting his own comedy talk show in addition to hosting a poker series. Double down on Norm!
Comedy Central announced today it's picking up Sports Show with Norm MacDonald with an initial eight-episode order. The new series is slated to begin production this month with an April premiere.
Format? Taped in front of a live studio audience, MacDonald will deliver his own take on the top stories in sports. Think of his tenure on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update desk during the 1990s, but focused solely on sports in 2011.
"Norm has the uncanny ability to say what I didn't even realize I was thinking," said Comedy Central's Kent Alterman.
"I'm excited and look forward to doing this series," said MacDonald. "On this show, we plan to put the central back in Comedy Central."
You'll also see a new one-hour special out of him, called "Norm MacDonald: Me Doing Stand-Up," next month on Comedy Central, premiering March 12.
Related: Here's a clip from way back in 1998, when MacDonald hosted the ESPYs. Don't hold back!
Norm MacDonald will be returning to your TV dial this month, but not in a sitcom nor in a "reality" show. Nope. Norm's the new host of GSN's High Stakes Poker, which opens its seventh season on Feb. 26. And you can see MacDonald and the poker action from the Bellagio in Vegas in 3D if you have DirecTV. Bonus?
MacDonald is just the latest comedian to join the ranks of the Game Show Network.
Sherri Shepard is hosting The Newlywed Game these days.
Drew Carey's Improv-A-Gaza (Don't call it Whose Line is it Anyway?!) debuts on GSN on March 28.
Larry Miller hosts Late Night Liars with a bunch of puppets on Friday nights.
Bill Engvall, meanwhile, will take over from Chuck Woolery as the host of Lingo when it returns with new episodes in June.
At the TCA tour this summer, FX's TV programmers spoke highly of two of its comedy pilots but did not announce their additions to the schedule. They rectified that last night, officially ordering 13 episodes of Louis CK's Louie, plus six episodes of The League.
Louis CK said on his site that he was "very, very excited" to get going on the 12 eps to follow the pilot. "This show is insanely fun. I'm starring in it, writing, directing and editing it. The show will be shot in New York City, my home," he wrote overnight. It'll be a mix of stand-up and offstage, revolving around his own life as a stand-up comic and single dad with two daughters, with "extended vignettes" as Variety reports depicting scenes from his life. The one vignette that already has been described in the trades -- about chaperoning a field trip -- already has been a staple of his stand-up act this year. But as he pointed out when he filmed the pilot, "I do some standup on the show and some of it is in narrative film form and some of it gets weird. It's kind of hard to describe. It doesn't follow the pattern of any show I've seen. It's not like Seinfeld or Pulp Comics." We'll all get to see what it is in early 2010.
As for The League, it does have some links to Seinfeld, sort of. It's created by Jeff and Jackie Marcus Schaffer, who have ties to Curb Your Enthusiasm, which like The League, is going to be semi-scripted, and the rest improvised, revolving around a fantasy football league. The cast includes Mark Duplass, Steve Rannazzisi, Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer, Jon Lajoie, Leslie Bibb, Katie Aselton and Nadine Velazquez. It'll arrive later this fall, not only to get on the air during football season, but also to pair up with FX's first successful sitcom, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Reading the trades (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter), however, it struck me as a little more than odd that no mention whatsoever was made of Norm MacDonald's show that he thought was sure to go on FX. The THR piece, in fact, said that FX had ordered series from all three of of its pilots. So where did that leave Norm? Did he get pranked, or was he pranking us?
But that's not all. FX also is continuing to order up additional half-hour comedy projects. So there's still a chance for either and/or both Louis and Norm to get their shots. The latest to hit the net's pilot pipeline: The League, a semi-scripted comedy (a la Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which plot outlines include room for improv) about a group of guys in a fantasy football league, starring Mark Duplass with a cast that includes Nick Kroll, Paul Scheer and Jon Lajoie. The Archer pilot reportedly showed up for FX to watch a month ago, so it looks as though they move pretty quick over there. We could know a lot more about the net's fall/winter primetime comedy outlook before long.
When cable network FX announced its fall 2009 slate this week, it said it planned to pair another new comedy with the return of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in the 10 o'clock hour come Sept. 17. But it didn't say what that comedy would be?! That's a curious move. But let's look at what we know. Norm MacDonald had told a Milwaukee reporter this summer that he already was filming a faux-reality show for FX, and even said the network was looking for a companion piece to Sunny, noting: "I really like FX a lot; they don't give you very many notes or anything. So they're finally going to let me do something I want to do. It's called "The Norm MacDonald Reality Show." But when TV Squad asked FX last night about this, they said, nope, not it. So, what then? We do know that Louis CK filmed scenes just last week for an FX comedy pilot, and revealed that he would find out an answer within weeks. Some Sunny fans also hold out hope that the Sunny creators other FOX pilot, Boldly Going Nowhere, might in fact be going to FX. And then there's Terriers, which is a dramedy from Shawn Ryan (FX's critically acclaimed The Shield) about a cop who has become a private investigator, and the pilot for that won't even be filmed until August. Reading between the lines, it appears that FX execs are waiting to see the footage from all of these shows before weighing in with a final decision. But that also doesn't give any of them much time to move forward on a series. So. What gives? And why can't FX bring both Norm and Louis back to TV? If they could only pick one, who would you pick?
The 34th season of Saturday Night Live certainly brought a lot of buzz and attention back to the show, and Lorne Michaels and company celebrated the end of that year with a bang that included plenty of starpower and nostalgia, plus a heavily implied farewell to Darrell Hammond, who completed his record thirteenth season as a cast member by returning for multiple sketches. We got to see Hammond reprise Dick Cheney and Sean Connery one last time on the show, and it's only surprising that we didn't get to also see him pull out his Donald Trump as well -- considering how much Trump was in the news with a certain Miss California (who could have been played by newbie Abby Elliott). But with star and SNL veteran Will Ferrell hosting, we saw just how much Ferrell mattered to the show earlier this decade, as he dominated the finale's proceedings from beginning to end. Even with all of the celebrity cameos and returning SNLers. Did I mention them yet? OK. We saw (take a deep breath now): Tom Hanks, Norm MacDonald, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Anne Hathaway, Paul Rudd, Elisabeth Moss and Artie Lange. With all of this happening, the current cast had much less on their plates to worry about. Good? Bad? It'll almost all make sense soon enough.
But first, a cold open from an NBC studio, and in the makeup chair getting ready for Meet the Press is one disgraced newly former VP Dick Cheney (Hammond), with Abby Elliott playing the makeup specialist. Ferrell shows up as his now Tony-nominated caricature of George W. Bush, trying to surprise Cheney and confront him about his newfound desire for media attention. Surprise fails because W. whispers too loudly: "That is one of the many reason I am no friend to libraries." Zing. We get it. They also poke fun at the current administration when W. asks why Cheney couldn't have been more like VP Joe Biden, going out for burgers and saying dumb things in public to make him look smarter. W. implies he has been watching a lot of Dr. Phil with his free time this spring. An OK, utterly predictable sketch, held together by the performances of the leads.
Ferrell's monologue attempts to re-establish his cred as a dramatic actor with roots in the theater, also with predictably disastrous results. Again, it's only Ferrell's sheer persistence that sells it. "Line?"
Talk about nostalgia. Our ad spoof for the night goes deep into the vault (Season/episode #26.11) for an oldie in which Ferrell sells his services as Wade Blasingame, Esq., attorney at law. Blasingame has sued more than 2,000 dogs. Because would you let a human do the things dogs get away with every day? Chris Parnell simulates the dog in scenes with Hammond, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, Tracy Morgan and Horatio Sanz. If you want to look for such things, you might even notice that the way Ferrell, in particular, delivers his lines can suggest that SNL knew how to deliver lines awkwardly before a certain Tim & Eric came along (instead of the other way around). Anyhow.
In case you missed it last night, Norm MacDonald had quite the rambling chat session with David Letterman. Really. It was all over the map. But Letterman finally got what he wanted in the end, giggling throughout MacDonald's story about Bob Uecker seeing John Fogarty. Apparently, Uecker must not be that much of a f---ing fan of "Centerfield" after all.
In small storytelling doses such as this edited clip, MacDonald shines. But I wonder what a full stand-up set from him would be like these days. Maybe I'll have to drop in at Carolines this weekend and find out.
After the jump: Clips from Norm MacDonald's brilliant anti-roast roast of Bob Saget last year...