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16. The shortest lived of the shortest lived late night talk shows of the 1980s and 1990s, part 1: The Chevy Chase Show (1993)

Originally, this was supposed to be one entry just about the Chevy Chase show, which only lasted from September 7-October 18th, 1993, but when I was doing research about Chevy’s show, I began to run across other, equally horrible and short lived late night talk shows from the 80s and 90s. So now I have a series.

In the 80s and early 90s, everybody was trying to whoop Johnny Carson’s (and later Jay Leno’s and David Letterman’s) rear end: “treasured” celebrities, new guys, imports, radio hosts, stand up comedians, and basketball players. Out of all these shows from the 80s and 90s, only a few of them actually stuck:

  • The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson/Jay Leno
  • David Letterman (NBC/CBS)
  • Late Night With Conan O’Brien
  • Arsenio Hall 
  • Later with Bob Costas/Greg Kinnear
  • The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder/Craig Kilborn
  • The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn/Jon Stewart

Ok, enough pining over the good shows (ok ok, maybe not Leno, ok except for when he brings out the funny misprints, but come on, he doesn’t write that, people send that stuff in), let’s bring out the trainwrecks. The trainwrecks so awful you have to look, and then rewind the video and watch on YouTube 12 more times at your cubicle. 

Trainwreck Number One: The Chevy Chase Show (September 7-October 18, 1993), FOX

While some may automatically associate “bad talk show” with Chevy’s show, and consider it the OG of bad talk shows,  it was actually one of the last late night tv show failures of the 80s and 90s.

In 1992 into 1993, there was a shake up in late night television, with Johnny Carson retiring, and Jay Leno getting The Tonight Show hosting job instead of David Letterman. Dave got mad, jumped ship to CBS, an unknown named Conan came to NBC, and I assume FOX thought “well, we’ll get a big name to beat Jay, and Dave, and make people go ‘Conan, who?’” (which back then people were doing anyway, but I digress). 

FOX had tried their own late night show, The Late Show in 1987, with Joan Rivers, and then after she was fired for low ratings1 several hosts sat in the chair, including Arsenio. However, that show was canceled in 1988, and replaced with a show that was more horrible than The Late Show , The Wilton North Report (which I’ll bring up at a later time). 

After late night failure after late night failure, FOX no longer had any plans for a late night show, until 1993, when the network hired Chevy Chase, whose star was slowly beginning to fall at this time. Early articles about the new show seemed to believe that Chevy’s show was just going to be like his Saturday Night Live days. Chevy was also trying to convince television critics during the Summer of 1993 that his show was not going to be like a regular late night talk show that reminded him of  ”one of those things that comes on in the afternoon where the underbelly of America is made to look like Middle America.”2

..what? It sounds like something this girl in my senior seminar a few years ago would say, because she was always trying to sound like a ~*special snowflake*~  all the time.

So September 7th comes along, after months of promotion. Sadly, there are not many clips of the first night of show on YouTube. Isin’t that a travesty?!?! I guess that shows how many people were not watching the show. 

This is one of two clips that of the first night that are on YouTube. Let’s analyse this:

  • What is WRONG with Goldie Hawn? Is she high? Why did she wear that?image

I mean, I know it was 1993, but still.

  • Two, why did Chevy ask such a weepy question about her kids? It’s a late night talk show, not Regis & Kathie Lee. Couldn’t the lead up just be “I hear its your son, Oliver’s birthday?”
  • It was Oliver’s seventeenth birthday, and he was dragged to the Chevy Chase show. 
  • Goldie doesn’t seem to thrilled at first have her son be shown on national television. image
  • Why was Oliver seated SO FAR AWAY FROM THE DESK? He can barely even see the set!
  • Everybody sings Happy Birthday to him? This is the first night of your show, this should not happen on the first night. Do you know how much time you are wasting, Chevy? Oh…maybe that’s why. image
  • Look at Oliver, this, this is almost like the setup to that time Lisa chewed Ralph Wiggum out on TV during the Krusty Anniversary Special. You can see the exact moment Oliver’s heart breaks in two.  image
  • Why is Chevy holding the cake like that? uh oh is this a setup to … image
  • Oh, turns out there was a real cake, and then Chevy and Goldie dance awkwardly:image
  • 'Cuz that's what you want to see on your 17th birthday, your mom dancing on tv with a washed up movie/tv star. This awkward dancing goes on for a minute, maybe longer, I fast forwarded through it. image
  • Also, the production guy just hands Oliver this huge cake. Like, what is Oliver supposed to do with the cake for the rest of the show? I’m sure Oliver got chocolate icing on his shirt the minute the guy handed him the cake.

There is one more clip from that first night, this time with Whoopi Goldberg and Goldie. No, I don’t know why Goldie has that huge bag under her chair. No, I don’t know why Chevy said, “there’s a lot of Nigress in Goldie too.” Yes, that “letters of good luck” bit was awful. 


I think its hilarious that for their first night, the show was sponsored by Ivory Clear hand soap. I guess the sponsors didn’t have faith in Chevy. You would think the big sponsor for the first night of the show would be a beer company, chips, soda, not … hand soap. 


Why does Goldie and Whoopi both look like they both left the gym? I also love the slow, sorry standing applause. 

So the next day comes along, and the reviews are scathing:

The New York Daily News:

All of it was predictable, none of it was funny, and the only surprise was how inept it was3.

The Boston Globe:

The 50-year-old Chase started off by talking to his hand, as if it were a puppet. Then the hand vomited at the thought of eating a tongue sandwich. Chase then took the stage by shooting hoops and executing a middling monologue. But when he went outside the Chevy Chase Theater to leave hand- and footprints in the pavement, he fell headfirst into a slab of wet (deep) cement. You could see it coming 4.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 5


lol, that pic, looks like his mugshot. 


Lodi News Central: 6


Six weeks in, 29 shows in, the ratings were abysmal, and on October 18th, the show was pulled, and was replaced by “In Living Color” reruns 7



Oh, Cops And Robbersons? Certified rotten by Rotten Tomatoes! 

Along with those two clips, there is a smattering of clips from the show on YouTube:

Chevy has to turn on the fountain for the Married … With Children title sequence (ok, this is a little bit funny)

Robert DeNiro interview

Chevy Chase Show with Finger Fitness

Chevy works at the wax museum — if this was shown the first night, maybe the should would’ve had better success than that damn birthday cake bit. 

The Chevy Chase Show w/ Kenny Loggins 1993 Promo

//edit, June 3, 2013//

Here is a great blog entry about the show in Splitsider’s “Brilliant and Canceled” series. 

  1. saleintothe90s posted this