What was wrong with The Chevy Chase Show?

I’m consistently amazed at what shows people have recorded and saved over the years. Old commercials for coffee, Saturday morning cartoons, and the topic of this thread: The Chevy Chase Show.

I was 11 when this show debuted (and ended), completely oblivious to most late-night programming. I never watched it when it was on, but only heard how horrendously awful it was. The fact that it was canceled after 5 weeks, on Fox no less, tells me that people really did think it stunk.

The link above is to an interview with De Niro. I don’t see anything particularly bad about this show, certainly nothing too different from the current crop of late-night antics. Was this show just too “different” for its time, or would it get the same scorn today?

one word-Chevy.

Well, given the successes of the Vacation series of movies, I’m afraid I need a little more than that :slight_smile:

Two things, Chevy Chase wasn’t comfortable in his own skin in front of a live audience and it showed and really he just isn’t very likable. And this was back in the era when Late Night Talk Shows were ratings gold and cash cows for the networks, and Chevy drew dismal ratings while competing against Arsenio, Leno and Letterman who all were successful.

Chevy exudes more smugness than charisma–his humor comes from a socially superior position, like the boss’s untouchable son-in-law–and while he was in rare form with DeNiro, he was generally not a good interviewer and not able to attract good guests on a consistent basis. He was up against Letterman at his peak form and the earliest Conan O’Brien.

Chase reportedly was sold on a darker show with more improvised content than what was delivered.

True, but it should be mentioned Arsenio was pretty much on its last legs when Chevy Chase’s show debuted. In fact, oddly enough, Chase’s show was probably partially responsible for eventually killing off Arsenio’s because most of the stations airing Arsenio (which was produced by Paramount) were Fox affiliates. When Chase’s show came on, the Fox stations were obligated to air it so they either pushed Arsenio later into the night or dropped him altogether. When Chase was canceled, many of the stations didn’t bother to return Arsenio’s show to the 11 p.m. slot so his ratings continued to dwindle until the show went off the air in 1994.

Remember, it was only a flop in this universe.

Search YouTube for some more clips. The problem wasn’t smugness or anything like that, and as a Jimmy Kimmel fan I know a show can succeed in spite of bad guests; it was just that he was very awkward as a talk show host. He stammered, and seemed very unsure of everything that came out of his mouth. I’m not sure if his “darker, more improv” show would have succeeded either, but if it were inventive, maybe people like me would have kept watching past episode 2.

For all I know, it improved in the end, but like everyone else, I wasn’t around to see it.

I only watched the first episode when it was new. I didn’t think it was all that bad, but it wasn’t very interesting, either.

He wasn’t funny in it.

I recall my parents went to see a live taping of the show (they got a sweatshirt from it, so I know I’m not hallucinating that part), and came back with the opinion that it was every bit as bad as they had heard it to be. However, I was 8 at the time, so memory may be playing tricks on me. Now I’m curious; I’ve have to ask one of them when I see them later today.

That show was so bad, I would watch (for at least a few minutes a night) just to see how much worse it could get.

I can remember the opening bit where they are outside the CHEVEY CHASE THEATRE doing concrete work and he comes walking up and I thought " he is going to fall into the concrete.

a few minutes later , surprise surprise, he fell into the wet concrete.

Then he would shoot baskets at the onstage hoops court, and that idiotic in desk keyboard, where he would play pretty much to just show off that he could play a keyboard.

As I recall (god, its like a nightmare that I can remember all this) he would have guests like the great Perry King, because nobody else would come near the show after the first few weeks.

I think I almost went into therapy because of that “show”.

Wasn’t that the show with the big fish tank on the set? And the fish all died? And the water turned to goop after a few weeks?

He debuted right when Letterman started at CBS, and when Leno took over the Tonight Show. The drama surrounding those competing shows made for more viewership.

I don’t like Chase all that much as a comedian, but I think coming on during the height of the Letterman/Leno reality drama doomed it.

If I am remembering the right show, people scorned it because it was sponsored by Doritos. It was a big sellout because a corporate sponsor was paying for a comedy show, so THE MAN would be telling Chevy what to say. Never mind that the Texaco Star Theatre, among others, was a comedy landmark. Not to say that the Chevy Chase show was a comedy landmark, but I do remember thinking, “So somebody sponsors the show? So fucking what?”

If you do ask them, please come back here and post what they said. I’m interested to hear what they specifically disliked about the show.

I was thinking about the CC Show as I was watching Craig Ferguson last night. From the clip I saw and the Wikipedia article about it, the show was supposed to be quite different from the standard late night fare, with the basketball hoop, the aquarium, and the other gimmicks. When looking at the Craig Ferguson show, I see gimmicks too, most notably the puppets in the opening segment. It seems just as reasonable that someone would say, “Puppets? On an adult talk show? Really?”, as to find gimmicks like an in-desk keyboard lame.

It depends on the host… its such a personality driven thing… Letterman bit when he was on that daytime show… I remember Springer doing a serious talk show and almost gettin cancelled before he went total gonzo… Chevy Chase’s show was UNCOMFORTABLE… He wasn’t as bad as Magic Johnson though… that THAT was truly crappy teevee… ANother funny memory… Andy Summers turning his back on Dennis Miller when Dennis was still a liberal and had a talk show… Summers was gone after the first month i think…

All I remember is that whenever he had a female guest, he would spend the entire segment staring at her breasts.

Exactly! I don’t need somebody to do what I can do myself.

As many above have pointed out, CC was uncomfortable in the role, and had no interviewing skills. Somebody forgot to tell him what every comic in the industry knows: That the best improv is what you made up the night before. I heard that he complained about not having good writers. Somebody else forgot to tell him that he didn’t have any.

Example: He was stuttering, sputtering around, and squirming around through all of his interviews. One night, when Tom Selleck was on:
Tom: yadda, yadda, yadda…I really made a mess!’
CC: squirm, scratch, mumble, sputter: “Uh, you mean…in you pants?”

As you can imagine, the ones that would appreciate this kind of humor had already been bathed, dried, and powdered by their parents before being sent to bed three hours earlier.
It was all down hill after this.
Also, at this time, CC’s kind of gimmicks were somewhat passe. Everybody knew that he was intelligent and witty, so when he showed himself unable to move forward, and too uncaring to prepare any good stuff, they were doubly insulted by his tripe.


All I remember about that show was the fish tank. Did the fish really die? I must have already given up on the show at that point.

I think there was a bit of schadenfreude involved, as Chase played many characters who were hip, sophisticated and a bit smarter than the rest of us, (I am specifically thinking of his character “Ty Webb” from Caddyshack here, but he played similar characters in other movies) so to see him crash and burn was probably on some level enjoyable to a certain segment of viewers, who maybe thought that Chase was actually like his on-screen persona in his real life…