'The Chevy Chase Show' Turns 20: Anatomy of a Late-Night Disaster
Chevy Chase hosting Fox's 'The Chevy Chase Show' in 1993 (Everett Collection)
1993 was a great year for late-night television: In the span of a few weeks at the end of summer, "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" debuted. Both shows would last for years ("Late Show" is still going), and the two hosts are revered as comedy kings.
But there was a third new late-night program at the time. "The Chevy Chase Show" premiered 20 years ago: September 7, 1993, on Fox. Many people (including Chase himself) would like to forget it ever existed, since it was the worst TV talk show in the history of everything.
Consider that Chase wasn't even Fox's first choice as host; they wanted Dolly Parton, but she declined. The scrappy young network was trying to get in the late-night game during a turbulent period — Jay Leno had taken over "The Tonight Show" the year before, after which Letterman moved to CBS.
Fox tapped Chase, paid him $3 million, spent money on renovating a theater in Los Angeles, and plastered giant posters of the former "Saturday Night Live" player everywhere. The network also promised advertisers over five million viewers per episode.
Yeah, that was a big mistake. The show ended up averaging less than three million viewers.
Entertainment Weekly gave the show an F, saying it "managed only to give vulgarity a bad name." Time magazine said, "Nervous and totally at sea, Chase tried everything, succeeded at nothing."
That's almost being kind.
As seen in these clips, Chase (a notoriously difficult performer) is clearly inept at interviewing guests, like Goldie Hawn in the first episode:
If the interview was bad, Chase's "dancing" afterward was even more excruciating: