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In the weeks leading up to its debut, CNBC invested plenty of time and money to promote DENNIS MILLER as the next great political talk show. The talented Miller, not nearly the far-right fanatic some have painted him, was to bring a fresh, comedic take on the issues of the day.
Trouble is, that's not what we got.
DENNIS MILLER's biggest strength was always "The Varsity," which ate up two segments and featured authors and semi-celebs talking politics. Miller shone as the moderator, squeezing some frank and fascinating discussion out of his guests. It was like POLITICALLY CORRECT reborn, but with a conservative (and likable) host. I would have been happy had this segment taken up the entire show.
Beyond "The Varsity", Miller hosted a lighthearted take on the day's news a la Saturday NIGHT LIVE's "Weekend Update." It was generally a hit-and-miss affair, and the use of a chimp as Miller's sidekick was a complete embarrassment. (I even sent the show an e-mail explaining that chimps haven't been funny since that Clint Eastwood movie, and even then they weren't all that great). The final 10 minutes were reserved for an interview with a newsmaker, be it an athlete or musician. Boring and out of place, these segments offered nothing we hadn't seen before. The host would then conclude with one of his brief trademark rants, though they were rarely as sharp or witty as the Dennis Miller of old once spewed.
Toward the end of this low-rated program's run, its target audience -- politically-minded adults -- were further alienated by the absence of political talk. There were times when "The Varsity" would focus on sports or whatever the hell else Miller could dream up. In one episode, "The Varsity" spent two entire segments talking about women's volleyball! That's not what the target audience was interested in, and it proves that the show really didn't know what it wanted to be.
I like Dennis Miller the performer immensely. It's so refreshing to see a comedian and celebrity who isn't a raving anti-Bush zealot. I'm also disappointed this show didn't work out, but I realize it was for the best. With this experience behind him, perhaps Miller will one day resurface to bring his considerable wit and political savvy to the small screen having a better idea of what works and what doesn't.
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