Unfazed by the short run of the game show the CHAIR, John McEnroe
tennis hall of famer, and all round bad boy of the mens tennis circuit
back in the early 1980's chanced his arm at the TV talk circuit by
hosting his own show on CNBC. The fact that it was titled just plainly
McENROE perhaps telegraphed how unoriginal the format was going to be.
I wonder how much thought went into that?
Obviously run on a shoe string we had the host desk, the cozy couch,
the metro sexual co host the obligatory band and some reasonable guests
but the whole format fell flat. The former world number one tennis pro
is in good company because the grave yard of TV talk show hosts include
the likes of Chevy Chase, Magic Johnson and a laundry list of others
who have come unstuck and slipped up on this show biz banana skin
finding that having a talk show is not as easy as it looks. Why did he
think he could pull it off?
To be fair to McEnroe, he had enthusiasm, energy (although nervous
energy) and seemed to enjoy himself but it still lacked any real zing.
McEnroe himself is used to doing live TV but the fact of the matter he
is much more suited to radio than TV. He is by far the best play by
play tennis commentator in the business, although an NBC commentator
for TV it's very much like radio because you mostly here is voice. His
measured and cool headed commentary for tennis as well as his after
dinner speaking style is unsuited to talk unless you are a natural
comedian; McEnroe can be a wise guy but he is not a natural comedian
and after a while his clumsy style of trying to be funny become
He does not have the physical presence nor is he easy on the eye to be
a TV front man. But that's not just it, to be a successful talk show
host the viewers have to feel comfortable with you. While the four time
US open winner is as no way as tormented, agitated and as uncomfortable
in front of the camera as he was during his playing years, despite
coaching from NBC the body language is still awkward and his fidgety
and edgy posture consequently makes the viewer uncomfortable.
Over all it looked like dinner guests around at the McEnroe residence
as the production resembled an amateur cable access show as he mumbled
his questions. Sticking a microphone under the nose of a beaten tennis
player and asking "what went wrong with your serve?" is different to
asking a guest "what inspired you to write this book"; it requires a
different approach , tone and timing.
All of the above might explain why the ratings were poor but why were
they that bad? For any body who is a tennis fan under 35 years of age
or not a fan of tennis at all they wouldn't even know who the former
three time Wimbledon champion is! But even for tennis fans above the
demographics just mentioned it's likely that many could not forgive him
for his juvenile and unsportsman like antics when he was at the top of
his game 20-25 years ago.
The trouble with McEnroe is that you either love him, hate him or don't
know who he is therefore all of this coupled with the above
observations are not exactly the ideal foundations for a successful
talk show, ---- what were NBC thinking!?
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