5 failed talk shows in late-night TV history

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 14: Howard Stern inducts Bon Jovi on stage during the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kevin Kane/Getty Images For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 14: Howard Stern inducts Bon Jovi on stage during the 33rd Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium on April 14, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kevin Kane/Getty Images For The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) /

Throughout late-night talk show history, there have been many long-running successful shows. These include The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and a few others. While these shows found great success over the years, not everyone is cut out for late-night tv. Let’s take a look at five failed late-night talk shows throughout the years.

The Magic Hour

The Magic Hour aired from June – September 1998. The show was hosted by hall of fame NCAA and NBA basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson. The show aired in syndication and had problems from the start. Magic looked nervous, stiff, uncomfortable, and overall like he just didn’t fit in the format.

At the time, the late-night talk show hosts were Letterman, Leno, Conan, and Tom Snyder. Besides Snyder, the hosts were all comedians. A big part of late-night talk shows is the monologue and keeping a consistent comedic throughout each episode. Magic was very out of his element in this category. It became apparent with consistent struggles in the show and Magic’s lack of a quick wit during interviews.

With his ongoing struggles on the show, the biggest radio show host in the country took notice. Day after day, Howard Stern would mock Magic on his radio show. With failing ratings continuing, The Magic Hour decided to bring on Howard Stern as a guest in hopes of boosting ratings.

During Stern’s guest appearance on the show, the term “shock jock” certainly applied. Howard opened his guest appearance by performing the song “Wipeout” with his band The Losers. The band replaced the frequent drum breaks throughout the song with two men farting in microphones.

Throughout the interview, Stern went on to tell the band leader Sheila E. that she needed to wear more revealing clothing, and that he was “blacker” than Magic. Stern mocked the fact that the show hired a speech coach for Magic, and made insulting comments regarding Magic contracting HIV. At one point during the interview, Stern told Magic, “At least you had fun getting AIDS”, to which Magic corrected him saying that he had HIV, not AIDS, and that nobody has fun contracting HIV. Clearly Magic had had enough of Stern because the show ended with an eight-minute performance by the band.

The show was soon canceled and went down in history as one of the most infamous failed talk shows in history. Years later Magic commented on Stern’s appearance on the show, “I wanted to say something and hit him at the same time — on-air. I was mad when they booked him, but there’s nothing you can do. When people look for ratings, this is what happens. I’ve never put myself — or HIV and AIDS, or my race — in that position again, ever again.”

Joe Buck Live

Joe Buck Live aired on HBO from June – December 2009, but only aired three episodes. The show, was hosted by sports commentator Joe Buck, his first talk show and a major departure for him out of the broadcasting booth.

The show gained infamy for its debut episode. In yet another Howard Stern connection, one of the guests on the first episode was Howard Stern’s sidekick Artie Lange. Throughout the episode, Artie told jokes that some deemed insulting and distasteful. The jokes started with Artie making a comment regarding Joe’s favorite website and carried on from there. In defense of Joe Buck, he was able to trade jokes back with Artie. But Artie dominated the appearance even commenting during the show, “you’re out of your league, Buck. Stick to play-by-play.”

After the show aired, Artie was banned by HBO Sports and received some backlash from viewers that found his appearance offensive. Joe Buck later defended Artie, admitting that he wanted Artie to “go at him,” and even wrote the foreword to Artie’s book Crash and Burn.

The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers

The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers aired from October 1986 – May 1987. At the time, a lot of drama surrounded the show. Joan Rivers had for years been a guest and guest host on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Rivers was approached by Fox to host a late-night talk show, which she accepted.

Johnny Carson was blindsided by the news that Rivers accepted the job at Fox. After hearing the news about Rivers, Carson subsequently refused her phone calls, had her banned from The Tonight Show, and never spoke to Rivers again. Joan Rivers was deeply hurt by this as she said Carson was like a father figure to her.

The show unfortunately did not achieve success. The show failed in the ratings and soon stations refused to carry the show. The show was canceled in May of 1987, less than a year after its debut.

The Chevy Chase Show

The Chevy Chase Show aired on Fox from September – October 1993 before being canceled. Chevy Chase was a major movie star during the 1980s and at one time was even deemed the heir to The Tonight Show when Carson retired. When Chevy was offered his own late-night talk show by Fox in 1993, many didn’t expect it to be the failure it would soon become. Lasting for just over a month, the show would go on to become infamous for being one of the worst talk show failures of all time.

The show lacked in style, with an odd set that included a fish tank behind Chevy’s desk. Chase lacked interviewing skills, and bits for the show just simply fell flat. The debut episode included an awkward dance on stage with Goldie Hawn that just reeked of a show lacking direction and ideas. Chevy would later comment on the show, “I would never do it again. What I wanted had a whole different feel to it, much darker and more improv. But we never got there.”

The Howard Stern Show

After The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers failed and was canceled, Fox still wanted to compete in late-night. Fox brought in Howard Stern to film a pilot episode for the network. After the pilot episode, Fox and test audiences were not sold. So, Fox asked Howard Stern to film four more test episodes! Five total test episodes were filmed and shown to focus groups and test audiences.

Unfortunately for Stern, after the feedback from these audiences and Fox, the network ultimately decided to pull the plug on the show without even airing them. These shows were never released to the public but from further reading, it sounds like the show was very similar to the later Channel 9 show that Howard Stern starred in in the early ’90s.

These were five of the infamous failed talk shows in late-night history. Of these five shows, three of them aired on Fox and three of them all had connections to Howard Stern. Maybe Fox and Howard Stern were just not cut out for late-night.