Update… I found the entire Kevin Spacey Charlie Rose show that I mention later in the article. Thank goodness for Google Video
I was flipping through the channels last night after watching the replay of the “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” episodes that were on, and I happened to somehow, get stuck on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. I’ve only watched the show a few times; once cause they were going to have a fictional character from the LOST universe on, someone that isn’t on the series, nor ever mentioned, save for the peripheral websites that are part of the LOST story machine, and I wanted to see how they were going to pull it off. I also think the segments where they show TV clips but bleep out words to make things sound dirty is clever and entertaining.
What kept me watching, though, was the fact that they had an animal trainer on the show. Having an animal guy on is usually a sign that they’re hard-up for guests, but these segments are always incredibly entertaining, especially Jack Hanna when he’s on Letterman, or on the old Tonight Show. This is mostly because they bring on exotic animals and kinda let them roam around, and you can see all the madcap antics that they get into, and the host usually gets all flustered. The thing is, they’re usually relegated to the middle of show, to bridge the gap between the top guest and the musical act, and in this case the animal guy was the first guest. I figured that they must’ve been really strapped for celebs because it’s the middle of summer, and it’s the Jimmy Kimmel show, so I didn’t think much of it.
So this guy brings out some vulture of some sort and he’s showing off, there was probably another animal in there somewhere but I got up to do something or another. Next thing I know, they’re bringing out this huge crate with a blanket over it, and there’s a guy who has one of those long sticks with the ring on it that dog catchers use on TV shows to catch dogs…. kinda looks like that women’s hair tool they used to advertise called the topsy-twirl or something. Anyway, they take the top off, and there is this ENORMOUS snake in it. I have no idea why they’d ever take the top off, even if they had it around the collar thing, because it was freakin pissed off. It was moving around in attack mode, and it started letting out this loud rattling noise. You and I know that when a snake does that, you back away and probably run, because it’s just like MR. T saying “Don’t mess with me, FOO”, and giving you that glare; you want to have nothing to do with it. I guess Jimmy Kimmel, though, doesn’t know, because he moved closer to the snake, but still behind his desk, and said “what does that sound mean?”, and as he was asking it, the snake, as fast as lightning, springs at him and bites his hand. There’s a whole lot of cursing, and they bring out the trained EMT crew. The audience doesn’t know what to think. Everyone’s treating this totally seriously, and I’m thinking that at any minute they could show that this whole thing is a joke. But they bring out the stretcher, put Kimmel on it, and give him an oxygen mask, and wheel him out to the ambulance. The whole time he’s cursing and pissed off, and everyone is genuinely concerned, especially the audience. The cameras are shooting in a plausible manner, with what would be a wireless steadycam operator following him out, and they fade to black as the segment ends. You can watch the video here
And I’m sitting there wondering whether what I saw was real, or some Andy Kaufman-esque joke. Completely stunned. When they come back from break, it’s obvious that this new section has been planned because of the way the camera is cutting means it would’ve been pre-taped and edited together later, his sweat from the fever is terribly fake looking, and not only has the band followed him to the room, but they also brought their instruments for some reason. Yes, that’s right; Jimmy’s going to do the rest of the show from his hospital bed. In fact, his first guest is some supporting role on Grey’s Anatomy, and is dressed in full doctor scrubs, and the audience seems to have re-appeared once into the conversation, and they’re laughing. Jimmy and the guy have a terrible interview, where they spend the entire thing talking about how he went to Hawaii and a Don Ho concert, and then finish with him cattle-roping the Mexican guy that Kimmel keeps around for laughs.
The next guest also is from Grey’s Anatomy, and I realize that this must’ve been after the season finale. They have an even worse interview which causes me to leave the room, but leave the sound up in case something interesting does happen. And it sort of does. You see, “hidden” the whole time via hospital curtain is Jimmy’s roommate, and coincidentally, the musical guest, Ben Lee, an Australian guy who’s got some fun songs and has been on tour and put out an EP with Ben Folds. Somehow I’ve actually managed to see him twice, once opening for Folds, and once opening for a They Might Be Giants free show at Cornell. Anyway, he plays his semi-hit, “Catch my Disease” (HA! It’s a hospital. Get it?!”) from his hospital bed, and then they reveal that it’s on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack which you can buy at Jimmykimmel.com or some similar website.
I turned it off after that, but according to the wikipedia page, the snake actually talked over the end credits. No clue what it said. There’s no doubt in my mind that the whole thing was planned, but how’d they know that the snake would lunge at him and not actually bite him… or did it actually bite him and they gave him the medical attention he needed? I highly doubt the second one for insurance reasons.
No doubt that this was one of the most interesting and ambitious ideas for a late-night talk show to try to pull off, at least that I’ve seen, and it seems along the lines of what I eventually wanted to do with my own college TV show back in the day, but never did. The problem was that everything after that animal/snake bite segment was incredibly awkward, unfunny, or boring…. with the exception of the musical performance, and that just seemed kinda silly. The fact that there were two distinct tones to the snake-bite segments completely threw everything off, and for as captivated as I was by the actual bite bit, the hospital bit was completely uncomfortable before the actual interviews. They were trying to make wisecracks while keeping the “this is completely serious… other than the soap-opera-style camerawork/editing” tone. Not only that, but the “jokes” were completely morbid, with one of the band guys playing the funeral song as he was walking out. That there was no audience laughter also made it weird. It’s funny how you’re annoyed by the laughing until it’s gone, and then you realize that they need it to hide how bad the show really is. I think they were just a little confused as to what direction they wanted to go with the bit and decided to split the difference, to little success.
They got the left-overs of the guests from Grey’s Anatomy too, no doubt, as all the other big stars were probably doing Leno…. maybe Letterman if they were in NY. And I understand the reasoning behind not talking exclusively about the show, because that would alienate viewers like me who could care less about Grey’s Anatomy. Here’s the thing though, if you’re gonna talk about something other than the show, at least make it interesting. Tell a funny story, a humorous observation about something. If you’re not funny, I’m sure you might have something interesting to tell about something that happened behind the scenes that people who don’t care about the show might still find interesting. If all else fails, talk about your past experiences, but make it stuff that viewers might want to listen to. I don’t care to hear a few words about how you learned how to do cattle roping, but it was more interesting than a story about how you saw Don Ho perform, or how you were on an episode of the Cosby show but have no real stories about it. If you’re gonna talk about cattle-roping tell me how you got interested in it. I think that spending five minutes on one topic is a lot more interesting than one minute each on five different topics.
Not to get off the subject too much, but the other night, I sat and watched Charlie Rose on PBS do an hour-long interview with Kevin Spacey, and was captivated the entire time by stories about where he came from and where he’s going, relationships he’s had with other celebrities, and an extensive section on the revitalizing of a theatre in London, that he’s now the artistic director of. They spent all of 4 minutes probably, talking about Superman. Now I really could care less about British theatre, and would love to hear more about Superman, but because of how much detail and how serious the conversation was, I was glued to the screen, listening about how the British theatre was different and something called a Panto, and how it’s the top money-making theatre style in England. Now, I’m not saying that Jimmy Kimmel is anywhere near the same league as Charlie Rose, or that “Random Doctor A” is as good of a storyteller as Kevin Spacey, but just pick one interesting topic and stay with it, that’s all. Heck, I saw Topher Grace spend an entire interview once talking about how great the movie “Wild Wild West” was when he wasn’t even in it and instead was supposed to be talking about some other movie he was in. It was fantastic, just because of how enthusiastic he was, and how much time they devoted to it. It wasn’t like a laundry list of you did this and this and this.
Something that also bugs me about Jimmy Kimmel Live in general is just how over-the-top this show will go to get the audience from ABC’s primetime shows. Sure, Letterman has the Survivor-types on, and Leno has probably had the Will and Grace and Friends casts on, but this is different. This is a show that went to the site of the Superbowl (Detroit) to do their show from, after the game was over (also shown on ABC). This is the show that sent Kimmel to the set of LOST during the first season to shoot a terribly unfunny segment that was actually included on the LOST Season 1 DVD. This is the show that did an entire Academy Awards show to pull from that show’s audience (also shown on ABC). This week is all shameless promotion for ESPN’s ESPY awards show. I’m reminded of the UPN 9 news teases for the nights that WWE Smackdown was on. I’ve never seen so many “news” stories that involved wrestling, backyard violence, or half-naked women, all of which, of course were held until the end of the show to make us keep watching.
But back to the topic at hand. The show really succeeded at pulling one over on us, or at least making us consider that it actually could be real. I’m still wondering how they managed to fake the snake bite part, knowing that the snake would lunge at him but not bite him, or if it actually did bite him and he just got the medical attention.
The problem was that they held on to the idea of “putting one over on us” for just a bit too long, or at least in the wrong way, resulting in a terribly confusing and awkward stretch of about five minutes. I’m sure that the interviews were no worse than other interviews on the show, especially the ones with really low-grade celebs. The inteviews are also about ten times better than Last Call with Carson Daly, a show that is so uncomfortable to watch, that it makes Kimmel look like a regular Johnny Carson, so I guess it’s not the worst thing I could be watching.
Overall, I admire the idea, and I can’t wait to see how they top it when “Snakes on a Plane” opens.
Two stars for making the snake bite segment so convincing that part of me actually believed that it could be real, and for the ingenuity to link together the animal trainer, the Grey’s Anatomy guests, and the musical act in such a creative fashion. Also I enjoyed listening to the performance at the end of the show, even if it was a bit silly. Points off for two incredibly boring interviews that actually made me get up and leave, for not making me laugh once, even on the inside, and for making the bit with him being taken into the hospital so strange and awkward, and nothing at all like the rest of the show.
Just a P.S. Now that I watched it again on youtube, I realize that it could very well not have even been a real snake, and that would be the reason that the guy had it on the stick. That guy with the stick could’ve been moving it. You tricky people you.