There are hundreds of chat shows in the US, or seven at the very least, but back in 2011 Funny or Die and FX tried to create a new one which would be different from all of the others with the concept being that comedian Mike Mitchell has been given a chat show but he has no idea what’s going on, who the guests will be, or what the various sketches and jokes are either, though fortunately for him he’s got a team helping him out and his best friend Michael Daniel Cassidy is along for the ride as the show’s announcer.
Based on a live Upright Citizen’s Brigade show of the same name which had run for a fair while prior to the pilot being made, it looks like he’s doing it for the first time in the episode which is more than a little disingenuous. Thus when he claims “This is the most terrifying thing in my entire life” right at the beginning we know he’s lying, which isn’t a good way to start things off. After a daft bit where he’s made to sign his contract without reading it (which again is hard to believe) there’s a video clip where he’s led blindfold in to a set, and it turns out to be a porn film. Exclaiming that “This is the most awkward I’ve ever felt in my entire life”, because he seems to love variations on that phrase, he’s forced to hang around with the sometimes naked cast, run lines with them and hold the mic during a sex scene, and at the end claims that “This was the most terrifying experience of my entire life” because he sure is a repetitive chap.
Back on the set people run over to him and give him cue cards every so often and his first guest is brought out , Will Ferrell, who jokes that he has a history of being the first guest on many an unsuccessful talk show (including efforts by John McEnroe and Megan Mulley) and yep, he did it again here. Ferrell’s normally a very funny man but that’s not the case on this show, after a bit of chat about how Mitchell was an assistant on The Simpsons, doing uninteresting tech stuff, they talk about Anchorman and the following exchange was the most interesting when Mitchell asked “Did it feel good to film it?” and Ferrell replied “We had a very good time making that movie”. Dull’s not the word then, but fuck me how did this make it to air would be, er, if that was one long word at least.
After about four minutes of such tedious chat Mike’s given another card which reveals that he and Ferrell have to go out in to the studio lot and perform a physical task or Mitchell’s bed will be destroyed. So they end up searching though a massive pile of clothes looking for a matching set of pyjamas as a steam roller approaches his bed and nightstand, and because they’re rubbish (or if you’re cynical, as it makes good tv) of course the bed is crushed. It feels contrived and it’s hard to sympathise with Mitchell as he’ll be paid more than enough to get a new one anyhow (if the producer’s don’t just buy him one) and as stunt’s go it’s not exactly thrilling tv.
In another video clip Mitchell is then made to wear a blindfold again and finds himself sat next to Larry King in a restaurant, who gives him advice on how to be a great talk show host, King pretends to be Angelina Jolie and Mitchell asks him yet more weak questions, and I started wondering if he was being deliberately rubbish and there was going to be a twist at the end, but nope, that’s wasn’t the case at all as his final interview proved when he spoke to Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence has shown herself to be a fantastic guest on so many chat shows I hoped she’d swoop in and save the day, but Mitchell just complimented her a lot and as she had nothing to work with it was once again tedious.
The show ends with Mitchell being given another card to read, which is to introduce the musical guest and it turns out that it’s Mike himself, so he improvises a song where he moans about the fact that his bed was crushed, though he sings it so slowly I fell in to several comas and then came too without missing anything of interest. Then he’s handed one final card where he has to beg FX to pick up the pilot, but it’s not surprising they didn’t given how bland it all was.
The idea behind it all was that an unplanned and improvised chat show would be more interesting than the standard fare like (at the time) Letterman, Leno, Conan and Craig Ferguson, with the PR Blurb claiming that it’s all about “A nervous, apologising yet smiling host, whose charm turns the unknown into comedy” but, um, no, that’s not the even close to being true, Mitchell is vaguely likeable but he’s not funny or charming and that’s pretty damning when it comes to this kind of thing. Perhaps it would have improved as it went along, but given how long he’d been doing it for off the air I’ve my doubts, and it’s no tragedy that only one episode was ever made.
You can watch the episode on youtube here.