15 August 2005 | dgrahamwatson
You cannot be serious!
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 tiresome.
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!?