That viewers will ask "Who is Spike Feresten?" is not a problem for Fox's "TalkShow with Spike Feresten" (midnight Saturday, WPGH). After all, at one time, people asked the same question about Conan O'Brien.Joe Viles/Fox
"TalkShow With Spike Feresten," a combination talk and comedy sketch show, premieres Saturday night on Fox.
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'TalkShow With Spike Feresten'
When: Midnight Saturday, WPGH
When: 10 p.m. tonight, WPGH
Like O'Brien, Feresten is a sitcom writer ("Late Night with David Letterman," "Seinfeld," including a "Soup Nazi" episode) who's trying his hand at late-night comedy. He's in the O'Brien tradition both in his background and his geeky appearance, but he also has some of the mannerisms of Jon Stewart ("The Daily Show"). His show is a similar pastiche of late-night talk show staples and styles. It all seems familiar, which isn't necessarily bad, but it makes the show somewhat stale.
In one upcoming episode, Feresten takes a warranted jab at the sad history of the Fox late-night tradition, which, aside from "Mad TV," has been littered with failures. But at the start of another episode, he plays himself in a skit as Dave Chappelle's pedicurist in South Africa. Feresten is willing to do a TV show for a fraction of the $51 million a Fox executive offers Chappelle. Then Feresten thanks viewers for "accidentally tuning into my show."
Self-deprecating humor has its place, but Feresten wallows in it a little too comfortably.
Feresten seems most at-ease in taped segments, which are also the show's strength. Whether he's a member of the "Idiot Papparazzi" (who take pictures of non-celeb look-alikes, including a large woman in a purple outfit who's mistaken for a California raisin) or just wandering the street seeking a sidekick, "TalkShow" is at its best out of the studio.
A segment on "Lot Cops" -- security guards who work at the show's studio -- is amusing in a Letterman-esque way and "How To Do Man on the Street Comedy" brings to mind sketches from "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
"TalkShow" has some funny moments, and given the recent state of "Saturday Night Live," it may be a safer comedic bet. I just hope Feresten finds his own comedic voice so "TalkShow" seems less like it's taking pages from shows that have come before.
If you miss Fox's "In Living Color," watch Showtime's "The Underground" (10 tonight), a ruder, cruder sketch comedy show that also stars Damon Wayans. Even the opening credits and modern-day fly girl dancers are reminiscent of "In Living Color."
Wayans begins the episode acting as host and proclaiming he intends to test Showtime's "No Limits" slogan. That seems to be the only good reason for one sketch, "The Real Vagina Monologues," which uses special effects to place a human mouth on a naked woman's private parts. It's not funny, but many will consider it pornographic.
And that's the biggest problem with "The Underground": It's more shocking than funny. How else to explain a skit in which a just released prison inmate does more than hit on an old lady? Or the TSA agent in a sketch who insists on testing a lactating woman's breast milk at its source?
There is some "Chappelle's Show"-style appeal in two white businessmen who use the N-word constantly in casual conversation, but didn't Chappelle already do that sketch or one thematically like it?
"The Underground" plays like a rerun, an unfunny, overly gross one at that.