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Fall '99: "The Mike O'Malley Show"

Mike O'Malley Cast There are always more people who claim to have been a witness to history than were actually there. How many hundreds of thousands claim to have been in the stadium when Willie Mays made his famous back-to-homeplate catch deep in centerfield? But only a few thousand were actually there.

I bring up this subject because I managed to see The Mike O'Malley Show before it was summarily executed by NBC. And while, in the future, as many people will mock The Mike O'Malley Show as mock Gil Gerard's ill-fated E.A.R.T.H. Force and the poor, unlamented Costello, the truth remains that nobody watched it.

Except me.

But I come to bury The Mike O'Malley Show, not to praise it. And so let the record show that while Mike O'Malley, the erstwhile Rick of a series of ads for ESPN.com, was apparently an egomaniac who assaulted his writing staff with a Jerry Maguire-esque mission statement detailing the important moral value system that drove his character, he really wasn't too awful an actor.

It's true. O'Malley was fairly bland, but not altogether awful. Nor were his co-stars, except perhaps for Mark Rosenthal, who played an annoying fellow named -- appropriately enough -- Weasel.

The show's premise was fairly generic: a thirtysomething guy's guy who likes to watch sports and stuff tries to grow up a little. And wackiness ensues. Not the most cringe-inducing concept in the world.

And yet, Mike O'Malley has ridden off into the sunset. And as a witness to the debacle, I've been called upon to tell you why.

Two reasons. One, based merely on theory. The other, on my eyewitness testimony.

Reason one: Who the hell is Mike O'Malley? Why would anyone watch a show named after a guy nobody's ever heard of? Of course, counteracting this theory is the success of The Drew Carey Show. And surveying the scene, we have to also accept that there are very few creatively named series on the tube this year. Maybe they should've called The Mike O'Malley Show something like Here and Again. Or Mike and Again, maybe.

That leaves me with reason two: the show wasn't funny. Yes, it had a cast of not-awful actors. Yes, it had a not-awful premise. There was just one problem: this was one of the least funny shows I've ever seen. It wasn't full of lame jokes that made me weep and wish for death. It wasn't laden with slapstick bits that were old hat before vaudeville.

It had nothing. It was a comedy vacuum. Nothing funny, nothing really trying to be funny. Nothing at all. There was some drama -- Mike's attempting to get back together with his ex-girlfriend Shawna (Missy Yager). And there was plenty of Mike annoyingly talking directly to me, through the camera. But comedy? Pfft.

Trust me on this one: at least when you watch Veronica's Closet -- oh, come on, at least a few of you must've left the set on between Friends and ER last year -- you can take some gruesome pleasure in watching the carnage, just as if you were watching a horrible traffic accident.

There is -- sorry, was -- no such pleasure in The Mike O'Malley Show. Watching it was like staring into the abyss. I'd rather turn the set off and stare into the dying phosphor glow, and I'm guessing that's what everyone else who watched the first (and penultimate) installment of The Mike O'Malley Show thought.

But in death, at least Mike O'Malley provided us all with one more laugh than the entire run of his show did: "I always wanted to be No. 1, and now I can say I am: No. 1 to be canceled!"

And on that note, Mike O'Malley exited the network stage. A moment of silence, please.


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