Earlier this month, comedian/impressionist Frank Caliendo announced he was leaving his role at Fox NFL Sunday. Caliendo had an eight year run on the Fox pregame show after taking over from Jimmy Kimmel full time in 2003. Caliendo's Fox act was funny, don't get me wrong, but there were only so many times you could see him impersonate John Madden or Jim Rome and still be entertained. It was like watching what's left of The Office – it has its moments and reliable gags, but the prime years had well and truly passed by.
With the 2012 NFL season approaching, Fox has decided to stick with the comedy segments and name a replacement for Caliendo. The newest member of Fox's NFL pregame show is the host of this year's ESPYs, Rob Riggle. You may know Riggle from the ESPYs, but you're also just as likely to know him as that guy that has a cameo in seemingly every amusing movie or sitcom. (I'd like to tell you just how well Riggle did at the ESPYs… but… that would involve me watching the ESPYs and that just ain't happening.)
The Fox gig is another step up for Riggle, who has slowly been breaking out from ensemble cast member into more leading roles. However, I question Fox going to the comedy well once again…
Fox NFL Sunday has been at the top of the pregame shows for many years now because the main studio largely strikes the right balance. James Brown and now Curt Menefee are very good at setting up their analysts, who sometimes tell jokes and sometimes analyze. On occasion (ok, often) Fox goes too far in the yukfest direction, but the studio's chemistry from many years working together seems more natural and less forced than the competition. (Hello, CBS .) That balance is largely why Michael Strahan has fit in so well at Fox with Bradshaw, Long, and Johnson.
But really… is anyone crying out for segments with comedians making picks in football games anymore? Such an exhausting percentage of NFL pregame shows are dedicated to trying to get laughs at the expense of legitimate football analysis as it is. The collective nature of NFL pregame shows has turned Sunday morning into a cacophonous cauldron of caustic comedy. I was hoping Caliendo's departure from Fox NFL Sunday would prompt the show to go in a different, more intriguing, more footballish direction. Instead, Fox will trot out the same old formulaic act, just with different window dressing.
As far as Riggle goes, the comedian should hope his work on Fox NFL Sunday leads to a successful career like Kimmel, with Jimmy Kimmel Live joining Letterman and Leno in primetime, and not like Caliendo, who spawned the national nightmare that was Frank TV.
(H/T This Given Sunday)