The Chevy Chase Show is a short-lived late night talk show hosted by actor, comedian and Saturday Night Live alumnus Chevy Chase that aired in 1993 on Fox. The series is known for being one of the biggest failures in late-night television history, and was cancelled after five weeks (25 episodes).
Fox originally asked country musician Dolly Parton to host a new late night program — the network's first since 1987's ill-fated The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. Parton turned the network down, and suggested Chevy Chase for the job Chase reportedly signed a $3 million deal with Fox.
Just days before the show's premiere, the name of the venue where the show was recorded was changed from the Aquarius Theater to the Chevy Chase Theater, and Fox reportedly spent $1 million in renovations.
The program's lead-in featured a clay-animated Chase stealing letters to spell the name of his show from notable Los Angeles landmarks, including Mann's Chinese Theater, the Capitol Records Building. As the credits rolled at the end of each episode, Chase was seen shooting basketball at an onstage backstop.
Television critic Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the show an F letter grade, and criticized the show for having "the gall to rerun a taped comedy bit he'd aired in the first week of his show.] Tucker also noted that "the audience that fills Hollywood's new Chevy Chase Theatre has steadily turned into the worst-behaved crowd in late-night television; they hoot and yell and cheer over whatever pitiful chatter Chase is attempting to wring out of a luckless guest." TIME panned the show: "Nervous and totally at sea, Chase tried everything, succeeded at nothing." The magazine also criticized Chase for having "recycled old material shamelessly", taking pratfalls, and even pleading with the audience to stand up and dance in their seats.
Advertisers had been promised that the show would bring between five and six million viewers nightly. By contrast, Late Night with David Letterman guaranteed less than four million viewers to their advertisers.The Chevy Chase Show's actual ratings were much lower, averaging less than three million viewers. Less than two million people tuned in during the show's final weeks.
Lucie Salhany, the then-chairwoman of Fox Broadcasting, announced on October 17, 1993 that the network had decided to cancel the show "in the best interests of both its affiliated stations and its star." Salhany also spoke about his first episodes: "He was very nervous. It was uncomfortable and embarrassing to watch it.". Chase issued a statement regarding the cancellation, in which he called the talk show format ""very constraining" and promoted his upcoming flim, Cops and Robbersons.
Although Fox dropped the show after four weeks, it ran for a week after the cancellation announcement. The entire last week was dedicated to making light of the show's "success". Within 48 hours of the final show, workmen had already dismantled and painted over the Chevy Chase Theater's sign. The theater is now known as Nickelodeon on Sunset. Fox ran reruns of In Living Color in the former time slot of The Chevy Chase Show after the cancellation.
In a 2007 interview with TIME, Chase spoke of his doomed late night show, saying that it "was an entirely different concept than what was pushed on me. I would never do it again. What I wanted had a whole different feel to it, much darker and more improv. But we never got there."