He's been tinkering with his gameplan for the past several weeks, but the skepticism surrounding comedian Dennis Miller's schtick in the "Monday Night Football" broadcast booth might begin to fade now. After three so-so preseason games, Miller made his regular-season "MNF" debut Monday night, and today many TV critics are taking a different view of the would-be, latter-day Howard Cosell.
The consensus: He was funny, and not nearly as annoying as we thought.
"Miller refrained from too much over-the-top esoterica, picking his spots to go for laughs," writes Howard Fendrich of The Associated Press.
Miller, as everyone knows, was hired during the summer to fill a void and stir up interest in ABC's long-running sports program. But during the three exhibition games, Miller took a lot of heat for his freewheeling use of arcane jokes during the games, wherein he referenced everything and everyone from the sword of Damocles to Sylvia Plath.
Fendrich adds: "Also unlike the three preseason games, [announcer Al] Michaels and new analyst Dan Fouts refrained from giggling at each of Miller's jokes -- another improvement."
Steve Harvey, writing in the Los Angeles Times, pointed out that Miller's tenure in the booth is already more successful than that of ex-football great Fred "Hammer" Williamson, who was hired as a color analyst in 1974 but was fired before the regular season started.
Already, Harvey writes, Miller has made at least one "classic line" -- his musing as to whether the Budweiser blimp was pilot by actor Bruce Dern. "The reference was to the 1977 movie 'Black Sunday,' in which a blimp-pilot terrorist played by Dern tries to blow up the Super Bowl."
Miller may have won over the critics, but perhaps now he should beware the sponsors.