TV STUFF: ‘Monday Night’ Massacre

Howard Cosell, all is forgiven. Yes, we know you’re dead. And, yes, we know we ran you out of ABC’s “Monday Night Football” booth in 1983 after a little racially tinged mega-controversy. But, really. Can’t you come back?

Boomer Esiason The Cosell-less “Monday Night Football,” to tell it like you know it is, is a mess. The network late Tuesday canned commentator Boomer Esiason, the show’s director and a longtime producer. The occasion? The primetime party’s lowest-rated season ever.

Yes, the just-completed 1999 play was a fumble for ABC. The broadcast averaged a 13.7 rating. And while that was good enough to make “MNF” TV’s No. 7 show for the season-to-date, it was bad enough to make ’99 the least-watched year since the franchise launched in 1970.

Howard, what happened?

Don Ohlmeyer thinks he knows what happened. Remember him? He’s the go-go guy who produced your heyday shows in the 1970s. The old-time swinger (and O.J. Simpson crony) who retired as NBC Entertainment chief last year.

Anyway, ABC’s asking Ohlmeyer to make “Monday Night Football” a watercooler show again. Or, as the man himself put it to Daily Variety, the challenge is to “make ‘Monday Night Football’ something that has more impact than just another football game.”

Like when people used to throw bricks at the TV just so they could shut you up, Howard? Now that was impact.

You — and your vociferous vocabulary — ruled Monday nights from 1970-1983. By your side in the broadcast’s salad days? Frank Gifford (1971-1998) and “Dandy” Don Meredith (1970-73; 1977-84).

Who was this Boomer guy anyway? Some ex-jock? Why, he couldn’t even sing “Turn Out the Lights.” And, so, he’s to enjoy the third-shortest “Monday Night Football” gig ever, getting the hook after just two seasons. Only Fred Williamson (another ex-jock who lasted for a handful of pre-season games in 1974) and Joe Namath (another ex-jock who served during the 1985 season) got run faster.

For now, ABC says it plans to keep Al Michaels on play-by-play for the 2000 season. But the network says it doesn’t know who will talk beside Michaels. Hear that, Howard? Probably not.

Says Ohlmeyer: “We can’t bring Howard back from the grave.”


OH, ‘GOD’: The NBC affiliate in South Bend, Ind., has become the seventh Peacock outlet to refuse to air the animated series “God, the Devil and Bob” in its premiere, primetime time slot tonight. For those of you living in godless metropolis regions such as New York and Los Angeles, the toon will be broadcast, as planned, at 8:30 p.m. EST/PST.

ROCK ON: Cable’s FX has renewed the guy-friendly “X Show” for a second season. That’ll keep the brew-and-boxers set with their very own talk show through at least April 2001. No applause necessary.