The moment that changed my mind was when host Zach Galifianakis (no, I can’t pronounce it either—it’s tough enough just to type) talked with ex-Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee on the set of his new music video. Lee, apparently, is in the midst of pulling a Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters change-up from drums to guitar for his next solo album. Striking an exaggerated that’s-so-fascinating interviewer pose, Galifianakis observed thoughtfully, “You know who couldn’t make that transition? The drummer from Def Leppard.” Lee nearly fell to the floor, too shocked to commit to a full laugh.
Making the star of the most popular home-porn bootleg video ever genuinely embarrassed—now that’s good TV.
Thing is, more people have probably seen Lee and Pamela Anderson get their freaky-freak on in that infamous tape than have ever tuned into Late World With Zach (VH1; Mondays-Fridays, midnight). The half-hour talk show launched in March with a 0.2 ratings share (around 150,000 viewers, awake or not), and Late World certainly hasn’t grown into a cult-cable quasi-hit like The Osbournes or Trading Spaces since. Hell, Emergency Vets on Animal Planet has more buzz.
At first, I paid little attention because I just assumed Late World sucked—and I have a high tolerance for TV that sucks. How did obscure stand-up comic Galifianakis, who looks like a lumberjack zonked-out on Jim Beam and Prozac and speaks like, well, a literate lumberjack zonked-out on Jim Beam and Prozac, get his own late-night show? Wasn’t Carson Daly the absolute bottom of the after-hours barrel? Did I really need another massive tool to hate before turning in and/or passing out? VH1 isn’t exactly a thriving hub of talent (I’m scowling at you, VJs Zeke “Dead From the Hair-Gel Down” Piestrup and Rachel “Anorexic Doorstop” Perry), but … this guy?
What kept me tuning in was a nightly plethora of cool, below-the-radar musical guests that rivaled even late-night hipster Conan O’Brien’s—VH1 still is, after all, more of a music channel than older sibling MTV anymore. Soon enough, however, it became apparent that “this guy” could also bring the funny, subliminally-but-savagely satirizing the self-absorbed dumbness of Hollywood and, in the throes of a very-public ratings funk, his own bosses. Instead of doing a monologue after the initial ratings and reviews (neither good) came in last month, Galifianakis performed an hysterical interpretive dance to Bowie & Queen’s “Under Pressure,” flashing hand-scrawled placards that read, “I have a show on a network … that thinks Creed is cool.” Zach and I are now forever bonded in the pure hatred of Creed—how could I have ever doubted him?
Other Late World comic moments seen by only 0.2 of the viewing public: Galifianakis pissing off irony queen Janeane Garofalo herself with a flying-camera “X-treme interview.” Asking Henry Rollins to comment on videos from J.Lo and (deliciously frequent target) Creed. Conducting bizarrely spliced “red carpet” movie-premiere interviews by the dumpsters, bottle of beer always in hand. Taping an entire show with a single person in the audience (who even left during very leave-able band Remy Zero’s performance). The bits don’t always work, but Late World’s anti-talk-show guerilla tactics beat the hell out of the celebrity staring contest of Carson Daly’s constipated Last Call, the—wait for it—Creed of late-night TV.
Is all of this wee-hours weirdness ever going to catch on, especially on a cable channel known for the unintentional comedy of Behind the Music and, uh, what? Apparently not: VH1 has informed me that Late World is now officially canceled, mere minutes after I finished writing all of this—at least watch for an appropriately gonzo farewell show sometime this week, will ya? Word has it that musical guests Creed will be garroted by a squad of Satanic midget ninjas. Oh, to dream …