Alec Baldwin interviewed "Empire" star Taraji P. Henson on the...

Alec Baldwin interviewed "Empire" star Taraji P. Henson on the first night of his ABC talk show. Credit: ABC / Heidi Gutman

"The Alec Baldwin Show," WABC/7, Sunday, 10

WHAT IT'S ABOUT On the first edition Sunday of his prime-time ABC talk show, Alec Baldwin interviewed Robert De Niro and Taraji P. Henson.

MY SAY If "The Alec Baldwin Show" was on at 2 in the morning on Sundance, it would be the perfect nightcap, largely because it would put you to sleep. But on ABC Sundays at 10, where we usually meet great-looking TV doctors promising to save the world (or at least the hospital), or a pair of cops who finally chase down that terrorist, this new show is more like a duck waddling through the Times Square subway station at rush hour.

Baldwin is a convivial interviewer who can think on his feet, or sitting down, and we know this largely from his WNYC podcast, "Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin." But here's the thing with "The Alec Baldwin Show": It's gaseous, wordy and self-congratulatory and almost entirely unnecessary. Another interview with Robert De Niro — a sphinx of a subject on his best days — where he's told, "Your career is indelible, it lives forever . . . the goal in life is to give one performance, a great performance in a great movie, and you've done many of them. Do you have real pride about that?"

On the premiere, Baldwin and De Niro eventually got around to the subject that really exercises them these days — the guy in the White House — but even their dudgeon on this evergreen gripe seemed "low" as opposed to "high."

Baldwin: "I wanted to be the liberal that could throw a punch. It hasn't always gone the way I hoped it would go."

Then he asked De Niro "what's changed" about his newfound activism. (Recall, although not mentioned here for some reason, De Niro's bleeped outburst at the Tony Awards.)

But before De Niro could get around to an answer, the host was just getting warmed up with his question. He talked about how his good friend "Lorne Michaels" had asked him to play Trump on "SNL" and that it would just be for a little while because of course Trump would never win the election, and how Trump was a "drive-by presence" at all the A-list parties Baldwin went to, and . . .

During this question/soliloquy, the thought began as a hint, then became a little more persistent, and finally, the full-blown revelation arrived: "The Alec Baldwin Show" is about Alec Baldwin. The guests are props for his observations and worldviews, or foils for stories about his brilliant career.

You also wondered at moments (I did) how much he knew about his second guest, Henson. "We watched a bit of 'Empire,' " he ventured, then later asked, "Did you go to college?" A glance at her CV when he was in makeup would have revealed she went to Howard University. 

OK, enough of this rant. Baldwin can be congenial company, and he is a particularly good raconteur. The best part of this hour was an illustrated storyboard sequence of Baldwin recalling a Danny Aiello meltdown in Paris, which was both funny and in Technicolor.

But if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then — well — "The Alec Baldwin Show" is a duck.

A sitting one.

BOTTOM LINE Soporific.

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