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Revisiting Chevy Chase's pratfall as talk show host

ABC sent Chevy Chase packing earlier this month when the network didn't give a series order to "Chev & Bev," a sitcom pilot that reunited the comedian with Beverly D'Angelo, his co-star from the 1983 hit movie "National Lampoon's Vacation." (Moviegoers can see them together when the sequel "Vacation," starring Ed Helms as their grown son, hits theaters July 29.)

The news arrives shortly before David Letterman's departure from CBS. It's the second streak of bad luck for Chase surrounding a Letterman milestone -- Chase's ill-fated late-night talk show for Fox had the misfortune of debuting just weeks after Dave's much-ballyhooed "Late Show" on CBS. Whereas Letterman's show lasted 22 years, Chase's was axed after six weeks. In case you've forgotten, let's cut to the Chase chain of events from '93.

HELLO DOLLY Fox originally approached Dolly Parton about hosting a late-night talk show, but she said no. Parton then suggested Chase, whom Fox signed to a $3 million-a-year deal.

PREPARING THE CRITICS During the television critics tour in the summer of '93, Chase told the crowd that calling his series a talk show "perturbs me." Instead, he promised more of a variety hour built around his skills as a writer, actor, comedian and musician.

OPENING NIGHT JITTERS "The Chevy Chase Show" premieres on Sept. 7, 1993, with guests Goldie Hawn and Whoopi Goldberg. Chase shot basketballs, asked probing questions ("You make so many great movies," he said to Hawn. "What keeps you going?"), invited the audience to "shake it" as he boogied across the stage and tried doing a "Nightly News Update" instead of a monologue.

THE CRITICS RAVE He's Chevy Chase, and be glad you weren't him after the nearly unanimous pans rolled on Sept. 8. Entertainment Weekly critic Ken Tucker gave the show an F and said it "managed only to give vulgarity a bad name." The Los Angeles Times was equally scathing: "With nothing clever to say, and often looking terrified, the host resorts to verbal mooning."

At least one person was kind: Newsday's Diane Werts called Chase's show "a comedy, music, pratfall, shoot-hoops, pal-around hour of breezy relaxation."

THE LAST WORD Fox announces the cancellation of "The Chevy Chase Show" on Oct. 17, 1993, after the show draws fewer than 2 million viewers in its last week. The time slot was filled by reruns of "In Living Color." The not-ready-for-late-night player blames the network's "constrained format" for the show's failure.

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