The promotional video for "The Eli Manning Show" begins with an introduction: "Hi. I’m Eli Manning, professional talk show host."
It is meant to be cheeky, because, well, who would have pictured him that way when he was winning two Super Bowls as a Giants quarterback, including Manning himself? But here we are.
"I never really thought of myself having my own talk show, of sorts," Manning told Newsday. "But I never thought I’d be broadcasting ‘Monday Night Football,’ either."
About that: Three weeks ago, the notion of a show on the Giants’ YouTube channel starring the famously laconic Manning might have seemed odd.
Then he joined his older brother Peyton for an alternate telecast of ESPN’s Monday night games, and it became a hit for its casual vibe, sibling-on-sibling barbs and famous guests.
The Giants show was in the works long before that, but the ESPN one might whet appetites for Eli TV.
Now that the Monday night vehicle is on a three-week hiatus, it is even better for "The Eli Manning Show," whose eight-episode season launched on Thursday.
Pete Guelli, the Giants’ chief commercial officer, said the original idea was to use Manning’s attachment to the team and its fans on the show, "but now he’s quickly transcended that to become a national celebrity."
The launch was timed around Manning’s number retirement last Sunday, but Guelli added, "the schedule of the ‘Monday Night Football’ show worked out perfectly, because if people want to continue to get Eli-based content, they’re going to have an opportunity to get it through this platform."
The only "Eli-based content" that mattered during his 16 seasons as a Giant was what he did on the field. But upon retiring after the 2019 season, Manning was looking to further his relationship with the organization, and vice versa.
Coaching was a no-go. Manning had more interest in the business side, and the result has been a far-ranging partnership that involves leveraging his resume and goodwill with sponsors, fans and community initiatives.
"I just appreciate and respect the organization so much, and it’s such a big part of my life," Manning said, "I thought I’d love to get back and just help in different ways."
Guelli first spoke to Manning about a potential role the day he retired in January 2020. The process was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and was announced this past June.
"We quickly determined that we needed to really up our game from a fan engagement standpoint, particularly with everyone being out of the stadium for a year," Guelli said. "We really wanted to continue to be great stewards in the community, and business development was always going to be an important part of what we do. And then the content piece was going to be important."
Guelli has sought to make the Giants a more digitally focused operation, and the YouTube show is an effort to reach out to younger fans with a light touch.
As Manning said, it’s a chance to "have some fun, and get to show a little personality that I didn’t do a whole lot while I was playing football."
Manning will be joined as co-host of sorts by his close friend and former center, Shaun O’Hara. He expects his on-air chemistry with O’Hara to be like what he has with Peyton.
"It’s just a closeness where we can make fun of each other and we’re not that sensitive and we can set each other up for good stories," Manning said.
Each episode of about 20 minutes or so will be centered around a guest or guests, including celebrity Giants fans.
The premiere includes Peyton and Eli’s other brother, Cooper. "I can’t think of someone more unqualified to host a talk show," Cooper says on the show. "I mean, you basically didn’t speak until you were like 6 years old."
The bulk of the premiere is built around an in-studio chat with Eli’s former teammate Michael Strahan. "He’s got such good energy," Manning said. "If every guest were as easy as him, this would be an all-world show." (As the show signs off, Manning can be heard jokingly referencing one of Strahan’s star vehicles, saying, "It’s just like GMA!")
Other scheduled guests include Kevin Durant, the cast of the HBO show "Entourage," actors Tracy Morgan and Kate Mara and YouTube star "Deestroying."
Manning also will share behind-the-scenes snippets of his home life and is taping adventures that will be billed as "Eli’s Extras" such as a visit to a local meatball shop with O’Hara in search of the ultimate sloppy joe.
"Some of it is an interview, some of it’s a lot of fun, some of it’s we’ll be trying to create an ‘SNL’ skit of some sort, kind of create the lighter side of things," said Manning, who hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 2012.
Manning’s first media splash this season came in the form of "Eli’s Places," a college football-centric show on ESPN+ patterned on his brother’s "Peyton’s Places," both of which are produced by Peyton’s Omaha Productions.
Manning said the "Monday Night Football" show has given him valuable experience before a live camera. He said he has been pleasantly surprised by the early embrace of the show, because of how different it is.
While it might not suit an avid fan of one of the teams involved, he said, "It’s kind of for the person who says they’ll casually watch the game where you don’t really care who’s winning or you don’t even know any of the players. You just kind of want to watch it in a different way."
Manning drew added attention this past Monday for making a gesture with both middle fingers on camera — and quickly apologizing for it — when demonstrating how he used to be greeted by Eagles fans.
Did Manning’s mother, wife or three daughters have anything to say to him about the incident?
"I don’t think they stayed up to the fourth quarter," he said on Tuesday. "So I just kind of did not bring it up yet. But I’m sure that I’ll get asked about it."
Asked jokingly whether the Giants would consider dumping him over the incident, Guelli answered with a laugh, "Probably the next time I see him, I’m sure we’ll have a conversation. But Eli would have to do a lot for anything like that to ever happen. He’s built up a lot of equity here."