Twentieth pulls plug on ‘Magic’

Johnson-hosted talker lasts eight weeks

The shot clock has officially run out on “The Magic Hour.”

Fox’s Twentieth TV has pulled the plug on its latenight syndie talkshow fronted by NBA great Earvin (Magic) Johnson. Hourlong strip has been plagued by low ratings and bad reviews since its June 8 debut.

In confirming the cancellation, Twentieth execs acknowledged that many “Magic” affiliate stations were preparing to banish the show to graveyard timeslots, which spurred the decision to end the show’s two-month run. The final original episode was taped Thursday; reruns will air through early September.

“We had our shot,” said Twentieth prexy Rick Jacobson. “That’s the nature of this business — you step up to the plate and take your chance. We still think (“Magic”) was a pretty good bet, but the show wasn’t generating the ratings needed to support this kind of show.”

Twentieth is said to have lost at least $10 million on the development and eight weeks of production of “Magic.” The entertainment wing of Magic Johnson Enterprises still has an overall movie and TV deal with the studio.

“I’m blessed to have had this opportunity,” said Johnson in a statement. “I’ve learned a lot from this experience. We were improving with each day, but this is television, and shows are canceled all the time for one reason or another.”

“Magic’s” demise follows closely on the heels of two other failed syndie latenighters targeting the same young, urban demo: Columbia TriStar’s “Vibe” and Buena Vista TV’s “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show.” Losses for the respective studios on those shows, both of which lasted longer than “Magic,” were understood to be north of $15 million.

Each of the three shows bowed with respectable ratings, but the opening night interest never held up. To Jacobson and other syndie biz observers, the steep fall-off indicates that there is a demand for an alternative to David Letterman and Jay Leno in latenight, but the TV biz just hasn’t come up with the right vehicle.

“The viewers came to the party, but we just couldn’t sustain it,” Jacobson said. “There’s still an audience out there that is not being programmed to, and this business is all about giving the audience what they want.”

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