TV Review: ‘The Kilborn File’ Looks Paper Thin

Not that anybody was pleading for it, but Craig Kilborn — who once followed David Letterman on CBS and once hosted “The Daily Show” — is back with a half-hour syndicated talk/comedy program, which premiered Monday (6/28) on the Fox stations.

The years, however, haven’t done much to deepen or improve Kilborn’s act. Indeed, the premiere featured a collection of stale one-liners in a protracted at-the-desk headlines-type segment, followed by a “power panel” with a couple of guests, before a celebrity interview (he kicked off with Jeff Foxworthy) that closed with his “Five Questions” bit.

The opening, alas, was extremely stiff, and felt more so because the show’s title kept flashing by between every joke, eliminating any sense of rhythm. The format made it feel like they were culling out the best gags, which only made you wonder how bad the stuff on the cutting-room floor must have been.

With plenty of time to prepare, the best Kilborn could do was go after Al Gore for the flimsy-sounding National Enquirer story about him allegedly making unwanted advances to a massage therapist. Kilborn called the lack of formal charges a “rare double happy ending,” exhibiting the narrow frat-boy humor that characterized his undistinguished stint at CBS.

Kilborn’s “sidekick,” Christine Lakin, appeared for all of about 12 seconds, which, again, was sort of embarrassing. Martin Mull and “Family Guy’s” Seth MacFarlane rounded out the program, and given the initial reliance on Fox talent (Foxworthy hosts “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”), one suspects they’ll be down to hosting the grips on “House” by about episode nine.

Mostly, Kilborn’s maiden voyage renewed one’s sense of appreciation for Jon Stewart, who succeeded him on “The Daily Show” and could be seen later in the evening engaging in an amusing yet substantive interview with White House advisor David Axelrod. The two shows neatly juxtaposed Kilborn’s limitations — and how “TDS” has blossomed under Stewart’s, er, stewardship.

KTTV in Los Angeles is running Kilborn at a funky hour, scheduling the show at 6:30 p.m. — following “TMZ” and before rerun sitcoms. In light of the shortage of people who have successfully fronted a weekday strip, it’s understandable why 20th Century Fox TV would take a stab with the host. After the premiere, though — which presumably should have been front-loaded with as much good stuff as possible — the rest of the crowded latenight field would appear to have little to worry about in regard to “The Kilborn File” sawing into their turf.

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