×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Monday Night Football

The sword of Damocles, the biblical story of Lot and a fumble involving a player named Chew -- yes, he regurgitated the ball -- made their way into Dennis Miller's color commentary as the standup comedian began his reign of humor in the Monday Night Football announcing booth. Fellow "MNF" newcomer Dan Fouts, who had been a stiff and low-key announcer calling regional Sunday games, was stunningly effusive and articulate. As a trio, they'll need the pre-season to sharpen this return to the three-man announcing team, but for now, Fouts has a good chance to be Al Michaels' best partner yet.

With:
Announcers: Al Michaels, Dennis Miller, Dan Fouts Contestants: San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots

This review was corrected on August 1, 2000.

The sword of Damocles, the biblical story of Lot and a fumble involving a player named Chew — yes, he regurgitated the ball — made their way into Dennis Miller’s color commentary as the standup comedian began his reign of humor in the Monday Night Football announcing booth. Fellow “MNF” newcomer Dan Fouts, who had been a stiff and low-key announcer calling regional Sunday games, was stunningly effusive and articulate. As a trio, they’ll need the pre-season to sharpen this return to the three-man announcing team, but for now, Fouts has a good chance to be Al Michaels’ best partner yet.

Miller’s introduction was saved for last, as Michaels handed over the microphone to new sideline reporters Eric Dickerson and Melissa Stark and then Fouts for some pre-game analysis. Miller entered, after the first commercial break, with his tie askew and hair unkempt, announcing to the world that, to him, “it’s a game,” but he realizes viewers “take it serious.” His boothmates, though, seem to have little interest in joking with him or cutting some of the tension; they are among those who take the game seriously.

Daunted yet freewheeling with the one-liners, Miller’s jokes littered the telecast like many of the 49ers errant passes, hitting on about one good line per quarter. After discussing one player’s injury, he suggested, “I’m not sure there’s such a thing as minor groin surgery.” Later on, he took a shot at ABC for a low per diem (“I had to buy a BLT with fur pelts today”). Comparing the bewildered look of George W. Bush to the Niners’ feeble QB Gino Carmazzi, however, was genius.

Like any first-timer, Miller tried too hard at times — “(Patriots coach) Bill Belichick is wrapped tighter than an expectant father’s watch” and then later observed “he blinks as often as Clint Eastwood in a Sergio Leone movie.”

By calling a game with two teams that had sub-par seasons in 1999, it made it easy for Miller to throw more than a fair share of cliched “ifs” about what needs to happen for them to improve in 2000. Unfortunately, as the game wore on, Miller had less and less to say, choosing to bask in obscure players’ glow and offer color comments that certainly must have made viewers cringe coast to coast.

When he was hired, “MNF” producer Don Ohlmeyer lauded Miller’s football knowledge — but what that was seemed questionable, starting with a comment that several players had “comparable” statistics to Jerry Rice (?!).

Fouts, by contrast, speaks with a commanding authority, which makes Miller’s facts ‘n’ stats-based comments suffer by comparison. Fouts, too, went into the game extraordinarily prepared, and thoroughly explained what made plays work or fail.

When the conversation required an observation or prediction from Miller — he was handed the ball, for example when the discussion turned to the anticipated return of 49er running back Garrison Hearst — his tone turned unsteady and cautious. He has a long way to go before he’ll sound confident delivering football data.

At halftime, “MNF” really missed an opportunity by having Al Michaels interview Peter Jennings at the GOP’s convention rather than the acerbic Miller. Hasn’t political humor been his bread and butter for two decades?

Now in its 31st year, “MNF” continues to be expertly produced even at a remote site such as Canton, where the annual Hall of Fame game is played on a high school field. On-field microphone was up a bit too high in the mix, drowning out some of the play-by-play, but the footage supplied by the camera on a referee’s hat was stellar.

“Blow dry Teddy Koppell’s hair,” Miller said with less than 90 seconds to play, attempting to develop a sign-off that will indicate the game’s over. Who knows how long it took him to come up with that one, but it suggested he can mix the scripted with the impromptu and make it all feel natural. Check back on Sept. 4, Rams vs. Broncos, when the real season opens.

Monday Night Football

ABC; Mon. July 31; 4 p.m.

Production: Broadcast live from Canton, Ohio, by ABC Sports. Producer, Don Ohlmeyer; director, Drew Esocoff; assistant director, Brian Gordon; replay director, Chris Pfeiffer; feature producer, Derek Hastings; technical director, Joe Schiavo; production assistants, Brian Lockhart, Drew Kaliski. 3 HOURS.

Cast: Announcers: Al Michaels, Dennis Miller, Dan Fouts Contestants: San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots

More TV

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Malik Yoba to Reprise Role in 'New York Undercover' Reboot at ABC

    Malik Yoba, who starred as Detective J.C. Williams in the 90s show “New York Undercover,” is set to reprise the role in the ABC reboot, sources tell Variety. Picking up 20 years after the end of the original series, “New York Undercover” will follow detectives Nat Gilmore and Melissa Ortiz as they investigate the city’s [...]

  • Chris Burrous dead KTLA anchor

    KTLA Anchor Chris Burrous' Cause of Death Released

    An investigative report on KTLA anchor Chris Burrous has determined that his cause of death was attributed to methamphetamine toxicity, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. Burrous, 43, was found unconscious at a motel in Glendale, Calif on December 27, and later died at the hospital. The death has been ruled as accidental. [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER: Rabbit in the

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of Feb. 11: 'Masked Singer' Easily Tops Competition

    Fox’s “The Masked Singer” was the highest-rated broadcast show of the week in both Live+Same Day and Live+3. For the week of Feb. 11, the unscripted singing competition series went from a 2.4 rating in adults 18-49 to a 3.4, a rise of 42%. In total viewers, the show went from 7.8 million viewers to [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Josh Cooke Castle Rock

    Josh Cooke Joins Katey Sagal in ABC Comedy Pilot 'Nana'

    Josh Cooke has been cast in a lead role in the ABC hybrid comedy pilot “Nana” opposite Katey Sagal, Variety has learned. Cooke will play Alex, a fire chief in Indianapolis who is a newly widowed single father of two girls. It’s clear that he is in over his head with the girls, but he [...]

  • Maggie Lawson

    Maggie Lawson to Star in Fox Comedy Pilot 'Geniuses'

    Maggie Lawson has been cast in one of the lead roles of the Fox multi-camera comedy pilot “Geniuses,” Variety has learned. The pilot follows a blue-collar couple in South Jersey trying to get by and raise four kids, three of whom just happen to be certified geniuses. Lon Zimmet will write and executive produce. Lawson will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content