If nothing else, Spike Feresten has made it onto television, which didn’t look like a slam-dunk after his jaw-droppingly bad performance at Fox’s upfront presentation. Yet in completing the leap from TV writer (for “Seinfeld” and David Letterman, among others) to on-air talent a la Conan O’Brien, the nondescript Feresten sounds a bit too pleased just getting there, rifling through a weekly half-hour that’s not exactly a talkshow spoof but represents something less than a full-throated sketch comedy. If there’s a silver lining, “Talkshow” will likely make its often-overlooked lead-in, “Mad TV,” resemble “Your Show of Shows.”
Feresten keeps emphasizing he’s new to this whole TV gig, though the on-the-job training concept doesn’t necessarily prove as endearing as hoped. Perhaps that’s because he also has a rather annoying habit of laughing at his own taped pieces, which, in the two episodes previewed, account for most of the material.
On the opener, Feresten delivers a sort-of “how to” guide to conducting comedic “man on the street” interviews, then proceeds to offer a pretty lame one in the second episode, going door-to-door in the L.A. neighborhood where his show tapes seeking an in-studio sidekick. At least initially, the only modestly clever segment is “Idiot Paparazzi,” a recurring gag in which Feresten and company chase ordinary folks down the street while shouting the names of the famous. (A gnarled old woman, for example, is mistaken for Keith Richards.)
Feresten clearly has no clue how to utilize his guests, with Andy Richter doing what he can to carry his brief segment in the premiere and “24’s” Mary Lynn Rajskub sitting in the following week.
Admittedly, midnight Saturdays is a window where it’s safe to experiment, and even Feresten jokes that most of the available audience at that hour must be stoned. So he serves up a groovy video specifically for potheads, with an Abe Lincoln impersonator spouting non sequiturs.
Like most of “Talkshow,” it’s only half-baked.