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Written by: Dino “Chico” Alexander
Cedric the Entertainer has been many things in his career: a comic, an actor, a performer on stage and screen. He was also a TV host as real as his job on summer bomb “It’s Worth What?” And as staged as his job as Gus Petch in “Intolerable Cruelty”, where he promised that on his show, he’d make you laugh, he’d make you cry, and, because his character was also a divorce attorney, he’d nail your @$$.
So it was no surprise that he would one day be called.upon to host a game show in the comic forebearance of Bobby Van, Arte Johnson, and Richard Dawson. The greater of the surprises was which one he was called to host.
If the report from Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva – a reputable writer for a reputable news source – is to be believed, Cedric is to sign on to host the next season of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, taking over for a departing Meredith Vieira.
On one level, the appointment is a response to a changing industry standard brought about when Drew Carey, an affable comic scamp, took the reins of “The Price Is Right” after Bob Barker announced his retirement, a move that begat Jeff Foxworthy on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (not to mention Colin Mochrie on its Canadian counterpart), Howie Mandel on “Deal or No Deal”, Nick Cannon on “America’s Got Talent”, and Wayne Brady on “Let’s Make a Deal”. The story of Steve Harvey and the rebirth of “Family Feud” alone can be written in volumes.
Let’s take a moment for the Feud. Before the current Harvey era, it was said to be doing very well if it broke a 3.0 in the ratings. In the years since Steve took over from a departing John O’Hurley, a 4.0 or better was not just doing well for itself, it became the norm. For the first time since its return in 1999, the show has been renewed longterm, ensuring it will be on the air to 2015. One more season, and Steve Harvey would be celebrating the show’s 40th anniversary. Surely the same magic can happen at ABC Television Center for a show that, at least for the last five years, has been doing just well enough to be renewed.
On another level, it marks a bit of a return to what made “Millionaire” the hit it once was. Consider the following: Regis Philbin, who personally lobbied for the job, was a performer, an interviewer, and a genuine man of the people. Cedric, one of the “Original Kings of Comedy”, was also a man of the people and a performer, not in the same vein as Reege, but along the same lines of irreverence and self-effacing. Counter that with Meredith Vieira’s Emmy award-winning approach, which combined being a conduit between player and game and being a mama bear to a would-be millionaire. It was a role that she embraced for more than a decade, even as her schedule, and due to that, the show, started to wear thin.
Ultimately, its about three things: controlling the game, embracing the player as the star of the show, and channeling the audience. Cedric has the opportunity to do all three, and again, if reports are to be believed, the folks at 2waytraffic think he has the ability to do just that.
The game show host has been called one of the hardest undertakings in television, with everyone from newsmen and radio DJs to comical and even former game show contestants carving their own niche. If I had the chance to give Cedric any advice for his new gig, it would be the same advice that legendary Barker gave a neophyte Carey: host the show the way Cedric the Entertainer would host it. Don’t try to be Meredith or Regis or anyone else.
It’s an approach with a proven track record.
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