MADtv: 1995-2009

“MADtv,” the televised sketch comedy extension of Mad Magazine that failed to become a cultural touchstone for any given demographic in this country and was rarely worth more than one or two chuckles, has been canceled after fourteen seasons by host network FOX. The final episode will air sometime next year.

I remember it was a pretty big deal when “MADtv” debuted back in 1995. It was the first comedy show to go head-to-head with “Saturday Night Live” since the late seventies, I think. “SNL” was in a pretty bad way that year and it seemed completely possible the creaky old NBC warhorse could be dethroned by whatever Mad had to offer. I have to admit I was a little worried. Then “MADtv” aired and the stench was fouler than pigeon taint. America weighed their options and collectively said, “You know what? That Will Ferrell guy is funnier than this. Let’s stick with ‘SNL.'”

“MADtv” hung in there, though, just barely retaining its status as Royal Crown to “SNL’s” Coke. How they did it with such consistently weak and obvious writing I’ll never know. I think it’s very telling that the biggest star in the show’s history, Artie Lange, broke out only because his pal (and “SNL” alum) Norm MacDonald mentioned Lange’s epic cocaine addiction on “The Howard Stern Show.” As someone famous once said about Johnny Thunders, you’re supposed to get famous and then become a junkie. Of course [pick your own joke here],

A) if Artie had stayed on “MADtv,” fame would have never entered into the equation.

B) I’d probably be hitting the nose candy pretty hard myself if I was trapped on my generation’s equivalent of “Friday’s.”

I’m knocking “MADtv” pretty hard here, but the truth is some very talented people passed through its ranks over the years. I’m talking about folks like Orlando Jones (hilarious in Evolution), David Herman (hilarious in Office Space), Nicole Sullivan (cute and funny on “King Of Queens”), and Jeff Richards (his Letterman impression = orgasm). Fun people, but I defy you to think of a single friggin’ skit any of these jokers appeared in during their tenure on “MADtv.” No, none of them were Ms. Swan. Sorry, you fail, which actually means “MADtv” fails. Fourteen seasons of the weakest sauce ever.

No one had “MADtv” in the death pool, but I assure you everyone playing wanted it to die.

Prediction: FOX will fill the gap in their Saturday night schedule now with “Bones” reruns.

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