Back in 1998, I shared an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with Russ Bengtson, my ol’ University of Delaware chum who at the time was working as an editor at Slam Magazine. Our pad was located two flights above the Empire Wok Chinese restaurant, which meant: A) You could smell the fried rice. B) Rats. Otherwise, it was a good place to liveâ€”two studio apartments joined together, with a kitchen in the middle and a special place for Russ’ pet snake.*
Russ and I lived nicely togetherâ€”we both wrote about sports; both attended the same college; both played hoops and both collected oddball athletic items. Of all our commonalities, however, the most important was our love of the greatest TV show in the history of the universe: The Magic Hour.
For those of you wise enough to have forgotten (or lucky enough to have never known), The Magic Hour was Magic Johnson’s late-night talk show. Russ and I started watching it from Episode No. 1, and we found ourselves immediately hooked. Like seeing your grandmother in a thong, it was so incredibly awful that we … just … couldn’t … stop. The Magic Hour became a regularly scheduled part of our days. We laughed as Magic tripped over words. We giggled as, with each passing day, his guests went from good to OK to decent to obscure. We cringed as he asked questions like, “I think you’re pretty great.”
Thanks to The Magic Hour, we were able to bond and unite over the unintentional horror. Why, The Magic Hour was almost as horrific as the one other television program Russ and I watched togetherâ€”Chips ’99, the reunion special starring Erik Estrada and Larry (I Want to Fâ€¢cking Kill Erik Estrada But I Need the Work) Wilcox. It also served as a much-needed reminder that, no matter how inane TV seems to be, there’s actually some skill involved. Like, for example, one needs to simultaneously think and talk.
Uh … anyhow. This is a long way of saying that I just stopped watching Charles Barkley host SNL, because Russ isn’t around, and I’m only allowed ton witness TV this bad with my old friend.
* One summer day, I arrived home to the apartment. It was about 100 degrees, and the smell was of rotten egg. I looked around, looked around, looked around. Finally realized it was the snake, dead and roasting in its cage.