By Andrew Gilstrap
Once again this year, a Jimmy Kimmel Game Night Prime Time Special airs on ABC the same night as each NBA Finals game. If you’re on the East Coast, the episode airs before the game. However, where I am and on the West Coast, the show comes on about a half hour after the game ends. I have been watching these specials for the last three years, and the first time I caught it was when Jimmy introduced the world to the Pop-A-Shot prowess of Ricardo “the Busboy” (who is partly the inspiration for this blog).
Ricardo became quite the Internet sensation as he took down NBA stars in arcade basketball on Jimmy Kimmel’s NBA specials in 2010. Last year, Ricardo was only brought on the program twice, even though the Finals went seven games and Kimmel got to do seven episodes. Even with less Ricardo, Kimmel had plenty of memorable skits and guest stars to fill out the half-hour specials.
This year, through three NBA specials, there has been no sign of Pop-A-Shot and no Ricardo — with no indication that he will be in any episode during these NBA Finals. Instead, at the end of each episode, Kimmel has been bringing the guest star of the show outside to shoot an NBA-range three-pointer for the chance to win Xbox 360s for everybody in the audience.
The first run-through with this was very anticlimactic. David Spade shot and missed the three-pointer and that was it. No makeup chance. Just one shot — even though there is a whole rack of basketballs on the sideline of the court. In the second episode, Joel McHale missed his three in almost the same way Spade did. At least McHale took a few extra shots while Kimmel was signing off, and it sounded like McHale hit his third shot, judging by the crowd’s reaction. Still didn’t count as far as winning Xboxes for everyone. These first two NBA specials were quite lackluster compared to Kimmel’s past standards. In the past, sometimes these specials made for better television than the individual games they accompanied. This time, there wasn’t even a Guillermo (Kimmel’s sidekick) sighting until the second episode, and it was brief at that.
However, during the third Kimmel special, Guillermo got a whole segment to himself, and it delivered — although it probably wasn’t as funny as a similar one he did last year. Kimmel’s guest in the third episode was Tracy Morgan, whose unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness quips were quite amusing. At the end of the show, Kimmel brought Morgan outside to try a three for Xboxes again. Morgan wound up a shot with the worst shooting form of the three guests that had tried the three-pointer so far. Morgan earlier said he never even played for his high school team. (McHale had.) Yet, Morgan drained the shot, and the crowd went wild. You can see it in the video below from the JimmyKimmelLive channel. The video cuts off before the funniest part: When Morgan dances with some of the fans and they lift him up in exaltation. Kimmel’s third NBA special this season delivered, and if the episodes can keep trending up in quality — with memorable guest stars and skits — then we should be in for some more can’t-miss TV.
The fourth Kimmel Game Night Prime Time Special of the season airs tonight on ABC. Kimmel’s guests for the evening are Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis.