FX will go live this week for the return of Russell Brand’s late-night talk show, BrandX with Russell Brand.
It’s the fourth format for BrandX in its fourth different “season” since June. Almost as if FX executives keep saying to Russell Brand, “We like you. We just don’t like your show. Try again. Keep coming back! It works if you can only just figure out how to work it.” Not that that’s surprising. In person, Brand is an imposing, charming presence with a colorful gift for gab. Why not put a camera on him and let him talk? If only it were that simple…And so they go back to the drawing board again and again.
Which isn’t all that surprising, either.
Just ask the Brits. In September 2006, Brand broke out from behind Big Brother chat to host his own comedy talker on the UK’s E4 called Russell Brand’s Got Issues. After seven episodes of poor ratings, that show overhauled and begat The Russell Brand Show on Channel 4, where it debuted in November 2006 and lasted another five episodes, this time with more proper guests, a comedy sketch and a musical guest.
Cut to 2012. The setting: FX.
BrandX with Russell Brand, TAKE ONE
- Debuted June 2012 as a half-hour chat show, taped on location wherever Russell Brand happened to be that week. There appeared to be little to no structure or direction, other than: Here is Russell Brand with opinions on current events, over there somewhere is a policy wonk named Matt Stoller who will just-the-facts-ma’am you to sleep, and if you’re in the audience, be ready for Brand to launch into your lap when the riffing stops and the crowd work begins.
BrandX with Russell Brand, TAKE TWO
- Just before the sixth episode aired on Aug. 2, 2012, FX announced it had ordered seven additional episodes, with FX President John Landgraf saying, “Russell Brand is an extraordinary comedic talent — inventive, ambitious and fearless — and we are thrilled to continue our association with him, as well as his partners Troy Miller and Nik Linnen.” At the time, FX described the show thusly: “BrandX features Brand’s unvarnished, unfiltered take on current events, politics and pop culture. The format draws heavily on Brand’s interaction with that audience.” But the seven-episode pick-up came with additional instructions: Give Brand a desk and a more “traditional” talk-show format.
- By Episode 11, (Nov. 8, 2012, with William Shatner as guest), the format had evolved to include a talk show that looked like any other staged backdrop with desk and guest chair. Oh, sure, Brand emerged via a slightly separate stage area that jutted out into the audience with a mic stand, but Jay Leno has a separate staging area to stand for his monologue, too. Even so, Brand still immediately launched into crowd work with a female audience member in the front row. After a couple of topical jokes, it was time for a segment called “Totally Unacceptable Opinion,” which introduces a person with said opinion, who’ll then be surprised by Brand with an in-your-face counter-argument. In this case, ’twas a woman who wants to deport illegal immigrants, confronted with a group of illegals from Central America, wearing Halloween masks and interviewed beside Brand’s desk by a translator. As a segue, Brand says: “Now it’s time on this increasingly unusual television program type ‘thing’…”
BrandX with Russell Brand, TAKE THREE
- After Episode 11, FX announced that the show would run for a full hour for episodes 12-13. Whitney Cummings guested on the penultimate episode; Sarah Silverman and Daniel Pinchbeck on the final taped hour-long episode. Watch episodes 12 and 13 of BrandX with Russell Brand on FX.
BrandX with Russell Brand, TAKE FOUR
- FX announced on Nov. 27, 2012, following the airing of Episode 13, that BrandX would return on Feb. 7, 2013, in the hourlong format. Nick Grad, executive VP of original programming for FX, said then: “Russell’s irrepressible energy and unique style have made BrandX a daring show where anything can happen.” And last month, FX made further steps to ensure anything could happen by announcing the next 13 episodes of the show will air live.
At least that’s the plan.
TAKE FIVE could turn it into a sketch comedy series. TAKE SIX could spin it into viral videos. TAKE SEVEN could follow the Bravo! route and have Brand do quarterly stand-up specials instead of talk shows, a la Kathy Griffin. TAKE EIGHT could send Brand to space.
Please send Russell Brand to outer space.
What’s your guess as to where BrandX goes from here? Where would you like it go?