Craig Kilborn Is ... Back?S

Fourteen years after leaving ESPN to launch The Daily Show, Craig Kilborn is now hosting a show that looks suspiciously like The Daily Show. Only, you know, before it was popular or had an attractive time slot.

Kilborn, as you probably know, left The Daily Show in 1999 to take over CBS's Late Late Show, which was often guest-hosted by Jon Stewart. While Kilby did a serviceable job in the 12:30 a.m. dead zone, Stewart took over TDS, transformed it into a cultural juggernaut and became America's most trusted newsman. In 2004, Kilborn left TV again to wander Hollywood casting offices for six years, and now he's back hosting a talk show that airs at 7:00 p.m. on seven Fox affiliates. Is that progress?

I missed the debut episode, but judging from the online clips I've seen, it appears to an all-too familiar mixture of fake news and Martin Mull cameos. The set is almost identical to Kilborn's CBS gig, but instead of his traditional "Five Questions," he's turned the middle of his show into Around The Horn. He also uses the same visual joke twice in 30 seconds. Stick with the classics, I guess.

It's understandable that Kilborn would want to go back to the style and medium that made him famous. He has a certain knack for the pompous, but lovable a-hole character. But his return to this format simply shows how limited his range is—and how much better all his previous shows became after he left them. He isn't coming full circle—he's working backwards, folding his career in on itself like some bizarre TV hosting palindrome. At this rate, he'll be leading a highlight show on FSN Arizona around 2014.

Eh, what the heck. I'll probably watch it.

FOX: The Kilborn File