McEnroe says he can be serious

Updated: January 15, 2004, 8:27 AM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Former tennis great John McEnroe -- who's done his share of shouting in the past -- will join the world of television talk this spring with a prime-time topical show on CNBC.

The network said Wednesday McEnroe's show will air at 10 p.m. EST, directly after comedian Dennis Miller's talk show, which premieres later this month.

"I never expected to be on CNBC," McEnroe told ESPN.com. "But they've shifted a little bit with Dennis and I. It's not like they're expecting me to talk about Cisco."

The combative McEnroe, known for his on-court temper tantrums during his playing days, has proven to be an adept broadcaster with wide-ranging interests, said Pamela Thomas-Graham, CNBC president.

"He's a rebel in many ways," she said. "I think that's fun for our viewers. A lot of our viewers are entrepreneurs and they like that rebellious attitude in him."

McEnroe will keep all of his broadcast commitments as a tennis commentator, and CNBC may telecast his shows on location from the sites of tennis tournaments to accommodate him, she said.

The former tennis star has tried his hand at other television ventures, notably as host of a short-lived ABC game show, "The Chair," in 2002.

"It's something that I've hoped for for a long time -- to do my own thing and do something different from the world of tennis," McEnroe said.

No word yet on whether any of his guests will be shouted down with his famous retort to a referee, "You cannot be serious!" (It was also the title of his autobiography.)

But McEnroe told ESPN.com that his analysis on tennis broadcasts have proven to tennis fans over the years that he can be taken seriously.

"We'll have some fun, but we'll be serious when it's time to be serious. I'm not going to be making jokes about health care."

Struggling CNBC, whose fortunes as a network nose-dived about the same time as the stock market, is trying to revive its prime time. CNBC runs business-oriented programming during the day but seeks a wider audience at night.

It hasn't had a signature nighttime program since Geraldo Rivera left for Fox News Channel in 2001.

Thomas-Graham said she wanted a prime-time lineup that would be "more fun" and "unpredictable."

CNBC's one-hour general newscast, with John Siegenthaler replacing Brian Williams, will air at 8 p.m. EST, followed by Miller and McEnroe. Current prime-time shows, "The Capital Report" and "Kudlow & Cramer," will be shown earlier in the day.

ESPN.com sports business writer Darren Rovell contributed to this report.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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