Like ventriloquists and jugglers, impressionists are a TV rarity that get too little respect (yes, I like ventriloquists), so let’s hear it for Frank Caliendo, one of the most deft and wide-ranging impersonators since the heyday of Rich Little. The problem with Caliendo’s talent, however, is that, as a novelty act, a little of him goes a long way. And way before the premiere of Frank TV, we already had much too much of his (uncanny) John Madden impersonation in what seems like a gazillion TV spots.
On Frank TV, which will have an abbreviated five-episode run due to the writers’ strike, he stands on a set decorated like a living room for no apparent reason, and invites an audience member on stage to be the night’s cohost (again, not a funny idea, so…why?). Frank introduces taped bits starring Frank: Frank doing the entire Seinfeld cast in a faux reunion special (his Jerry is shrill but his Michael Richards is aces); Frank doing George Bush, giving his daughter Jenna advice on her wedding day. Frank/Bush leaves to let Frank/Dick Cheney enter, and the sketch falls apart: jokes like ”I will always be here for you, unless my heart explodes” just bomb.
In fact, when he comes back from the Bush sketch, Caliendo’s cohost can barely muster a smile. You end up feeling sorry for Frank. He seems like a nice guy, not an egomaniac, but building a whole series around himself is just too much. Oh, yeah — he does too much John Madden here, too. C