Alec Baldwin is one of those actors whose filmography ranges from the iconic to the downright embarrassing, but nobody can deny that he approaches his projects with an endearing earnestness. His foray into the world of talk shows is similar, but his lack of any particular skill at interviewing results in a rather awkward, hopelessly tedious piece of television.
“The Alec Baldwin Show” carries a sense of nostalgia and simplicity. Stylized like a slightly more upscale version of a public access talk show, the combination of muted colors, a jazzy intro theme and a lack of a studio audience allows the focus to solely center on Baldwin and his guest. However, this setup hinges almost completely upon the interviewer’s skill and charisma, and while Baldwin may possess the latter, his first two interviews do not display the former.
Robert de Niro (“The Wizard of Lies”) joins Baldwin as his first subject, a move which may just cloud Baldwin’s true capabalities. De Niro, while amiable, rarely offers more than a terse response or anecdote. Baldwin takes up the majority of the conversation with personal recollections about de Niro or his own career, trying to steer a conversation about the finer points of acting with a legendary actor. However, his questions are never quite pointed enough to draw an insightful response from de Niro. For the most part, de Niro simply affirms comments Baldwin makes about his own career, and the conversation never quite kicks off. The two men obviously share common experiences, from growing up and living in New York for decades and having prolific careers, but either their chemistry does not translate well to TV or Baldwin acts much too stilted, preventing a natural conversation between two friends.
Baldwin’s second guest, Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), could not be more different. She is effervescent, witty and at times more adept at steering the interview than Baldwin himself. In short, she is an interviewer’s dream, and a more adept one such as Graham Norton would be able to bounce off her energy easily. Baldwin attempts to stick too closely to a script, which robs the interview of its full potential. The entire first half is spent discussing Henson’s early life and how she became interested in acting as a career. While Henson is enthusiastic throughout, Baldwin never capitalizes on Henson’s tangents and stories to create a more intimate conversation. Even worse, Baldwin’s approach ends up making the interview more informational than anecdotal, which may have been more valuable before the internet age, but is not the type of interview that people want to see when biographical details are so easily searchable.
“The Alec Baldwin Show” is clearly an homage to the type of talk shows that Baldwin may have watched growing up, but his attempt in replicating them falls incredibly flat. At least in the first episode, Baldwin is unable to create a rapport with both of his guests, which combined with the simplistic setup, leads to an unremarkable show.