E!'s Look at a Late-Night Trainee

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Is Michael Essany the new king of late night? Probably not. But that doesn't mean he won't eventually vie for Jay Leno or David Letterman's job.

E! Entertainment Television's new reality series The Michael Essany Show
is a surprisingly charming and refreshing entry to the genre. There are no cutthroat strangers eating God-knows-what to win $1 million, or disrespectful talent scouts dashing young wannabes' dreams. And no babbling, unintelligible former stars stumbling over their dog or dead husband's ashes.

Indeed, Essany, a freshman at Valparaiso University, is more coherent than the network's other reality star.

The show follows Essany as he puts together his weekly late-night style cable access show. Viewers will immediately recognize the influences of fellow Hoosier Letterman, and the scenes that include Essany's parents will immediately call to mind Dave's mom. And Essany's mannerisms are a lot like his idol (and fellow Midwesterner) Johnny Carson.

But Essany himself works the phones all week trying to book celebrities, writes his monologue and cue cards — and films the show in his parents' living room (with a strict "no shoes allowed" policy).

Essany's monologue may not be at Leno's level, but he can hold his own. And in place of a late-night orchestra leader to play off, he has best buddy and sidekick Mike Rendazzo.

The first episode gives a little background on Valparaiso's homegrown star and shows his first meeting with E!. It then tracks his attempts to land a star, eventually hooking Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child.

Essany's second installment features Tom Green — a big coup for the Valpo student — and he's happy to use the event to invite schoolmates to the taping. Green looks uncomfortable and at times comes off as a condescending jerk, but the episode does have some very funny moments — especially the look on Dad's face when Green does a spit take in the living room.

Essany may not yet be a lord of late night, but hopefully E! will let us watch him grow into the role. If you must, tune in to Anna Nicole, but definitely stay around for Essany.

The Michael Essany Show debuts on E! March 2 at 10:30 p.m.

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