Let Me Be Frank About Frank Caliendo

There's a new show coming to late night TV featuring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, John Madden, Dr. Phil and President George W. Bush.

But despite this dizzying array of celebrities and personalities, there is only one star on this show: Frank Caliendo. The up-and-coming comic is the host and sole performer on a new show called, aptly enough, Frank TV.

If you watched any of the baseball playoffs a few weeks ago, you probably saw an ad or two (or twenty) for the show. Caliendo is a former MADtv performer who has gained fame recently doing bits on Late Night with David Letterman. He's an impressionist, and a damn good one. On MADtv he pioneered spot-on impersonations of John Madden and Al Pacino. Now, with his own show, he's branching out to include everyone I mentioned above and then some.

He's good. Really good. I mean, he's Rich Little good. There's just one problem. And there's no easy way to say this without sounding mean, or holier-than-thou, or both. So let me be frank, Frank: you're fat.

There, I said what everyone who has seen the ads is really thinking. Frank is fat. Not chubby, not portly, not slightly overweight... but fat.

Okay, before anyone has a conniption fit, let me just say that ordinarily I don't care if a person is fat or skinny or anything like that. What you eat and how much you do or don't exercise is your own business. I myself carry an extra 20-or-so pounds I could do without, and wish I had the discipline to eat better and stay fit.

I only raise the issue here because as good as I think Caliendo's impressions are his weight takes away from them.

His Dubya is one of the funniest I've seen (second only to Will Ferrell), but he looks a lot more like Jeb than George. His Al Pacino looks more like Al Gore. And his Jack Nicholson looks like Jack after he's been shot with that exploding air gun that James Bond used in Live & Let Die.

Sadly, I think his best impressions end up being John Madden and Dr. Phil. Not because they're really his best impressions, but because after he dons the makeup, he looks the most like them, because they're fat too.

Now, I'm not pointing out anything that Caliendo and the producers of his show don't already acknowledge. In one ad for the show, Caliendo calls his act "chubby" impressions of famous people. In one sketch, he impersonates the entire clan of Seinfeld 20 years in the future, while an announcer's voice points out they're all "20 pounds heavier." Hah! More

like 50.

Jeez. I hate to sound so shallow! Normally, I'm only this superficial about my own looks.

Fat or not, I'm looking forward to the show. Although, because of the writers' strike, there'll only be four episodes before it goes on hiatus.

Frank TV premieres November 20th on TBS.

Ethan Morris: "Not always right, but never in doubt." Go ahead and write me.