Just because John McEnroe’s CNBC talk show has earned 0.0 ratings doesn’t mean it doesn’t need someone to watch it. At least in the studio. Curious about his audience, we left a message on the show’s answering machine, and got a call to line up at Rockefeller Plaza for a bus trip to where it tapes, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Noon: Audience members begin gathering. There are about 60, almost all tourists lured by midtown hawkers yelling “Free tickets.”
1 P.M.: The wind picks up and people start to check with “audience coordinators” to make sure they won’t miss the promised free lunch.
1:32: A bus finally pulls up to the curb. We pile on, and the promo tape begins: McEnroe interviewing his singer-wife, Patty Smyth, as she sits on his lap. “Poor John McEnroe,” says a British woman.
2:20: We arrive. Boxes of pizza await.
2:50: Pizza done, we enter McEnroe’s basketball-hoop-equipped studio. Sidekick John Fugelsang, ex-host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, asks, “How many people are from other countries?” Half, it turns out.
4:00: The first guest: veteran mind-reader The Amazing Kreskin, who says if you believe in something enough, it will come true. “I believe this show will work. I believe this show will work,” chants McEnroe.
4:30: The Coors Light twins plug their 2005 calendar.
4:45: Indie band Ambulance Ltd. plays a song. Then McEnroe picks up a guitar. “It must be written into the contract that they have to play with him,” whispers a guy from Ireland. McEnroe exits with a wave.
5:30: We pile back on the bus to nap while stuck in traffic.
6:02: Back at 49th Street, Pamela Harris, 56, who’s also visiting from the U.K., offers up her verdict: “I think he would go down better in England with that sort of downbeat type of humor.”