Rick Dees looks like a choirboy-chipmunk; he’s an earnest eager beaver. As such, Dees makes a nice visual contrast to the man whose program Into the Night follows: Ted Koppel’s huffy headmaster on Nightline now gives way to Dees’ beamish boy. It’s difficult to imagine that anyone interested in Koppel’s hard news is going to stay on for Dees’ soft entertainment, though. Into the Night is a generic talk show. Dees and his guests sit in big comfy chairs on a set that’s halfway between the Arsenio Hall and Merv Griffin shows. The host has a band, of course, and this posse is led by the obligatory hepcat oddball. At least this bandleader is interesting: Billy Vera, a longtime Los Angeles fixture who had a Top 40 hit in 1968 (”Country Girl, City Man”) and a No. 1 hit in 1986 (the white-soul ballad ”At This Moment”).
Dees also has a musical background — his No. 1 hit was the immortal ”Disco Duck,” in 1976, and for the past decade he has been a top-rated L.A. deejay. Dees says he wants to make people laugh without being ”mean,” an obvious reference to David Letterman’s stinging irony and Arsenio Hall’s naughty needling. But Dees overdoes his nice-guy bit; he wears his wide-eyed, gee-whiz expression like a mask — you never know what he’s really thinking about the dumb jokes he recites or the banal comments his guests make.
One thing that distinguishes Dees from his competition is that he’s willing to bribe his audience. He’s starting a feature called Mystery Oldies, in which three snippets of an old rock hit are played and then a viewer who’s sent in a postcard is called and asked to name the tune. Cash prizes of up to $1,000 are being awarded. ”Late-night TV paying you money,” Dees mused on his debut show. ”Sure — why not buy off people to watch us?” Um, because it makes you look like a cynical shill, Rick?
The only other distinctive thing about Dees is that he says ”into” a lot. ”Let’s get into Wilson Phillips!” he shouted, introducing the pop trio. When Charlie Sheen came on to plug a new movie, Dees set up the film clip by saying, ”Let’s get into Navy SEALs!”
Will viewers get into Into the Night? Well, it’s pretty lame so far. Besides, Nightline has a tendency to run way over its half hour at the drop of a foreign revolution. Dees may have a hard time finding his audience, and his audience may have a hard time finding him. C