On his Super Bowl-night ABC premiere, one of Jimmy Kimmel's key guests -- Bucs coach Jon Gruden -- never showed; Kimmel looked delighted. This was live TV, he genially informed us, and he'd just spent $25,000 for a shot of a potted plant in San Diego. A bit later, Kimmel genially informed us that someone in the alcohol-stoked Hollywood theater from which he was broadcasting had vomited and had to be carried out.
Geniality in the face of unpredictability may be Kimmel's most winning trait -- and one he'll have to exercise frequently. After all, Jimmy Kimmel Live, his post-''Nightline'' show, competes against The Guy Kimmel Doesn't Think Is Funny and Conan on NBC as well as Letterman and The Guy 17 People in America Think Is Funny on CBS in the latest late-night talk-show ''war.'' (Since a real war seems imminent and is sure to knock Kimmel off the air for breaking news, we'll keep this one in quotations.)
By the second night, alcohol was banned (''The honeymoon with ABC is over,'' Kimmel barked); the week's cohost, Snoop Dogg, was proving a fount of droll wit; and Jimmy was choking on the fake snow his exec producer (and Letterman veteran) Daniel Kellison ordered dumped on everyone in a snap at NBC's idiotic ''blizzard Monday'' promotion. When Kimmel asked guest rapper 50 Cent, ''Which is worse, getting shot or getting stabbed?'' many of us knew what we're going to do every night after Dave finishes his funniest stuff in the first 30 minutes. ''Jimmy Kimmel Live'' is appointment TiVo'ing.