It's Fartman to the rescue again: Howard Stern will make a guest appearance on Fox's "The Magic Hour" tonight. This should bring a much-needed publicity boost to the critically lambasted, ratings-challenged program, which debuted on June 8. (Magic's sidekick, Craig Shoemaker, was fired this week for calling the show "an absolute nightmare" in the press.) "Magic will get a lot of curious viewers tonight," says Marc Berman, who tracks ratings for the TV-station adviser Seltel. "But the numbers will go back to normal patterns right after Stern's appearance." Berman predicts a rating of at least 3.0 for tonight's hour, which is 50% higher than "Magic"'s current nightly average.
Stern's visit could make riveting television, if only for the verbal bloodletting. The self-proclaimed King of All Media has viciously mocked the "Magic Hour" on his radio show and has vowed to ask the HIV-positive Magic such unnerving questions as: "Will your wife sleep with you?"
Although beneficial in the short term, Stern's appearance could inflict long-term damage. "Magic is not particularly quick-witted. He's going to be eaten alive by Howard unless he's really on his toes," says EW TV critic Bruce Fretts. "If Magic does what he's been doing, which is just smile, be a nice guy, and not be particularly funny or interesting, he's going to look like an idiot with Stern. People are going to see that and not return for another night." --Josh Wolk