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Friday Night! with Ralph Benmergui was a Canadian television variety show, which aired on CBC Television from 1992 to 1993. In its first season, the show aired at 10 p.m., following Prime Time News. In its second season, it aired at 11 p.m.
The show debuted October 30, 1992, and was hosted by Ralph Benmergui, formerly of Midday. The house band (called simply "The House") provided the music; they were replaced in the second season by Look People, led by Jaymz Bee. It was one hour long and had an American late-night talk show format: an opening monologue by Benmergui followed by comedy sketches, guest interviews, and musical performances. Notable guests on the show included Céline Dion, Leonard Cohen and hockey legend Don Cherry.
The show was a ratings failure from the beginning, capturing only one-third of the audience that the CBC had in its timeslot the previous year. The critics were not impressed, either; one segment featured real TV scribes reviewing the program, mostly unfavourably, while it was still in progress.
The show was nonetheless renewed for a second season, but moved back an hour. The first episode of the 1993-94 season aired right after the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series and the Liberal victory in the 1993 Canadian federal election: the opening bit showed Joe Carter's series-clinching home run flying into the stands and hitting outgoing Prime Minister Kim Campbell in the head. "Jays won...Tories lost...cool!" said Benmergui.
But audiences continued to decline, and Friday Night! was cancelled mid-season, its final show airing on New Year's Eve, 1993. The show's failure has been attributed Benmergui's hosting style, its poor writing, its inability to attract high-calibre guests, and to the overall failure of the network's radically revamped prime time schedule in the years Friday Night! was on the air.
Benmergui subsequently moved to CBC Newsworld, hosting the afternoon talk show Benmergui Live. The CBC subsequently developed another variety series, Rita and Friends, which began airing in the fall of 1994.
- Clip from first program: Benmurgui interviews Don Cherry