Why Jimmy Kimmel Live! Almost Got Canceled

Late-night talk shows have established a few well-known names. Hosts of the past, like Jay Leno and David Letterman, are legendary. Meanwhile, contemporary hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers have really made a place for themselves in the space. One of the top modern-day contenders is Jimmy Kimmel and his show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Different from "Late Night" or "The Tonight Show," it wasn't an established show that just added a new host. Kimmel's talk show was based around him and was created to stand alone amongst those big names.

"Jimmy Kimmel Live!" is now one of the longest-running late-night talk shows and is still one of the more popular ones; it's been on the air since 2003 (via The Hollywood Reporter). But with a show that's been on for so long and has had a pretty good run so far, it's hard to imagine a world where it wasn't successful. But it actually premiered with a really tough crowd and nearly got canceled.

Jimmy Kimmel Live! didn't start off very well

It's never a smooth start when a new show comes in and ousts a current show in a similar genre. But that's what happened with Jimmy Kimmel's show at its start; "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" replaced "Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher" in 2003 (via The Los Angeles Times). And The New Yorker gave a pretty negative first review of Kimmel's show in 2003, saying it was a "dead-on-arrival talk show with a charisma-free host, aimed at pre-adolescent male viewers between eighteen and thirty-four."

Because the ABC network wanted a night-time talk show that was a bit more casual than David Letterman's show, Kimmel was the top choice. Lloyd Braun, one of the big whigs at ABC at the time, told The New York Times in 2002 that he expected younger men to be the prime audience for Kimmel's show. So choosing someone who did funny football segments for Fox was the vibe they wanted to go with. As the New Yorker review shows, it wasn't well-received by all.

"There was always talk of [cancellation]," Kimmel told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016 (via Yahoo!). When he sees old clips, even he doesn't know why ABC kept him on the air. "And I could almost mark each one of those times because there were probably six or seven times where the show was going to get canceled and I would've welcomed it at that time because I really just was out, I was spent."

Jimmy Kimmel had to be tricked into meetings for his show

As Jimmy Kimmel said in those interviews, even in the beginning there was a lot of doubt from all sides about his hosting abilities. And before he even got the gig, Kimmel's agents had to trick him into a meeting about the idea. He told The Hollywood Reporter that he was totally shocked when he got the job because he didn't know the meeting was for the late-night gig and he didn't think he'd be a good fit anyway. "And I thought there must be a mistake," Kimmel said. "It happened so quickly. And there was no ... It seemed like there was no thought put into it."

Luckily for Kimmel, ABC decided to continue the show and it's been running for almost 20 years at this point. But in an interview with Variety in June, Kimmel said he's unsure of what's going to happen when his contract is up next year. "I wish I knew I was gonna do," he said. "I have moments where I go, 'I cannot do this anymore.' And I have moments where I go, 'what am I gonna do with my life if I'm not doing this anymore?' It's a very complicated thing." Kimmel knows it'll have to end someday, and he's contemplating really hard on what his next move will be.