New York — Dennis Miller might be on his way to becoming a long-term fixture at "Monday Night Football."
His boss certainly hopes so.
"I'm thinking a lot about next year, already, and he is as big a part of my show next year as anybody else," producer Fred Gaudelli said Thursday. "He should be back."
When Miller was brought aboard the ABC Sports show by then-producer Don Ohlmeyer 112 years ago, there were plenty of people who figured the experiment with the comedian-commentator wouldn't last.
Miller reveled in his status as an outsider, acknowledging he only had attended one NFL game, and set about peppering his "analysis" with references to everything from the Vatican to Mesopotamia to the Rosetta stone.
Not only did Miller make it through Season 1, and get rewarded by ABC exercising its option to keep him for Season 2, but he could be around for the long haul.
The same could be said for Miller's boothmate Dan Fouts and sideline reporter Melissa Stark, who were also hired by Ohlmeyer in 2000. The other sideline reporter, Eric Dickerson, was also part of Ohlmeyer's overhaul and is the least polished member of the cast. Play-by-play announcer Al Michaels is in his 16th year with "MNF."
"I hope they are all back next year," Gaudelli said. "I have no reason to expect why they wouldn't be."
The show's ratings are in decline for the seventh straight season, though that is a trend few TV programs sports or otherwise have been able to avoid.
"Monday Night Football" is averaging an 11.3 national household rating, 12 percent lower than last season to date.
NFL ratings are lower on other networks, too: Fox is averaging a 9.9, down 5 percent; CBS is averaging a 9.3, down 2 percent; and ESPN is averaging a 4.9, down 13 percent. Each rating point represents 1.05 million TV homes.
Last season, "MNF" averaged a 12.7 national rating, a drop of 7 percent from its previous record low, even though 11 of the 17 games were decided by a touchdown or less.
The show's schedule this year hasn't been enviable, with only one game so far Denver vs. Oakland on Nov. 5 involving two teams with winning records.
Still, "MNF" ranks ninth overall among prime-time programs and is ABC's top-rated show.
Gaudelli is happy with the way Miller has adapted to his role, finding places to insert his wit and references in a give-and-take with Michaels and Fouts.
"I think the chemistry and the camaraderie in the booth has really come a long way from where it was last year," Gaudelli said.
"Dan Fouts has really made some big strides from where he was a year ago. He's the best at what he does.
"Dennis has made terrific strides as well. He's got the toughest job in sports. He has definitely had a much better sense of timing this year.
"Sometimes Dennis will run something by me, and I'll say, 'How many people do you think will get that?"'