Sunday, April 01, 2012

Steve McKenna Quits “Drinking Made Easy”!

I just caught wind of a coup.  It's nothing that will make the headlines, except for the occasional drinking or beard-celebrating blogs.  But Steve McKenna, co-host (stunt-drinker, mascot, drinking buddy) of "Drinking Made Easy" on HDNet, formerly of "Three Sheets" on Spike, will be hanging up his mug.  Permanently.

Late Friday afternoon, I had a scheduled phone interview with McKenna, to discuss the upcoming one hour special of "Drinking Made Easy", where Zane, Steve and their monkey mascot , Pleepleus, will be debunking some alcohol myths, and according to McKenna "Getting a little more crazy than usual… And we usually get crazy."

But McKenna, not in the jovial mood that I expected, told me that the season that's being capped off by the one hour special (which airs at 8pm on April 11th on HDNet) will be his last.  That seemed odd, since Lamprey recently announced that he'd signed up for a third season of the show which will begin shooting 13 new episodes in May.

McKenna told me that he was informing Zane Lamprey's production company, Inzane Entertainment, and Mark Cuban's television network, HDNet, that he will not be joining them for season three of "Drinking Made Easy" which will air on the network’s new designation, AXS (pronounced 'access'), this fall.  With the success of the show, we have every reason to believe that the show will go on without him.  But, we have no doubt that it will affect the format of the show, and leave some repeat viewers disappointed.  McKenna has become a fan favorite and a vital part of the weekly 6-Pack Challenge, where McKenna and Lamprey compete against each other in increasingly impressive activities.

So the question is "Why?".  Why, when the network is about to double its number of households, would Steve McKenna jump ship and be going Three Sheets to the wind no longer?  "It's actually a lot of work," McKenna told me on a phone call from his home in Richmond, Virginia, earlier today. "We're traveling for more than half the year.  I've sort of been the bar-matt for the show, drinking anything that Zane didn't.  I had fun… Too much fun sometimes.  It's just time for me to go down a different path."

Has he truly had a higher calling?  McKenna explained it to me; "We stopped filming last December.  Since then, I've had a chance to reevaluate my life, and my direction.  I want to be healthy. Right now I'm training for the NYC marathon.  I've been speaking with the admissions department of NYU to finish up my Masters.  I'm getting my masters in Theatre.  That was the path that I was on before I started joining Zane in his projects."

Is there something more?  Is he tired of playing second fiddle to Lamprey?  I asked him. "Well that's part of it for sure," McKenna told me. "I got my undergraduate degree in Shakespeare.  When Zane and I met, I was the lead in most of the plays.  Then, our senior year, he shows up out of no where.  I'd never heard of him.  And he took the lead in the main stage performances that the school did that year.  I got a supporting role.  I guess it's been like that ever since..."

McKenna told me that this is something that he's been planning for a while.  He was more coherent and articulate than the character that he's been portraying for the last 50 episodes of "Drinking Made Easy".  As much as I'd like to be impressed, I was a little disappointed.  As a writer, I know how difficult it is to catch a break, a plight that I know we share with actors.  So why would he squander such an opportunity that he could easily parlay into more substantial roles?  As a fan, however, I am very disappointed.  I have no doubt that Lamprey can carry the weight of the show on his own shoulders, as he did with “Three Sheets”.  But it won't be the same without Steve McKenna.

I called the Inzane Entertainment offices in Los Angeles Friday afternoon to get their take on McKenna's departure.  Mel Schilling, the show's producer told us that she was unaware of Steve's recent decision.  Lamprey was not available for comment.

An update as of 4/6/12:  If you haven’t already noticed, take a look at the original date of this blog post.  Yep, that’s right – it was an April Fool’s Day gag that the folks from HDNet’s “Drinking Made Easy” asked my assistance with.  Steve, of course, is still with the show and certainly is NOT about to give up drinking!  Thankfully, the team of Zane & Steve live on for many more outings to come!




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