When we broke the news that Fox had canceled MADtv, we also cited rumblings that Fox was going to keep its other late-night offering, the little-watched Talkshow With Spike Feresten. At the time, we assumed that Talkshow wasn't long for this world either, since it has now aired for two years (with top-tier guests like Vanilla Ice!) safely out of the public eye. Au contraire, say Fox spokespeople, who are attempting a new strategy designed to grow the series into their own Tonight Show. So what's their plan, and what is this show anyway?Says Broadcasting & Cable:

The network will give Talkshow With Spike Feresten a six-week run of hour-long shows at 11 p.m. beginning Jan. 17. That is an upgrade both in length and time slot for the third-year show, which normally airs at midnight for 30 minutes. But the tryout may carry bigger stakes for Feresten. The network wants to see if the host has the stuff to be part of a weeknight block if the network ever decides to re-enter that daypart. “We're making a concerted effort to kick Spike to the next level,” says Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly. “He's growing to where he's breaking out in the digital world, and we want to see where that takes him.”

Fox is most heartened that Talkshow's Lil' O'Reilly character has broken out as a viral video semi-hit, even though the videos carry no Talkshow branding and we totally had no idea they came from this series until Broadcasting & Cable said so:

Fox is widely expected to make a strong play for Jay Leno after his contract expires, and insiders say Feresten could score the show after Leno's if the Tonight Show host can be lured into a late-night berth on the network. So how has Feresten managed to score such a vote of confidence despite low viewer awareness that his show even exists? Somehow, we think the fact that looks like he could be Fox head Kevin Reilly's younger brother doesn't hurt...