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Was I dreaming? Thursday morning I saw actor Robert Wagner, hoopster Clyde Drexler and a male model-turned-ESPN Cold Pizza anchor named Cane Peterson share the same studio set. Well, at least Cane proved to be an able mannequin and I'm not going to kill ESPN for the bizarro guest list, mostly because Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen are proof that surreal makes for terrific television.
But what about ESPN using analyst Jeff Brantley as a post-game interviewer following Game 4 of the World Series? An excellent in-the-booth analyst, Brantley was so overwhelmed with excitement after interviewing Boston designated hitter David Ortiz that Brantley, well, hugged Ortiz. It reminded me of the time reporter Helen Thomas hugged Richard Nixon in 1970 after he signed the National Environmental Policy Act). Brantley was even more agog interviewing Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling ("Tell me about it, baby," was Brantley's inquiry of the pitcher).
It got me thinking what would have happened had journalists (not that I'm calling Brantley one) had used the "Tell me about it, baby" inquiry at important moments in history.
For example, say you were doing a live shot with Moses on Mt. Sinai as the people below are cavorting with the Golden Calf. "Moses, the Israelites are partying off the hizzle. Tell me about it, baby." Or you're on the deck of the Santa Maria with Christopher Columbus. "C-Dog, you just discovered the New World. Tell me about it, baby."
I can total understand Brantley being happy for Schilling. The two played together on the 1999 and 2000 Phillies (Brantley was the team's closer) and championship celebrations are an exciting place to be. But if Brantley wants to celebrate on the field with his ex-mates, he should do it on his time and not the viewers' time. But that falls on the ESPN suits. Next time, folks, get someone who at least pretends to be an objective observer. Gracias. I'll move on.
Now here's where I give some love to the folks in Bristol. The network announced yesterday that Michael Madsen will join the cast of the upcoming dramatic series, Tilt, the second series for ESPN's Original Entertainment division after Playmakers (which I thought was terrific television).
Madsen made his fame in Reservoir Dogs as the vicious Mr. Blonde and continued his association with Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Kill Bill: Volume 2. Unlike Tom Sizemore -- whose wig made a bigger impact than he did as Pete Rose in Hu$tle -- this is inspired casting. Madsen will be great, and a series on poker and the casino life is going to draw huge numbers for ESPN.
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What didn't draw huge numbers was the NBA's opening night coverage Tuesday on TNT. Asked why the NBA was tipping off on Election Night, NBA commissioner David Stern said that he wanted to give fans a diversion. Unfortunately, most opted for Bush over Billups and Kerry over Kobe. TNT ended up with a 1.4 cable rating for the Rockets-Pistons and Nuggets-Lakers, according to The Sports Business Daily. That was down 48 percent from a 2.7 rating for last year's opening night coverage, which featured Suns-Spurs and Mavericks-Lakers.
Three Potentially Interesting TV Items In The Next Three Days
1. Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw sits down with Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Fox NFL Sunday.
2.Al Michaels calls his 300th game Monday on ABC's Monday Night Football.
3. Golfers Nick Faldo and Paul Azinger, hired as analysts for ABC Sports, will work this weekend's The Tour Championship.
One Interesting Item Off The Three Potentially Interesting Items Above
File this under They Said It ...
Azinger, on what viewers can expect from him: "Well, I'm just going to be myself, and there won't be any political zingers from me because obviously Bruce Springsteen and Michael Moore and Bon Jovi fell flat on their face, so I don't see why it's going to do me any good to be political, so I'll try to avoid that arena as best I can." Excluding, of course, the aforementioned quote.