BEGINNING ON FEB. 14 at 11 p.m., Bob Costas, who has exhibited his acting chops on HBO's Arli$$ and The Larry Sanders Show, will be appearing on the cable network on a weekly basis. What recurring role could he possibly play? That of:
a) Pootie Tang's hip vanilla sidekick on The Chris Rock Show?
b) Larry David's irrepressibly cheerful neighbor on Curb Your Enthusiasm?
c) A dollar-bill-waving crowd-scene extra in G-string Divas'?
"I'm not acting," says Costas, who'll host a one-hour sports magazine program called On the Record with Bob Costas. "This show, and everything I do subsequently, really has one purpose: To make amends for [my appearance in] Baseketball."
It will be a welcome sight to see Costas—whose NBC schedule, now that he's no longer doing NBA telecasts, affords him more downtime than Cosmo Kramer—appearing regularly and thinking out loud. "Going back five years, Bob and I would have these 45-minute phone conversations about sports," says HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, "and he'd spew these Costas diatribes to which I'd say, 'Hold on, will you write that down and save it?' "
For the record, On the Record, says Costas, "will have elements of journalism and elements of commentary beyond the sound bite, and also will be very entertaining. We're not, however, going to be interviewing the Whassup Guys." The premiere, portions of which will air live, will feature a state-of-the-NBA roundtable with Oscar Robertson and league commissioner David Stern. Another expected early highlight will be an interview with Tom Hanks on his love for the 1972 Oakland A's.
Later, the late-night half-hour interview program that debuted in 1988 with Costas as its host (he left in Feb.'94), was canceled only last month. Nobody has mentioned the program for years, mosdy because its many subsequent hosts strove to placate guests, not provoke them. While Costas isn't one to conduct the guerrilla interview, he does place a premium on keeping the subject, the viewer and, perhaps most important, himself from yawning.
"When you get a talent like Bob," says Greenburg, "someone with a quick wit and an incisive mind, you build a show around his personality. That's the object of this little game