September 04, 2019

The A Team

I cannot overpraise Bryan Curtis' interesting article on The Big Show (1992-1997).  As I read it I copied a paragraph or two as a tease for this post, and by the time I was done realized I'd copied almost half of the thing.  It's superb, and it explains significance of a show I only appreciated in the last year or two of its existence.  Here are two representative samples:

The difference between ’90s SportsCenter and a modern comedy show is that SportsCenter was much, much harder. Patrick and Olbermann had the mandate to deliver the news instead of just riff off it. They wrote their own material. The Big Show may be the only comedy show in TV history that didn’t have a writer’s room.
Two hundred nights a year on SportsCenter, as the hosts sat at their desk, a PA would run into the control room with a tape of a highlight that was set to roll within minutes. Through a headset, Williamson or McQuade or Ramsey would ask the anchor who was off-camera to give a thumbs up if he’d been handed a shot sheet. Then, as Patrick and Olbermann saw a highlight for the first time, they had to be both accurate and hilarious.
“And from that grew a kind of trench-warfare humor,” Olbermann said. “Haha, we’re going to die tonight! And that led to a lot of giggling and making fun of things, particularly management.”
. . . 
One day, Patrick and Olbermann were called into a room by their bosses and scolded for being too silly, too self-referential. According to James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’s oral history, an executive actually pounded a desk at the meeting. The hosts were told they could no longer call SportsCenter “the Big Show”... 
When forced to say the show’s proper title, the anchors bellowed, “ SportsCenter”—which might have triggered the famous Wieden+Kennedy campaign. When Olbermann reported that Rupert Murdoch would challenge ESPN with a new cable sports network, he gave out Bristol’s area code on the air. As in: Call me.



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