Having stolen nearly all the CBS football staff — both on camera and off — it’s not surprising that Fox’s NFL premiere of the San Francisco/Denver game Friday bore a striking resemblance to the Eye web’s style. Boasting a cocky “Same Game, New Attitude” mantra, Fox’s product nonetheless looked like most pro pigskin coverage — professional, glossy, slick and graphic-heavy.
With a captive audience in NFL-watchers on Sunday afternoons, however, the upstart weblet should have no trouble building a ratings powerhouse to lead into its Sunday night programming, which now includes “The Simpsons.”
Anchors John Madden and Pat Summerall, like a couple of transplanted oak trees, lent the program some dignity with their knowledge of the game.
Both former Eye webbers played tentatively at first, almost embarrassed in their throwaway intros to their new home. But as the game progressed, the well-worn pair relaxed into it.
The weblet wisely, if overbearingly, showcased the Fox name everywhere. Most galling might have been the monicker usage in the huge downs/yards graphic, which swallowed up nearly a third of the screen seconds before every play.
Fox also inserted its tag in near subliminal fashion in the twisting optical wipes between instant replays. The usage is understandable for a weblet that wants fans to associate its name with football, but it wore thin. Fox followed
the lead of ESPN’s World Cup coverage by placing a permanent ticking clock along with the score in a small see-through window in the upper left corner of the screen. Director Sandy Grossman kept things moving with lively camera-angle choices and solid instant replays, but a short segment on the radio receivers that quarterbacks can now legally have in their helmets was confusing and incomplete.
The halftime show needs work. James Brown is an old hand at sideline coverage , but looked uncomfortable as a host. Ex-players Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long got lost in cute banter. In an interview with two-sport star Deion Sanders, Bradshaw was his typical chatty self. Long smiled a lot and didn’t say much.
Everyone wanted to see how Madden and Summerall, longtime fixtures at the Eye web, would make the transition. A few nervous moments notwithstanding, the show looks like the beginning of a long affiliation with the NFL, and while it may take a little getting used to, it quite literally brings Fox into the big leagues.