Fox's soft launch is soft-headed; fortunately, football's just around the corner
There’s really no such thing as reinventing a sports network at this point in the game, and Fox Sports 1 — which launched over the weekend as a complement, more than an alternative, to ESPN — isn’t really trying. Marketing-wise, the channel is seeking to position itself as the “fun” sports destination, and if the premiere of “Crowd Goes Wild” on Monday is any indication, this is just the last stop before transforming TV sports coverage into open-mic night.
Of course, Fox has played with this “Come into our frat house!” niche before — see “The Best Damn Sports Show Period” — seeking to out-giddy ESPN, as if that network was mired in funereal sobriety. Mostly, Fox’s August launch looks like a way to work out bugs before college football season begins, providing the network a steady supply of game programming that will take the load off the talking (make that TALKING IN A VERY LOUD VOICE) heads.
A daily studio panel show to counter ESPN’s afternoon lineup, “Crowd Goes Wild” recruited Regis Philbin to lend the network a little sizzle and marquee value. But even though he’s a major sports fan, the octogenarian host looked a trifle out of his element in this teeming morning-zoo environment, and when his cohosts presented him with a horse named Regis as a gift, you couldn’t blame him for thinking about mounting the damn thing and riding back into the sunset.
Frankly, there might actually be a show in just having Philbin banter with Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Gay, but that wouldn’t give the viewer a pounding headache, and the new formula in such shoutfests is that it takes a village to fill an hour.
Comic Michael Kosta quickly established himself as the would-be village idiot, opening with a prepared bit in which he compared Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez to “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White. It fell so thuddingly flat Kosta seemed relatively subdued, mercifully, thereafter.
Rounding out the group are sort-of host Georgie Thompson, former NFL player Trevor Pryce and social-media contributor Katie Nolan, who is kept away from the panel on a couch. To show just how amateurish the premiere was, her awkward tosses back to Regis and Georgie were superior to a pointless, content-free interview with boxer Oscar de la Hoya.
Then again, the screen was so overflowing with graphic elements and headlines it would be easy for one of the panelists to hide behind them, which by about halfway in, didn’t seem like a bad face-saving strategy.
“I’m back, baby!” Regis yelled fairly early on.
No, not really. But it’s pretty clear that if the choice is being on a lousy show or not on TV at all, we know where Regis stands — or in this case, sits.
One show, of course, does not an entire network make, but “Crowd Goes Wild” is so conspicuously not ready for primetime as to inspire relatively little faith in the rest of the enterprise.
So by all means, bring on the real games. As for “Crowd Goes Wild,” saying anything more, with apologies to one of the Regises, would just amount to beating a dead horse.
TV Review: 'Fox Sports 1's Crowd Goes Wild'
(Series; Fox Sports 1, Weekdays, 5 p.m. ET)
Produced by Embassy Row Prods. 60 MIN.
Executive producer, Michael Davies
With: Regis Philbin, Jason Gay, Michael Kosta, Trevor Pryce, Georgie Thompson, Katie Nolan