Tennis net serves thesp as new ace

'Life's' Logue set for TV sports analyst racket

Donal Logue has joined the growing list of movie and TV actors who have come up with a new sideline: going on the air to comment on sports.

“We want to make our game coverage as colorful and entertaining as we can,” said Steve Bellamy, president and founder of the Tennis Channel, where Logue (The WB’s “Grounded for Life”) has an open-ended invitation to join the play-by-play man Barry Tompkins as a commentator.

As the number of sports events covered by broadcast and cable has ballooned in the last few years, networks have scrambled to find gimmicks to keep their audience share from shrinking too drastically.

ABC got the most publicity three years ago by signing Dennis Miller to crack jokes as third man in the booth on “Monday Night Football,” an experiment that lasted two full seasons. ABC also signed Jason Priestley (“Beverly Hills 90210”) to do commentary for some of its live auto racing telecasts.

Tom Arnold is co-host of Fox Sports Net’s “Best Damn Sports Show, Period,” where he vents a fan’s perspective on every sport under the sun. Jay Mohr also ranged all over the lot on the weekly series “Mohr Sports,” which lasted for a season on ESPN.

But Tennis Channel hasn’t hired Logue just to do shtick during the matches. “Donal’s breadth of knowledge about tennis just blew me away,” Bellamy said. “He not only has an encyclopedic grasp of tennis history but was a top junior player in El Paso, appearing in many tournaments.”

Grounded by ‘Grounded’

Logue has done color for two Tennis Channel events, the July 24 “World Team Tennis” match between the Kansas City Explorers and the Sacramento Capitals, featuring Andre Agassi, and the July 28 “Night at the Net” celebrity match, with Dr. Phil McGraw, Arnold and Fred Willard among the name participants.

Bellamy said Logue would’ve done a lot more color commentary if he wasn’t tied to the demanding schedule of sitcom “Grounded for Life.”

Tennis Channel began life as a 24-hour cable network four months ago. Bellamy said the network has deals with Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and the National Cable TV Coop, a consortium of small and mid-sized cable operators.