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Listen: Curt Menefee on ‘Fox NFL Sunday,’ Colin Kaepernick and Rising Football Ratings

Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety‘s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Curt Menefee, host of “Fox NFL Sunday,” the long-running pre-game show being inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame in April.

Menefee has a pretty packed week. Mondays are his weekend, he says, discussing the lead-up to the show — “That is the day I like to try to do stuff with the wife” — but reviewing what happened the day before or having to take interviews sometimes gets in the way of that. 

Preparation for the weekly live show begins Tuesday, and doesn’t stop until early Sunday morning leading up to the show’s airtime at 9 a.m.

Having been running since 1994, if it looks like he and his co-hosts Howie Long, Terry Bradshaw, Jimmy Johnson and Michael Strahan are friends, it’s because they are.

“The guys don’t just pretend they like each other when they show up on Sunday. We genuinely do,” he says. “Our wives text each other like high school girls.”

What he loves about the 25-year-old show is that it’s 70% ad-libbed.

“People go, ‘Oh, you guys laugh a lot.’ We laugh because we’re having a good time. I know for a fact that other network pregame shows [have] scripted in there, “laugh here” or “high five here,” he says.

He’s proud to say that they’ve been laughing genuinely since the beginning.

“When you try to memorize something, that’s where you mess up,” he says.

But football and the NFL have changed a lot in the last two and a half decades. Being what Menefee calls “the most popular thing in America,” football is more scrutinized now than ever. He argues that despite claims that the NFL’s ratings have drastically lowered, so have ratings for all of television. Of course, having the President of the United States “ripping the league” doesn’t help either, he adds.

Weighing in on the fallout from the player protests sparked by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Menefee recalled an oft-forgotten fact. 

“It was never about the military,” he says. In fact, Kaepernick wouldn’t even have kneeled if it weren’t for a fellow player, Army serviceman Nate Boyer, who told him that sitting down during the anthem could be seen as disrespectful to the armed services. Kaepernick, who only wanted to make a statement on social injustice, took a knee instead, under advice from Boyer. “People never heard that message,” Menefee says.

As for the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints’ NFC Championship matchup this weekend, “The Rams have better talent, but the Saints have a better team,” he says.

He expects this year’s super bowl will come down to the Saints vs. the Patriots. His money is on the Saints.

Later in the podcast, Variety‘s TV critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke discuss Showtime’s “Black Monday” and Comedy Central’s “The Other Two.”

New episodes of “TV Take” are available every Friday. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or anywhere you download podcasts. You can find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

Curt Menefee photographed exclusively for the Variety TV Take podcast.
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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