In the last few years there has been an outcry from audiences about issues with national news organizations either being too heavily biased and not really giving audiences the truth which journalism is meant to do. As a result, shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report were able to mock national news’s shortcomings and gain a cult following of individuals who wanted “real news.” Unfortunately these same issues existed in the sports news industry as well and until recently most sports fans were subjected to the talking heads at ESPN that are just their to drum up ratings. But after finding success with off beat journalism in shows like Real Time with Bill Maher and Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver, HBO took a stab at providing creating a unfiltered look into the sports world with Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons.
It is no secret sports are at the forefront of American culture with cities willing to spend millions, if not billions of dollars for the opportunity to have a professional team. It is also not a secret that controversy and drama also plays a big role in American society. Because of how quick controversies can blow up in this media driven age, athletes and anyone involved with professional sports are routinely silenced by owners to make sure that an outspoken individual does not lower the profit margins by saying something unpopular. As a result, sports fans are often treated to boring interviews that are written by publicists and do not really provide any memorable substance. In order to stay on good terms with the players and leagues, many of the major sports news outlets do not put athletes in positions to potentially speak off the script as it could mean they will not get future interviews. However, it seems like this unspoken agreement is not present when Bill Simmons is asking the questions. Much like Jon Oliver and Bill Maher are willing to question the acts of politicians around the world, Bill Simmons is the first one to call out owners for taking money from cities or league commissioners who act on their own private agenda. By not being afraid to ask athletes questions Simmons is able to generate perhaps the most organic conversations with athletes that we have seen on television. Not only is Simmons able to get athletes to give new insight into their careers but Simmons also brings other famous personalities onto the show that the athletes are friends with allowing for the three to just talk openly and freely. In fact, more often than not Simmons is the one that has to cut off the conversations due to time requirements. By building his career on this model, Simmons has been able to gain respect by the players and get them to talk openly because they do not see him as a talking head ready to say whatever nonsense is needed to get more ratings.
While the interviews on Any Given Wednesday are top notch, the segments around the interviews are not working. For anyone that is familiar with the news driven comedy style of Last Week Tonight they will find that Any Given Wednesday is the exact same except with a sports coating. The only difference is Jon Oliver clearly demonstrates his ability to deliver the jokes and information in the right way because of the experience he has with the style after his tenure with The Daily Show. Conversely, Simmons is not quite sure yet how to deliver his lines, more often than not his timing feels off or forced which takes away form the impact of the humor he is reciting. I think these mishaps can largely be attributed to Simmons being shoehorned into to the same comedy style as Jon Oliver and once the writers and Simmons are able to find common ground they will create a style that works better for Simmons.
If you are a sports fan and have not yet checked out Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons catch up on it now. The interviews provide the uncensored thoughts of the athletes that fans have been wanting for. While I do have some issues with Simmons’s monologues, they are still packed with a decent amount of sports news that other networks do not report on. As a sports fan, I can honestly say that there is not any other program that provides the same level of insight however, Simmons lack of charisma does hinder the show. Therefore Celluloid Cinema gives Any given Wednesday with Bill Simmons 3 out of 5 Reels.
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