No Hockey? No Problem!
Seattle hasn't had a NHL team for about eighty years now. If I want to quench my thirst for it, I can at least go to the WHL Thunderbirds. Thankfully, they did not fall victim to the strike that's going on. They did get knocked out of the playoffs, but that's neither here nor there.
So, without hockey, ESPN has rather large holes to fill on their schedule. They could have put on reruns of Dream Job, Around the Horn, and Pardon the Interruption. Instead we get game shows? New ones too, not just revivals of Two Minute Drill or Sports on Tap, which would have been just fine with me.
I was shocked myself. Game shows? I've always thought that networks saw game shows as filler programming. "If you need a go-to program quickly, just slap together a game show." ESPN's three new offerings run the gamut from great to less inspired.
Stump the Schwab is the best of the lot. Stuart Scott has finally figured out how to let the contestants be the stars of the show, and not him, even if he unsuccessfully melds urbane professionalism with the street 'flava'. The $5,000 prize might be the hardest to win, but it's still a fun way to blow a half hour. It has a "Win Ben Stein's Money" or "Beat the Geeks" feel to it. The rounds are great; we go from a Pass the Buck style memory test, to rotating games in the second half, to a wonderful showdown in the final round, with everyone at a table at the forefront of the dimly lit studio. Masterful.
Bowling Night is basically what it sounds like. Celebrities playing bowling. It doesn't pretend to be anything else, it's bowling. And for that, it's okay.
Teammates brings up the rear. I can't stand The Newlywed Game in more than five-minute doses, it's just irritating. Take away the couples, and replace them with teammates from pro sports teams. Keep the insipid scoring system from the game from old, in fact it's almost the same game. No blue cards, neither. The questions and answers are Chyroned on screen. The third round is finally where things pick up steam, with a third teammate joining the fray. But it's not enough to save the show.
I hope that hockey comes back, because it's a fun sport to watch. On the other hand, I'm also a game show geek. If we get more stuff like Stump the Schwab out of the strike, let the players and teams stew over their disagreement.
If we get more of Teammates, then hurry back, guys.
On another note: congratulations due to Uchenna and Joyce Agu, winners of the seventh Amazing Race. Enjoy the money, guys.
Travis Eberle is torn between sports of the body, and sports of the mind. Break the tie by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org