Okay, one more post before I attempt to find interesting ways to describe shows I haven't seen like "My Own Worst Enemy" and "Surviving Suburbia." After the jump, some thoughts on "Pardon the Interruption," and why we haven't seen too many images like that this summer...
As I've mentioned in the past, I watch or listen to "PTI" every day. It is the first, best, and really only tolerable one of ESPN's "Angry Middle-Aged Newspapermen Yell At Each Other for 30 Minutes" shows. Where the others seem manufactured and stupid (because they are), "PTI" works because of the genuine chemistry and camaraderie between Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. Though both are great writers, neither is a particularly brilliant analyst and have plenty of blind spots, but they're aware of that and don't try to turn "PTI" into a show where they try to lord their intellectual superiority over all of sports fandom. (That would be "Mike and the Mad Dog.") It's less a sports version of Siskel & Ebert than it is a comedy show, and Tony and Wilbon are funny and charming enough together to make it work, day in and day out, no matter how slow the news day or how over-covered the subject.
The problem is, Tony has been AWOL for virtually the entire summer. Since the start of July, I can think of two shows where he's appeared, and one of them was on a day when J.A. Adande was filling in for Wilbon. He's back on the show for the rest of this week, but then "PTI" takes a week off, and he's only scheduled for a couple of days the following week (after which he has to get surgery for the hernia he was complaining about all the time before he disappeared from the show), and I'm losing my patience with this.
An ESPN PR rep says Tony's taken the same number of vacation days as last year, and that it seems longer this summer because "PTI" went dark for two weeks. I'm not going to dispute his figures, but the show inevitably suffers when one of the hosts is out -- and even more when (shudder) both are out on the same day -- and it's not like summer has been a dead period for sports news.
I do like some of the guest hosts. Dan LeBatard has an appropriate sense for the level of absurdity of the show and knows how to push both Tony and Wilbon's buttons. Bob Ryan can be amusing with Wilbon, though he and Tony often seem redundant together. And Rick Reilly wasn't terrible during his two-day stint earlier this week, particularly on the second day. (Again, Reilly's less of a sportswriter/analyst than he is a light comedian, so the format suits him. I heard some complaints that he seemed stiff on-air, but as I only listened to the podcast versions of both, I can't speak to that.) But God help us on the days when the fill-ins are the likes of Adande, or Dan Shaughnessy or the reprehensible Jay Mariotti.
"PTI" is, was, and always should be about this particular relationship between these two guys, and no matter how affable the guests sometimes are, it's not the same. It's the same way "At the Movies" never really recovered from Gene Siskel's death; Richard Roeper's charming and good on camera, and it could be fun to see Ebert strain to conceal his frustration when Roeper was on a particularly populist streak, but the magic was gone.
"PTI" is one of the few oases in my day, something that helps me get through annoying household chores, or rage-inducing traffic, or the latest depressing development in the newspaper business. Is it too much to ask that one of the co-hosts doesn't take an entire season off? Think of us poor slobs south of the Canadian border, Tony. Please.