Friday, February 01, 2013

"60 Minutes Sports" A Missed Opportunity?

A Little Too Much Deja Vu on View

Having been a big fan of the "60 Minutes" franchise for decades, the idea of lending that moniker to a sports program is intriguing, to say the least.
And "60 Minutes Sports," at least on paper, looks to be an attempt by Showtime to keep close to HBO and its excellent "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
But Gumbel has nothing to worry about, at least judging by the first edition of "60 Sports."
Maybe I'm just a "60 Minutes" dweeb, but if you watch the flagship show and "Sports," there's an instant familiarity. That's because large chunks of two of the stories on "Sports," also appeared on Sunday nights on sister network CBS.

"Sports" had a piece that was largely a profile of Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and his years-long crusade to prove Lance Armstrong was a cheat. The package, fronted by Scott Pelley, was fine for what it was. But most of it was recycled last week on Sunday for a piece that was ostensibly about how Tygart didn't believe Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth for his two-part interview on OWN.
However, all the piece contained was a couple of new bytes with Tygart. The rest was in the can from "Sports."

Similarly, last month "60 Minutes" did a piece on the Barcelona soccer team and its extreme dominance of the sport. A big reason is Lionel Messi, far and away the best player on the planet. We saw the press-shy Messi chat for a bit, then Bob Simon told us that a bigger profile of Messi would appear on "Sports." Swell. Yet, both pieces share at least five minutes of footage. You're left waiting for something new to be said. It is, but it takes too long to emerge.

Sure, not everyone who watches one program watches the other. Why reinvent the wheel, etc. I get it. Nonetheless, I suspect there is a significant overlap of audiences, and by broadcasting the companion pieces so close together, you're inevitably left wondering why you're sitting through what is essentially a repeat. Which is a shame, as it's still quality TV.

"Sports" also whiffed in its debut by having Lara Logan tell us "from time to time" the show will air "classics," in other words, repeats of favorite stories. Fine, there are some great pieces that deserve new audiences. But why do that for the program's debut? It's almost as if the producers couldn't come up with enough pieces in time for air, so they pulled one out of the closet at the last minute.

That's not what happened, of course, but the 2011 piece on free solo climber Alex Honnold could have waited. This is a new program, which should have content to match. Given that it's only on once a month that's not too much to ask.

You can see whether "60 Minutes" shakes off its shaky debut when it airs a new episode on Wednesday. Expect a heavy emphasis on football, three days after CBS airs the Super Bowl.

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