ESPN2 debuted their new block of afternoon programming this week with Numbers Never Lie and Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable airing at 4:00 and 4:30 ET respectively. Numbers Never Lie is basically the same stuff you see on ESPN/ESPN2 throughout the day with different window dressing. The show is merely the same debate topics with a new set, new combination of personalities, and some interesting stats as just a sidebar. Oh, and they get to hype TOTAL QUARTERBACK RATING. Basically, you can now watch Michael Smith debate Matthew Berry instead of Bill Plaschke. Yay! Oh, and the voice that does sponsors, etc. is a British lady and Charissa Thompson hosts instead of Michelle Beadle. I suppose that’s really all that’s different about the show.
But while I’m rather indifferent towards Numbers Never Lie, it’s Dan Le Batard’s new show that is much more… well… interesting. Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable is certainly highly questionable, but I’m trying to figure out what that means. After surveying Twitter, it’s clear folks either love the show or hate the show. There’s seemingly no in-between. I chose to jump in with show #2 so as to give DLHQ a chance to get the first show kinks out. Again, what I saw took largely the same topics and format to shows like PTI. A first segment that talks about the lead stories of the day, an interview segment, secondary stories, and then some fluff to end. Except, on DLHQ, it’s completely different than anything else on the “family of networks”… which may be a good thing… or a bad thing…
For Le Batard’s show, the format consists of Questions, an interview segment, “Do You Question” (which is somehow different than segment #1), and then Si or No, looking at TV picks for the evening. However, the entire show focuses on the interplay between Le Batard and his dad (Papi). Pretty much every topic goes like this…
Papi sets Le Batard up, Le Batard walks him through the accompanying highlight/story like you would any other senior citizen, Papi says something charming and slightly amusing, and then Le Batard has a brief monologue on the story. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The entire show is built on the chemistry and hopeful humor of Le Batard’s interaction with his old man. But did I mention that the set is from The Frugal Gourmet. AND did I mention that the show has this hideous obsession with obvious cut scenes and edits? The kitchen is one thing, but the editing is just bizarre. Like a poorly edited TV show that makes fun of poorly edited TV shows, except it’s just a poorly edited TV show. Yea, that’s about how much sense this makes. In fact, the first thing mentioned on the show was its heavy-editedness like it was a selling point. Nevermind that it makes the show look like 1980’s basic cable or your high school video productions class or that it gives viewers vertigo. But, it looks like that’s what ESPN wants from DLHQ. I think?
Again though, wrap your minds around this nugget – the terrible editing pushes the fact that a sports show is being filmed in a kitchen to the backburner (aha, kitchen puns, hopefully Dan is reading this). So in a nutshell (I promise that’s the last food pun), Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable is thirty minutes of Dan talking to his old man in what looks to be their kitchen.
In the end, everything about Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable is indeed questionable. Thankfully, Dan is clearly in on the joke. However, some of it is questionable to the point that it is terribly annoying (the edits) and some of it is questionable to the point that it’s enjoyable (Papi, Si or No). There’s no intelligent analysis, no cutting edge reporting, no thoughtful spin on the day’s stories. Le Batard actually comes off as likable (believe it or not), which is mostly due to his dad’s presence. Papi is funny, but I question whether the novelty act of seeing the day’s biggest stories through an AARP member will last.
And yet, I find Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable to be exceedingly watchable because it’s so different. Watching the Le Batards is like an oasis away from the screaming of Skip Bayless, the arrogance of Colin Cowherd, the repetitiveness of SportsCenter, and the innaneness of Mike & Mike. It’s a reprieve from the same ol’ same ol’. The selling point of DLHQ is that it isn’t the run-of-the-mill show on the “family of networks.” It’s why PTI was a smash hit so many years ago and has been one of the most successful shows on TV – it was different and it resonated with viewers. DLHQ attempts to reinvent the wheel in much the same way its predecessor did. Ultimately, the ratings will decide whether the Le Batards did it successfully or not. I’m cautiously (questionably?) saying they will… with one eye closed.