For actual, honest to goodness sports fans, there are few things worse than celebrity appearances in the broadcast booth. You may remember Monday Night Football bringing in the likes of Russell Crowe, Jimmy Kimmel, and Christian Slater as an example of this phenomenon to sometimes disastrous results. Often times, networks will use these celebrity appearances to cross-promote a debuting show or a program the network has a lot riding on. Instead of focusing on the game, the broadcast booth has to lob softball questions to the celebrity interviewee and everyone pretends this show is going to be the next Seinfeld all in the name of cross-promotion and network synergy. The game then becomes a sideshow to the main task of getting the interview subject over with the audience. This is what happened Saturday night on Fox as the network dropped Charlie Sheen (and sidekick Todd Zeile) into the booth with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to promote Sheen’s new FX show Anger Management. I’ll spare you the embed, but you can check out the link if you’re really interested.
If this was March 2011, this would be a great thing for Fox. At that point, we were all on the drug called Charlie Sheen. Websites, t-shirts, television interviews, and winning captivated the nation. Alas, the tiger blood dried up. The warlocks ran away. The Adonis DNA disintegrated. And, Charlie Sheen became just another guy trying to make a buck on his past infamy. But don’t tell that to Fox and FX. They’re trying to squeeze every inch they can out of the fledgling torpedo of truth. Sheen’s appearance in the Fox booth Saturday night during Mets-Yankees to promote Anger Management was just another uneventful celebrity spot that only served to annoy people watching a baseball game who actually wanted to watch a baseball game. Imagine that. Fox continually went split-screen for the occasion, as if the game needed to seem any less important.
McCarver and Buck traded asking Sheen questions about the new show mixed with a little baseball talk. The only highlights here were Sheen failing at a pxp attempt because he didn’t know the Mets centerfielder and McCarver asking Sheen, “Is there going to be a Major League V?” Oy. The true star of the show was Zeile though, who was there presumably because of his (close?) friendship with Sheen and history with the Subway Series. However, during the segment Zeile mostly just sat there looking extremely uncomfortable, usually only speaking when being spoken to, and looking dejectedly off into the distance.
Oh Todd, we feel your pain. How many people watching the Yankees-Mets Saturday night game will actually be new viewers of Anger Management when the show debuts? 43? 28? 7? Is that negligible amount of viewership worth causing more fans to turn the channel away from your sports coverage? This isn’t just a Fox thing or an MLB thing mind you, it goes for all these crossover celebrity cameos. Viewers watching games want insights into games. Viewers watching games don’t want to hear how great the guys at FX are to work with, however true that may be. Monday Night Football and ESPN finally learned this lesson. Hopefully others follow suit.