No one is going to accuse Inside the NBA of being overly scripted, but according to Ernie Johnson, the show cast doesn’t even sit in production meetings.
Johnson was recently interviewed by Bryan Kalbrosky of USA Today’s For The Win and the NBA on TNT studio host was asked whether the show is more organized or improvised.
“Improvising and letting it rip is exactly how we like to do the show,” Johnson said. A line that Shaquille O’Neal may have taken too literally last week after he ate some “bad lasagna” and let one rip, leaving his co-hosts to desperately searching for gas masks. But no one will accuse Shaq’s gas of being an organized show bit.
“These guys don’t sit in a production meeting and prepare for what they’ll say in each segment and get their thoughts organized,” Johnson continued. “We just want a gut-level, genuine reaction, so when these guys sit down, it’s not like we’ve rehearsed. We’re just going to let her go. That has really resonated with folks who watch the show. They don’t know what’s going to happen next and most of the time, neither do I. I’ve got a roadmap for what we have available to us, and we have some points we may want to make. But as far as how these guys respond to it? Who knows! That is what keeps it fresh and fun and I think, at times, entertaining.”
The show probably gets some sort of rundown because they have to at least know the games they’re going to talk about and some of the highlights they’re going to air, although whether Charles Barkley actually knows the players playing in those games is always a question mark. But everyone who watches Johnson, Shaq, Kenny Smith and Barkley on Inside the NBA would agree, it’s their natural chemistry and the “don’t know what’s going to happen next” feeling that makes the show a success.
Would it be a waste of time to make Shaq, Smith and Barkley to sit through production meetings just so they can go out on set and let it rip? Probably. Two years ago, Barkley referred to his bosses as “cowards” and complained they were attempting to censor some of the show’s humor. But without even having to sit through a production meeting, it certainly seems like Shaq, Smith and Barkley are still trusted with the freedom to do whatever they want on-air. And the audience keeps coming back to watch them operate with that freedom.