Good for Joe Buck and good for HBO. Tuesday night’s second installment of Joe Buck Live was a markedly different show than the June premiere, and all the differences were improvements.
Actually it was really just one difference: the show wasn’t so forced and it just let Buck stay in his comfort zone. They booked good guests and Buck to his credit just got out of the way. Completely missing were any awkward attempts at humor, or any of the perceived arrogance that Buck gets ripped for by his detractors.
Instead, the show opened with a taped wink at the Artie Lange situation, and then got right to the meat – the interviews.
A panel of former star quarterbacks was entertaining, though you kept hoping for Joe Namath – who always looked a second away from saying or doing something nuts — to try and plant one on Buck. Guess he’s no Suzy Kolber.
Next was a pairing with Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban, which was tame but interesting.
That was followed by an interview with Curt Schilling, who broke some news by saying he wasn’t running for Ted Kennedy’s seat, and also had some interesting words about Roger Clemens.
The show ended with a Buck monologue that was quick and solid, as much making strong points as trying to be funny. It worked.
When I spoke with Buck before his first show, I wrote he needed to be more Bob Costas than Bob Saget. The first show was, well, a first show. This version was much better when it stopped trying so hard.
After the premiere, I gave three pieces of advice, which were not to make the show live, not to have an overarching theme throughout the show, and to book Artie Lange in episode 2.
While the show was still live, the other two happened, and they both helped.
While doing four shows a year leaves zero chance of ever building any sort of rhythm, if Tuesday was any indication, the show will probably get better in its third episode.
There is still room for improvement. Buck needs to get more comfortable going back after his interview subjects when they dodge a question. They will hopefully drop the audience question segment, which took up too much of the block with the QBs (or at least add in questions via Twitter and such to rope in the viewers). And little talk show pet peeves like having three chairs on stage for a two-guest segment should get smoothed out.
After this showing, Buck and the producers may regain some confidence to add a little more of Buck’s personality back into the show. Here’s hoping they walk that line very carefully and not wade back into too much silliness.
HBO’s audience is used to a show like this – book great guests and leave the snark and the screaming to the Internet and everywhere else. God forbid you just have a quality show without a YouTube moment.
Here’s hoping everyone involved with this show remembers that, and keeps Joe Buck Live heading on the right track come its next installment in December.