I could never quite place how Joe Buck would fare with his own TV show. Known for dry baseball and football play-by-play on FOX — and we're talkin' dry dry, even for Aaron Sorkin — he has the ability to turn any exciting sports event into your great aunt's scrapbook.
Nonetheless, Buck is crossing over into HBO territory with Joe Buck Live, and his premiere show featured interviews with the king of off-season NFL melodrama, Brett Favre, and his inevitable incumbent, Chad Ochocinco. But … interviews with athletes? Everybody does this. Joe Buck does this. The hook on this show is he wants to be in the center of some comedy.
His only experience with this, that I know of, are those amusing Holiday Inn commercials, where the guys in the elevator want to touch his golden throat. And you're not going to believe this, but Buck played the straight man.
Fast forward to the end of Joe Buck Live, where he brings in three celebrities: actor Paul Rudd, Saturday Night Live's Jason Sudeikis, and verbal trainwreck Artie Lange. Rudd was present, not to pitch a movie (I Love You Man is already off the cinematic radar), but because he's Joe Buck's friend and Joe Buck goes to Paul Rudd when he wants to get a project off the ground. Sudeikis was there because, apparently, they had extra furniture on the set. And Lange, one of Howard Stern's foils, was there perhaps for his opening line.
Calling Joe Buck and Tony Romo gay so quickly is quite a feat. Of course, it's HBO, so nobody can really get offended … except Joe Buck, of course. But Tommy Craggs had a fantastic point. You booked Artie freakin' Lange. What the hell were you expecting?
Buck's ability to crack jokes just didn't work. It came off as wooden, because he wants to be funny yet still retain his dignity. It's like he wants the laughs of a pie-in-the-face gag, yet he wants his eyes to be custard-free.
He's trying to fill the void left by the end of Costas Live. Now, Bob Costas does play-by-play sometimes, but he's more known for anchoring his NBC Olympic coverage. Coupled with his past shows (Costas Coast To Coast, Later), it was a more natural fit for him to host a show like that than for Buck, whose primary purpose — albeit, a difficult one — is to tell the story of a sporting event, and let his colleague interject.
HBO shows rarely last long when they're good. I can't imagine how much longer this one will stick around.