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Fox Goes Back for Future

March 11, 2005|LARRY STEWART

Sometimes your best just isn't good enough.

So the folks at Fox Sports Net began tweaking their 4-year-old nightly marquee show, "Best Damn Sports Show Period."

It was cut from two hours to 90 minutes, then to one hour, and in December the cast was trimmed, including host Chris Rose.

Tom Arnold was asked to carry the show, with John Salley serving as his sidekick.

That didn't quite work, so as the show began a two-week hiatus this week, there was more tweaking. Arnold was taken off the show, and, by way of thanks, was given a one-year contract that calls for periodic appearances during major events.

Rose was brought back as the host, a role he'll resume March 21 when new shows, rather than reruns, begin. It will take two to four weeks after that to put together a new cast.

George Greenberg, FSN executive vice president in charge of production, said this latest format would provide more sports news and information while maintaining an entertainment element.

He said that the shows would be taped later in the day and the opening segment would be updated as needed after the East Coast showing and before the West Coast showing.

As for Arnold's situation, Greenberg said, "Tom gave us everything. He put this show on the map. We did not give him enough writing support for the comedy aspect of the show."

Doing a nightly entertainment/comedy show isn't easy. Just ask Jay Leno or David Letterman, who have huge writing staffs.

Of Arnold's new deal, Greenberg said, "It was agreeable to both parties and allows Tom to write, produce, direct and act in movies and sitcoms."

Arnold, as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel's ABC late-night show last Friday, was asked about a report that he was out as the host of "Best Damn."

Arnold, maintaining his sense of humor, said, "When we called, they said, 'Oh my God, it's so not true. He is the cornerstone of our network and we love him.' So I knew it was true."

Rose, of being taken off the show and then being brought back, said, "I look at it as though I'm an athlete. I'll do whatever the coach asks me to do."

Greenberg emphasized that the show would continue filling in the gaps between live sports events.

FSN's best program is "Beyond the Glory," a documentary series. But there are not enough of those shows to fill many gaps. There will be only 13 new episodes this year. That's why "Best Damn," just nominated for a sports Emmy for the fourth consecutive year, is so important to FSN.

Short Waves

For basketball fanatics, DirecTV's Mega March Madness $59 pay package once again offers the 37 games that are not televised on CBS during the first three rounds of the NCAA men's tournament, which begins Thursday. And this year, for the first time, many of those games will be available in high definition.... Bob Knight this year is serving as spokesman and public-relations man for the DirecTV package, although Knight generally doesn't come to mind when one thinks of PR.... Sirius Satellite Radio is also offering a new package that includes every NCAA tournament game. And this package, which has no blackouts, doesn't cost any more than the basic monthly subscription price of $12.95.

It wasn't a down year for the Pacific 10 after all, at least not according to ratings for the FSN package. The 14 Pac-10 telecasts on FSN averaged a .31 rating, up from a .25 last season and the highest since the package averaged a .39 during the 2001-2002 season.... FSN West will carry today's semifinals of the Pacific 10 tournament at Staples Center, with CBS televising Saturday's championship game.... The main NCAA men's tournament selection show will be on CBS Sunday at 3 p.m., but ESPN and CSTV will have their own shows as well.... For those looking for something different, CSTV is televising Saturday's college lacrosse doubleheader being played at the Home Depot Center in Carson, beginning at 5 p.m.

The Golf Channel and the LPGA have reached an agreement that calls for the network to televise at least 10 tournaments a year through 2009.... With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson squaring off in the final round at Doral on NBC last Sunday, the Ford Championship drew a national rating of 5.5, up 96% over the previous year's 2.8.... The Tennis Channel will be offering 12 consecutive hours of coverage from the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells on Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m.... Steve Bellamy, president and founder of the Tennis Channel, on Wednesday was one of four Indiana alumni to be honored for their professional achievement.... The Dodgers have traditionally televised Sunday spring training games, but so far this year there have been no spring training telecasts. The plan is to maybe do a couple before the end of spring training.

In Closing

Jim Gray, who last week got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this week finds himself in the middle of a controversy. Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban said Gray ambushed the Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki in a live interview on ABC last Sunday by telling him that teammate Michael Finley and Cuban had suggested that team chemistry was better now without former Maverick Steve Nash.

Cuban, who said Gray twisted his comments and those by Finley, wants ABC to suspend Gray. But ABC spokesman Mark Mandel said Cuban was misled and that the network was standing behind Gray.

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