Could 'Sportswriters' inspire more classic comebacks?

August 20, 2010

"It's possible to watch old Siskel and Ebert clips on YouTube and find they remain as entertaining as ever. Vintage editions of the [John] Roach-produced 'The Sportswriters on TV' probably would hold up for much the same reason today if rerun on Comcast SportsNet."

When Phil Rosenthal wrote those words in the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 11, he may or may not have been psychic. But seven days later, Comcast Sports Chicago announced that it would indeed be rerunning tapes of "The Sportswriters on TV" at 11 p.m. Fridays and Sundays, starting Sept. 10.

For more than a dozen years -- before they ran out of hot air and cigar smoke in 1998 -- Chicago treasures Bill Gleason, Bill Jauss, Rick Telander and Ben Bentley defined sports talk on television with their spirited weekly roundtable. Although it owed its origins to radio and eventually achieved national distribution on cable, "The Sportswriters on TV" was, in its purest form, a genuine classic of local television.‚ (Where are they now? Gleason died earlier this year, Jauss is retired from the Tribune, Telander is the top sports columnist‚ at the Sun-Times, and Bentley died in 2001.)

In hailing the return of what he called "The Fab Four of Sports Talk," Comcast SportsNet president Jim Corno said: "Gleason, Jauss, Telander and Bentley were rock stars in their own right back in the day, and their timeless wisdom on so many sports topics that still hold major relevance to this day will once again be shared with our viewers."

 

If there's a market for a sports talk show from 25 years ago, why stop there? I think this could start a trend in bringing back "classic episodes" of old shows to local television:

  • Phil Rosenthal and I can't be the only ones who'd love to watch complete broadcasts of "Siskel & Ebert" from the 1980s and '90s -- especially those in which Gene and Roger review significant movies, assess the careers of major stars and directors, and tackle controversial subjects in their occasional "theme" shows. Wouldn't it be great to see the two of them --  in their prime --  arguing their points with wit and passion? Thumbs up to fat jokes and bald jokes!
  • If WBBM-Channel 2 really wants viewers to wallow in nostalgia, forget about reuniting aging anchor icons Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson today. Instead, I say the CBS-owned station should rerun tapes of "THE 10 O'Clock News" from Bill & Walter's glory days in 1970s and '80s. Each night Channel 2 could present a newscast covering a particularly important or noteworthy day in Chicago history. I'd even enjoy seeing John Coughlin's weather and Johnny Morris' sports all over again.
  • When it comes to vintage local television, there's nothing --  nothing --  I wish I could watch again more than "Kup's Show." Each week, legendary Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet would assemble an eclectic group of the best and the brightest from all walks of life to engage in what he called "the lively art of conversation." Begun in 1959 as the open-ended "At Random," it ran late nights on four local stations (and, for a time, in national syndication) until 1986, winning a total of 15 Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. From presidents to porn stars, Kup welcomed them all to discuss the hot topics of the day and mix it up around his coffee table. Now that was a talk show!
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