I believe Bill Simmons is a lot of different things to different people. To some, he is a sports fan turned entertaining TV personality with an affinity for all things Boston. To others, he is an obnoxious brat full of hot takes like “Roger Goodell is a jerk” and “Tom Brady is very talented”. To others still he is a proxy by which you can hate on the corrupt major sports leagues and more importantly ESPN. Most people probably know him as the guy that starts every sentence with “You know what I believe” and has those weird commercials that run before Game of Thrones. And whichever camp you fall into will completely shape how much you love or hate Any Given Wednesday.
I believe I fall into the first camp. Bill is a different kind of sports personality and he’s exactly what sports media needs right now. He is just a normal guy who knows a lot about the history of the game. He can talk to pretty much any professional athlete about their playing days and the current state of their league. He’s funny but not too funny. He also knows enough about entertainment in general to hold a conversation with a movie star and he asks the questions you want to ask.
I believe you could argue that Bill’s most valuable quality is all of his insider knowledge. He worked for ESPN until they chose not to renew his contract for one of the dumbest reasons imaginable and destroyed Grantland, the website Simmons built. In an age where all of the major sports media outlets are more interested in hot takes and access than true reporting, Bill Simmons has an axe to grind so big that The Mountain couldn’t carry it.
I believe the format of the first episode consisted of some monologues, conversations, and a prerecorded bit. The monologues were pretty strong because of Simmons’ talent as a natural storyteller but by far the most interesting parts of the show were the conversations. Charles Barkley was a smart first pick. He is one of the most popular figures in sports right now and has a story that everyone knows. Affleck seemed like more of an unusual pick but it became clear about halfway through the interview why Simmons brought Affleck on: Deflategate. It is good that they got it out of the way in the first episode so that Bill can only bring it up fifty times every episode going forward.
I believe there were some general issues with the production. The interviews were edited in a slightly clunky fashion. Having listened to the BS Podcast for a while now, I can tell how a Bill Simmons conversation is supposed to flow and this wasn’t exactly it. Also the camera angles were odd. For the intro, a straight on seemed a little too intimate. During the conversation, the over the shoulder shots were fine but the wide shots were a little strange. It isn’t a huge issue though and I have a feeling we will either get used to it or see it corrected in future episodes.
I believe the only truly cringe worthy moment came during the Steph Curry commercial bit. A forty six year old probably shouldn’t have a show that uses the word “dope” unironically. Besides that one hiccup, the bit was pretty strong. They clearly have to work on the tone of some of these asides, but the intention of this one was fun. On a recent episode of the Bill Simmons Podcast, Bill floated the idea of doing a piece on Knicks owner James Dolan’s band. That would be incredible. Bill Simmons, if you’re reading this, do that bit immediately. People that grew up around NYC are already aware of JD and the Straight Shot but the rest of the world needs to know.
I believe my biggest concern is that Bill decided to start his show during what is known as the Sports Deadzone. We just got done with the NHL and NBA finals. The NFL doesn’t start for another couple of months. MLB never really gets interesting until the All Star break. Is Bill going to focus on soccer until football starts back up? I guess there is always the Olympics. He could completely pivot to entertainment for a couple of weeks. The ball’s in his court.
You know what I believe? Overall, I think the positives of the show far outweigh the negatives, and most of those negatives are pretty easy to fix. Give it a couple of weeks and I have a feeling this will be running smoothly. Simmons also has a deep bench. He could easily get Greenwald, Ryan, Rubin, and Concepcion from After the Thrones to sit in on an episode. Then there’s frequent podcast guests Malcolm Gladwell, Cousin Sal, Joe House, and even Michael Rappaport. As long he doesn’t pull his punches, I believe Any Given Wednesday could be the Last Week Tonight of sports and that would be great.
Also HBO put the whole first episode on Youtube, so go ahead and check it out for yourself.
Matthew Nando Kelly is an incredibly cool and handsome Senior Staff Writer for Pop-Break who was allowed to write his own bio. Besides weekly Flash recaps, he focuses on film, television, music, and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He has an unshakable love for U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. His twitter handle is @NationofNando. Did we mention how handsome he was?