With their new program High Noon (9A Pacific), ESPN appears to be retooling the head to head sports debate show. It doesn’t feature the frenetic, yelling and dramatic takes of their popular First Take nor is it the rapid-fire topic treadmill that is the popular Pardon The Interruption. Instead, hosts Pablo Torre and Bomani Jones take the water cooler topics of the day from the sports world and discuss, and at times, debate them in a deliberate manner in a crisp modern TV studio setting.
Both hosts are familiar to ESPN viewers as they have been appearing on the sports network and its radio stations for several years now. As usual, they are not afraid to demonstrate their college educations through their vocabulary and by sprinkling literary and historical references into their takes. Bomani Jones, the son of academics, has a Masters degree in Economics, Politics and Business – even studying towards an Economics Doctorate at the University of North Carolina – and has served as an adjunct professor at Duke and Elon Universities. His co-host Pablo Torre graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. The duo also aren’t shy about wading into topics that are more controversial in nature due to their social or political aspects such as the rivalry between Serena Williams and Maria Sharipova as well as the evolution of athlete visits (or not) to the White House.
I’m finding they linger a bit too long on each of their opening stories in the first segment, although I do like the ominous gong/bell that chimes as they wrap up each topic and move on to the next. In their premiere episode, music played a key role throughout the show. Playing off the High Noon theme, the Day 1 music heightened the show’s drama initially, but as the segment continued, it became distracting and definitely caught Twitter’s attention. Their second episode didn’t feature as much underscore so I’ll be interested to see how it comes into play as they find their rhythm.
The duo’s dynamic and their individual personalities really shine in their latter segments – “Quote” and “Numbers”. In the “Quote” segment, Bomani or Pablo simply read a quote, no context. After a brief pause, they reveal the source of the quote at times offering video of the moment. Then they go on to discuss it. In the premiere episode, Pablo used this segment to showcase how different sports journalism is now. Reporters used to have to dig to generate moments where athletes would let the guard down and offer up interesting quotes while now athletes just go to Instagram and provide journalists plenty to discuss.
A similar format occurs in their “Numbers” segment, but here they present without context a figure and then provide the context for the stat. As an example “1” as in “1-run scored in the last 29 innings for the Phillies.” In addition to these segments, I enjoy the production’s choice to fade in and out of their discussions as we head to ad breaks. They also do this on PTI at times, almost as if we are simply eavesdropping on the conversation.
As I watched High Noon (9A Pacific), I was reminded of Star Trek: The Next Generation in its early days. Having grown up with Star Trek re-runs, the series while new was familiar. The new series was true to the classic form, vibrant, well adapted to modern tastes but somehow just a little stiff, a little less organic. It eventually found its way and some could argue eclipsed the popularity of its predecessor, it will be interesting to see if High Noon (9A Pacific) will be the successor to PTI it appears to be positioned to be.