Always Late with Katie Nolan debuted Wednesday evening as part of ESPN+ just in time for the beginning of the NFL season. Nolan was signed by ESPN late last year and has been popping up here and there on the sports network. I was introduced to her as a co-host on Le Batard’s radio show as well as his TV show Highly Questionable and found her delightful in both roles. She was also among the ESPN’s Megacast fun in the “Cool Room”
Having enjoyed those appearances and knowing that her previous show Garbage Time had earned her a Sports Emmy in 2016 along with high praise regularly on social media, I had extremely high expectations. Thus, I found myself disappointed during the show’s opening segment with Katie behind a studio desk offering humorous takes on sports headlines a la The Daily Show or SNL’s Weekend Update. I was expecting her to feel fresh, new but its pacing and humor success were more reminiscent of an awkward awards show host. The in-studio audience enjoyed it, however, and laughed appropriately, but it only received chuckles from our sofa -and- most of them late in the segment.
However, I hung around hoping for more laughs in later segments and Katie didn’t disappoint. Her analysis of the new betting opportunities was both informative and funny. I especially appreciated her jab at Kevin Durant while discussing the professional sports leagues embrace of gambling once the ruling came down. Katie really shined in this portion of the show.
Additionally the segment called “Good Athletes, Bad Actors” — a compilation of extremely awkward commercials featuring athletes such as Alex Ovechkin, Marshawn Lynch, Joe Flacco and even legendary Scotty Pippen — presented a taste of the fun and humor the Always Late team can bring to light as did the show’s final moments reminiscent of Daily Show‘s “Moment of Zen,” which simply featured a clip of Dennis Miller’s debut in the MNF booth in a sign-off.
While her goofy antics – such as partnering with Victor Cruz in an attempt to put on a T-shirt for every NFL team in under 30 seconds or pranking NBA 2K gamers with trash talk-style questions fed to her behind the scenes by professional athletes (such as Jayson Tatum & Kevin Garnett) – are social media fodder and enjoyable I was particularly fond of the show’s segment Emotional Pie Chart. With simple graphic aids, Katie offers her “complicated mess of conflicting emotions” to various athlete social media moments. Among the debut topics were an Instagram post by QB Tom Brady, LeBron James dancing on the sidelines of international basketball, and the Padres’ player who was caught venting about his manager while playing Fortnite with AAA baseball player livestreaming their game. Katie explained the moment left her feeling 40% bad for the MLB player because who wants your boss to know how you feel about them, 15% concerned for the AAA guy who may have undermined his chances at the bigs, but 35% concerned for their apparently bad Fortnite skills given the stats displayed on the screen.
While Always Late offers a different look at the world of sports for ESPN+ humor-based sports programming (beyond blooper reels it seems) hasn’t fared well traditionally – Mohr Sports and Sports Show with Norm MacDonald – come to mind. However, growing up in Southern California, I have fond memories of the completely irreverent daily sports radio program of Jim Healy and currently enjoy the humor offered on the network by Dan Le Batard and crew as well as Scott Van Pelt. But what Katie and her team are seeking to accomplish is no simple chore. Hopefully they will keep us laughing for years to come.