As the Orlando Magic and now Joe Buck can tell you, overtime can be a cruel mistress. The debut of HBO’s “Joe Buck Live” on Monday was notable for two reasons: The painful, knuckle-biting inexperience of the host, and spectacular warehouse fire of an appearance by MADtv alum and Howard Stern sidekick Artie Lange. Much of the damage was done during the regular show, as we discussed in Speed Read this morning. But Lange really hit his stride in the Overtime segment afterward on HBO.COM.
What you witnessed there was a man’s career imploding, and I’m not talking about Lange’s. While Buck tentatively stepped through the bulk of the show with fair to middling results — he’s a good interviewer, and not at all unfunny — his weakness in this format immediately became apparent as soon as Lange was allowed to talk. The talk radio bad boy was crude and obnoxious even by cable standards, especially in the Overtime segment. He ripped gays, made jokes about ejaculation; stuff that would make John Rocker blush. After attempting to spar with him a bit, Buck gave up; taking on the appearance of a Keystone Cop trying to arrest a bear.
HBO was not amused, apparently. Their sports president, Ross Greenburg, said Lange “bordered on bad taste” with his “mean-spirited” tone, which is quite a quote coming from an executive of the network that gave us “Lucky Louie”. From USA TODAY:
“Look, live television is all about risk-reward. We know who Artie Lange was when he was booked,” said Greenburg. “We knew there was a certain degree of a risk factor in where he would go and where he would take us. I think at the end of the day, we’ll let the public decide. Much the same way the public decided on the appearance of Will Leitch and Buzz Bissinger. … The public will have the last say in what they thought of Artie Lange tonight.”
The difference of course being that Leitch and Bissinger were engaging in an honest debate during their appearance on “Costas Live” last year, while Lange was creating controversy for controversy’s sake. It’s like trying to compare a scooter accident with the Hindenburg disaster. HBO has no one to blame but itself.
‘I know. For our first show, let’s have that guy from Howard Stern, who once snorted coaine in his car while dressed as a pig.’ In case you’ve never read the infamous Pig Story, here’s the Wikipedia entry on it (eighth graph down).
If the intent here was simply to create a buzz, well, mission accomplished. From SI.COM:
Before Lange left the stage, Buck said he asked him, ‘Was I good? Was that great?’ “That’s his M.O.,” Buck said. “That’s what he believed he was brought here to do. And, you know, he can. He’s a guest and it’s live TV. At some point short of hitting a trap door, what are you going to do?… He came out and did his thing. I can’t blame him for that but I wish it was a notch lower. I was thinking, ‘How much longer do we have in the segment?’ I thought that spending time on a treadmill felt long, but that [segment] was eight or nine minutes turned into an eternity.”“
Toward the end, Lange joked to Buck: “Dude, this is your last segment, ever.” HBO won’t pull the plug that abruptly. But like an earlier bit in which Buck watched through a telescope while Costas relaxed at home petting a dog in his pajamas, it won’t be long until “Joe Buck Live” settles into a comfortable retirement.