TSN’s The Reporters: A whole lot of talk but very little sizzle

So, here’s my take on The Reporters with Dave Hodge: It was live TV but not lively TV.

TSN’s The Reporters never was all that it could have been. Or should have been. There seldom was vigorous debate. Hell, there seldom was debate, period. It was four old friends (three this year) having an early-morning spot of tea and toast while engaged in polite discourse on the week’s athletic developments, some of which, but not all, mattered to those of us stuck out in the colonies.

Hey, I’m a strong proponent of politeness, but I always harbored hope that The Reporters would be more like breakfast with beer. You know, some pub-like, in-your-face feistiness. Sans the drunkenness, of course.

Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber, Steve Simmons and Dave Hodge (left to right).

Sports talk TV should be informative, insightful and opinion-driven, to be sure, but also entertaining. Well, you aren’t going to entertain me with bland banter. I require a dollop, or two, of contrary to-and-fro, an ingredient host Dave Hodge and his usual suspects—Bruce Arthur, Michael Farber, Steve Simmons—were incapable of delivering.

Or perhaps they refused to deliver it.

You should know that there is an unwritten code among newspaper sports scribes: You do not eat your own. That is, you do not rip the other guy in print or on air.

Oh, sure, they’ll call sports commentators idiots. They’ll call bloggers idiots. They’ll call followers on social media idiots. But one print scribe calling out another print scribe is as rare as a tweet-free week from Donald Trump. Thus, The Reporters was a mutual admiration society, which would explain the absence of edginess when the Gab Four appeared on our flatscreens each Sunday morning from a TSN studio in the Republic of Tranna.

I doubt that’s the reason TSN has pulled the plug on The Reporters, because there were other elements at play. Like costs. Nobody is willing to work for free. Moving the show to Monday afternoons last year was ill-advised scheduling. They totally lost me and, I suspect, others with that decision. And, this autumn’s switch from a TV studio to a radio booth, complete with table-top microphones, cheapened the product. There was something tacky about it. Finally, it didn’t help that it took techies 11 minutes, or roughly half the show, to detect and correct sound issues (Arthur’s and Simmons’ mics weren’t on) last week, something that clearly PO’d host Hodge.

For me, though, The Reporters‘ great, final failing was the talking heads. If they didn’t become old fast, their show surely did. Like, in the last two years.

While the polished Hodge can still deliver delicious witticisms—ditto Arthur, on occasion—listening to Farber was a chore. Before being cut from the show’s roster this season, his thoughts were ponderous, deliberate and tiresome preachings. He was pong in a Play Station world. Bing Crosby in a Bruno Mars world. Meanwhile, Simmons’ portrayal of Grandpa Simpson forever shouting and shaking his fists at clouds became an insufferable shtick of Trumpish insults and negativity.

I always felt like the dumb kid in that class, the passionate one, the emotional one, the sports nut, the one who interrupted far too often and too loudly,” is Simmons’ self-description.

I’d say that’s spot on, especially the “dumb kid” and “too loudly” components.

I continued to watch The Reporters for two reasons: 1) I seldom found anything better to do at 6 o’clock on Sunday morning; 2) it sometimes provided me with fodder for my River City Renegade sports blog, which I recently retired.

The Reporters was on TSN’s air for 15 seasons. That’s a very good run. It tells me the format clearly works for many viewers. It just stopped working for me.

Maybe I’ll start going to mass on Sunday mornings now.

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