Published on Wednesday, 18 August 2010 11:50
Before sports talk radio became all the rage, the way to enjoy excellent sports talk was on Chicago television, by watching "The Sports Writers on TV." For 15 years, this landmark television show, usually featuring four sports columnists discussing (and sometimes arguing) sports-related topics, was one of the most popular and longest-running programs in Chicago sports TV history. Beginning next month, classic episodes of this show will be making a return to the Chicago airwaves (or cable transmissions) via Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Beginning on September 10th at 11:00pm, Comcast SportsNet will broadcast classic episodes of "The Sports Writers on TV." The one-hour show will air each Friday night at 11:00pm, with repeats on Sunday nights at 11:00pm. CSN has a library of over 600 of these classic shows which they will be programming to run at approximately the same time of year that they first aired (with NFL & NBA talk in the winter, MLB talk in the summer, playoff talks around playoff time, etc.). The new airings of these shows will also have some newly added commentary, adding some contemporary conversation to the classic conversations.
In addition to the televised showings, Comcast SportsNet's website, CSNChicago.com, will make each week's show available for online viewing, beginning right after the TV airing. All shows will then be archived for future viewing on the website.
James J. Corno, President of Comcast SportsNet Chicago said in a statement today, "This is truly an exciting day for me and all of us at Comcast SportsNet to announce that the 'Fab Four' of sports talk will once again be making their way back to television and, for the first time, on the web. Gleason, Jauss, Telander and Bentley were rock stars in their own right back in the day and their timeless wisdom on so many sports topics that still hold major relevance to this day will once again be shared with our viewers. I especially want to thank my longtime friend and colleague John Roach for helping us bring the boys back to our network."
John Roach, President of John Roach Projects and the producer of "The Sports Writers on TV" also said in the statement, "It's a thrill to be working with Jim Corno once again, who was no doubt the moving force behind the show for so many years, along with the entire team at Comcast SportsNet, as we're so pleased to bring back this historic slice of local television history to Chicago sports fans. 'The Sports Writers' offers a great oral history of some remarkable years in Chicago sports, debated by four of the most memorable characters in Chicago sports history. The show's new features will also provide interesting postscripts and perspective to the commentary, without intruding on the conversation. We couldn't be happier to bring back this show to its legion of longtime followers, as well as to an entirely new generation of viewers."
The show was first a WGN-AM radio show called "The Sportswriters." In 1985, the show added cameras to the mix and "The Sports Writers on TV" was born, beginning on WFLD-TV. In 1986, the show moved to the pay channel SportsVision, which eventually became SportsChannel. The show came to an end in 2000, when the owner of SportsChannel/Fox SportsNet at that time, FOX Sports Network, did not renew the contract. For many of the years it was the air, it was syndicated out to other cable/pay sports channels in other markets.
The show was very consistent in look and feel during its entire run. It consisted mainly of four core hosts: Ben Bently as the "moderator" and Bill Jauss, Bill Gleason, and Rick Telander as the conversing sports writers. The show was shot around a large round table in a dark room, using a few different cameras. The table was always covered in local newspapers and the air was always filled with thick cigar smoke. The tone was always very casual, with the hosts dressed comfortably and calling each other by their last names. The conversations, even when heated, where always friendly & fun.
Other local sports writers would be part of the show, as well -- sometimes as fill-ins, sometimes just as additional voices. Joe Mooshill and Lester Munson were often on the show, and later, Mike Mulligan, as well. In addition to the four sports writers, the show often attracted special guests including Mike Ditka, Bill Veeck, George Wendt, Billy Corgan, Pat Sajak, and Chicago Mayors Harold Washington and Richard Daley.
During it's long run, the show received many honors including a Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award and a national CableACE Award. It was also a highly influential show that was a forerunner to more recent sports talk television programs like "Around the Horn" and "Pardon the Interruption."
Unfortunately, two of the show's principal participants have passed away: Ben Bentley in 2001 and Bill Gleason at the start of this year.
The following is a short clip from the classic Chicago television show, from 1993: