Monday, January 15, 2007

MNF crew likely to return intact

Jim Williams, The Examiner
Jan 15, 2007 3:00 AM (6 hrs ago)
Current rank: # 7 of 11,812 articles

WASHINGTON - Monday Night Football was a success in season one for ESPN. Not surprisingly, it was the most-watched series in cable television history.

Does that mean the first-year booth trio of Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann and Tony Kornheiser will return intact.

It appears that way.

Kornheiser said in an interview with the Miami Herald last week he wants to return. It sounds like the feeling is mutual.

“Tony’s one-of-a-kind perspective was an integral part of our record-setting inaugural ‘Monday Night Football’ season,” said ESPN executive V.P. Norby Williamson. “We are absolutely looking forward to his return.”

Jed Drake, senior vice president for remote production for ESPN and ABC, echoed those sentiments.

“We were very pleased with all of our talent,” Drake said, “and of course Tony was a big part of the success of our first year.”

So does that mean the booth and sideline talent — Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya — and the producer-director duo of Jay Rothman and Chip Dean will be back?

“That would be a fair assumption,” Drake said. “We have a great deal on our plate at the moment ... I think we just need a little time to relax and a MNF announcement will be coming in due time.”

Translation: It will be made official sometime around the Super Bowl when the talent will be together and the stage is biggest.

Air Kornheiser in demand

On the local side, Kornheiser is eyeing a return to Washington radio. So where will he end up?

Bonneville-owned WTWP-AM and FM would love to have him as a morning host from 8-10 a.m. Word from station execs is they are “moving heaven and earth” to get Kornheiser on their air.

The problem is WTWP does not employ the key people that have been part of Kornheiser’s shows in the past. His ensemble cast was a large part of his radio success.

SportsTalk 980-AM, with the presence of usual Kornheiser sidekick Andy Pollin and former producer Marc Sterne, is the frontrunner. But WTEM is now part of FOX Sports Radio and at the very least, that may present difficulties when trying to book Kornheiser’s ESPN brethren as guests. ESPN prohibits its talent from appearing on competitor’s air.

Throw in Triple X ESPN and D.C.-based XM as suitors and Kornheiser is in the middle of his own radio soap opera.

But there’s no cliffhanger. Kornheiser will be back on the air soon — somewhere — which makes for a happy ending.

Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer.


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