Picks and Pans Review: Critic's Corner

UPDATED 09/26/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/26/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT

>THE NFL ACCORDING TO FOX

"SAME GAME...NEW ATTITUDE." That's the motto the "attitude"-obsessed Fox network has adopted to promote its first year of NFL coverage. By and large, the cleats fit.

Oh, Fox has thrown in such gewgaws as the scoreboard and running clock in the upper-left-hand corner of the screen (helpful) and having Ed McMahon intone "Heeere's the disclaimer!" to introduce the standard copyright warning ("Any use or retransmission of this broadcast without the express written consent..." etc.) at the end of the game (bizarre).

Of course the game coverage should look familiar. Fox pursued a fiendishly simple strategy in putting together their sports department: go to CBS and hire away all the old football hands. In the process they got a John Madden-Pat Summerall announcing team clearly in the twilight of both men's careers. Madden's waggish water-boy poetry has become a little strained, as has Summerall's unctuous straight-man patter. But if Fox's flagship announcers don't add as much to the game as they did in their prime, at least they don't detract from it.

Essentially, Fox hasn't tinkered much with the on-field look. There aren't, after all, that many ways to cook steak. So the upstart network has focused on amplifying the sizzle. Their print and TV ads for football are brasher and more vernacular. But where Fox puts on the all-out blitz is in their pregame, halftime and postgame shows, which feature Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson and James Brown. These guys will do anything to spice up their airtime—comedy skits, demonstrations, shouting matches and constant movement around the set. Bradshaw covers more yardage in an hour-long Fox NFL Sunday than he did in his entire career with the Steelers. While the presentation is contrived, Fox still showcases its televised matchups effectively, provides good information and solid features and knows how to foment controversy (as when the Falcons' Andre Rison guaranteed a win over the Rams).

Football on Fox? As they used to say when it was on CBS, I'm a big fan.

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