I am a big fan of Michael Davies and Roger Bennett, better known as the Men in Blazers. Like many soccer fans, I discovered their terrific podcast on Grantland two years ago and haven’t missed an episode since. Their appreciation of all things soccer, their insightful analysis, and above all their contagious sense of humor – which runs the gamut from intellectually witty to schoolyard silly – continue to amass fans that they refer to as “GFOPs” (“Great Friend of the Pod”).
The British expat duo’s popularity soared during the World Cup this summer thanks to their often hilarious, rapid-fire segments during ESPN’s World Cup Tonight show. The success of those segments and their weekly podcast led to their recent move from ESPN and Grantland to NBCSN where last week they launched the first episode of their new weekly TV show that airs Monday nights at 10:00 PM EST.
The Men in Blazers TV show is a sort of re-launch for the duo as they introduce themselves to a presumably larger audience on NBCSN than they’ve had for their Grantland podcast. Through the first two episodes that has meant plenty retreading of jokes and lingo that listeners of their podcast are already thoroughly familiar with. As for the look of the show, the Blazers aren’t messing with success as they’ve essentially copied the “panic room” set from their World Cup Tonight segments: Davies and Bennett squeezed together in front of a single camera, wearing headsets, with bookshelves and a random assortment of quirky photos and knick-knacks in the background. The show’s format is also a continuation of their shtick from the World Cup 2014 broadcasts, which primarily involves showing clips of players, managers, and fans from the previous weekend’s Premier League matches as the Blazers comment, and poke fun at all aspects of the game they love.
After viewing the first two episodes of the Men in Blazers TV show, the biggest question is whether the show is too much of a good thing. If the general entertainment adage of “always leave them wanting more” applies to the Blazers, then that’s precisely what made their World Cup segments so successful. The manic pace of their World Cup Tonight segments worked because of their brevity. So far, I’m not convinced the same approach translates well in a half-hour format. The same frenetic pace used in their World Cup segments begins to feel a little stretched by the time they reach the interview segment that concludes the new TV show.