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Copa America

FOX’s ‘Copa Tonight’ show is a train wreck


ESPN’s Euro 2016 Preview, which aired Thursday night on the main ESPN network, reminded English-language dominant American viewers what a top serious soccer production looks like around a major international tournament. ESPN’s serious preview involved no less than a dozen commentators on site in Paris, a mixture of analysts from different countries and backgrounds as well as an intertwining of news that might impact the tournament with contributions from ABC. Plus there were human interest stories and hard analysis pieces that were in direct contrast to the level of production being offered by FOX Sports during the Copa America Centenario tournament.

Near the top of the list of FOX Sports’ failings during the Copa America Centenario is the brash Copa Tonight show. Airing inconsistently in the early morning hours on the east coast, the LA-based program is more entertainment and attempted comedy than true soccer analysis.  Fernando Fiore hosts the program, which started strong on the first night of the Copa, but has descended toward farcical levels since.

On the opening night of the program, the show’s panel of Fiore, Alexi Lalas, Aly Wagner and Stu Holden brought strong points about the USA-Colombia game to the broadcast. The moment of the night came when Lalas, in response to Geoff Cameron’s rather absurd claim that the US had essentially gone toe-to-toe with the Colombians, said “I don’t know what game he was watching.” It was a great line delivered with the type of gusto Lalas is capable of. And from my vantage point, it was a spot on reflection of the game based on the denial permeating through the US Men’s National Team ranks as to the performance itself.

SEE MORE: FOX’s Copa America TV coverage makes promising start despite distractions

As the first show wore on though, the mood became lighter and Fiore began pushing Lalas’ buttons. That tenor has continued on the nights the program actually airs. A major problem with the show is that it often times doesn’t air at all. Unlike ESPN whose number of channels allows the nightly ESPNFC program to air someplace irrespective of other sporting events, Copa Tonight has been bumped from the lineup on multiple occasions.

The program itself is very light on highlights and analysis. Most of the clips tend to be of goals or controversial moments, but with just two games a day in Copa America, the opportunity for extended highlights in the NBC Match of the Day style or real hard-hitting analysis as ESPNFC host Dan Thomas prompts the talent to provide about big matches is severely lacking.

While highlights are shown and some basic match analysis is provided, Copa Tonight is far less than what Univision offers. And in some cases, it’s less in terms of analysis than what ESPNFC is offering though that program’s focus is currently on the Euros and transfers between European club sides. In terms of the US Men’s National Team, the former national team duo of Brian McBride and Kasey Keller have given deeper and harder-hitting analysis on ESPNFC than FOX’s team has.

The Copa Tonight show is also missing Eric Wynalda, one of FOX Sports’ bright stars whose ability to mix things up and unwillingness to protect interests in US Soccer make him a refreshing listen on topics related to the game in this country. For whatever reason, Wynalda has been relegated to co-commentating matches during this competition.

SEE MORE: Preview of ESPN’s Euro 2016 TV and streaming coverage

Both Holden and Wagner have had their moments of strong analysis. But all too often, the show is reduced to some degree of controversy or seemingly contrived fighting between Lalas and Fiore. The show also suffers from FOX’s loud graphics, over-production and general tenor away from serious sports programming toward a mixture of comedy and highlights. The continued use of yellow and red cards by Fiore toward his co-commentators is annoying and silly.

In their own elements, Fiore, Lalas, Wagner and Holden provide strong analysis and an excellent presence. But the mixture of the four combined with odd timings of the program, lack of analysis and clownish presentations associated with the program make it a failure. As eyes drift toward the Euro 2016 tournament and ESPN’s production of that tournament, American viewers will get a stark reminder of how studio programs should be produced around major tournaments.

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  1. Chris

    June 20, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    FOX, please buy Fernando Fiore out of his contract and get him out of the WC coverage. He adds zero analysis of the teams, athletes or the tactics/strategies. I was happy when he was absent from the pre-game shows but then I started watching the nightly FIFA World Cup Tonight show which he is making completely unwatchable. His clownish awkward behaviour and discussions are too obnoxious and distracting. PLease remove him immediatley to save this show for the balance of the WC. Someone like Coach Martinez was and would be excellent, unfortunately he’s coaching Belgium this tournament.

  2. Spanish Speaker

    June 23, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    The problem is the show is too loosely scripted and too short on substance. As a Spanish speaker who watched Fiore’s Republica Deportiva show for years on Univision I always looked at him as a livewire as much as a goofy class clown. But it seems that FOX has missed an important aspect of Republica Deportiva, that show was overly stuffed with content and various short segments along with guests, this would force Fiore to transition quickly (a lot like its cousin, Sabado Gigante). Copa Tonight is too just too light on material, that’s caused the awkard time fills we’ve been subjected to.

    Well, along with the fact there are no senadoras (scantily clad models) on the show to help it along when necessary…

  3. Tony

    June 23, 2016 at 8:16 am

    It seems that Copa Tonight is trying to copy what ESPN did during the last World Cup when their commentators were casually sitting around a table and chatting every night. I actually enjoyed that ESPN program; it’s not a bad idea if Fox is trying to do something similar.

  4. George

    June 23, 2016 at 2:00 am

    I have to say Fernando is probably my favorite on the show. The rest I can do without, maybe keep Alexis, but the production team has to go! Only so much that Fernando can do since his co-hosts lack the needed information on international clubs, historical global soccer, and advanced strategic analysis that goes beyond, don’t mess up or play with heart. It’s a shame because with the right co-host and a good production team the entire fox coverage could be top notch. It just feels forced uncomfortable and doesn’t provide the CNN serious feel that I so desperately crave.

  5. scrumper

    June 12, 2016 at 9:37 am

    Twaddleman (or whatever his name is) is a joke. He just spouts teenage drivel. “Game is getting a bit chippy” hahaha. Yest today Ballack must have been wondering who paired him with Twaddleman and the fat guy who obviously knows nothing about the game.

  6. Alan Kane

    June 11, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    On ESPN Lalas was reigned in by the other pundits so he had to be more insightful and offer real analysis. On Fox he has turned into a loud mouthpiece trying to be controversial which is falling flat. If he was watching Ballack and Twellman during the England match he’s probably regretting his move to Fox despite being close to home in LA.

  7. Brian

    June 11, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Fox continues to disappoint. They haven’t improved one bit since they last had the rights to the EPL. Their commentators for the Copa games have been terrible. Their in-studio analysts are average at best.

    Fox should give up on covering soccer as they just aren’t very good at it.

  8. ERK

    June 11, 2016 at 5:35 am

    I’m not a big fan of Univision’s coverage, they’re commentators are awful. Thankfully for the Mexico matches they’ve used their better ones. I honestly can’t take any of the Univision analysts serious though. I’m not talking about the ones they’ve invited like Miguel Herrera and Javier Aguirre but the ones that are permanently part of the Univision Deportes team. Univision is partly owned by Televisa, that network is one of the main reasons Mexico soccer has historically struggled in taking that big step forward. Univision is also a big supporter of this Copa America, which many people have pointed out the corruption that happened in organizing it. Many of the analysts aren’t allowed to say everything they want. They can’t say certain things unless they want the pink slip. For example, the other day during the Colombia-Paraguay match, former Paraguayan keeper José Luis Chilavert was bashing the Paraguay football federation and calling the president corrupt on the air. It sounded like the producer told Pablo Ramirez, who was the commentator of the match to change the subject, since Ramirez told Chilavert to talk about the match right after he said those comments. Chilavert said that the people from the CONMEBOL called Univision to take him off the Copa America coverage, which I don’t know if they have. Univision is as corrupt as the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, the Chilavert story is just one example of how they are. Another example is the lack of coverage of the Chivas leaving Televisa story.

  9. Charles

    June 11, 2016 at 1:50 am

    I also have very bad feed problems with this channel. Many times the audio cuts out and sometimes the picture goes off as well. I also agree with many of you that Fox is not at ESPN’s level yet, but they are getting much better! Copa tonight obviously has its flaws and can be cheesy… but I believe they are trying to reach a broader audience with the addition of Fiore. His antics May bother some of the more serious fans. Still, I think they have come a long way… From where they were originally. Also, I love all the European guys that are on ESPN, but fox is approaching this from another angle…they are trying to give us a unique, diverse approach to watching the games. Trying to offer something for the hard-core fan and the more casual fan at the same time. Sometimes the European guys get boring for me. They are tremendous at play-by-play (Martin Tyler) but with the exception of men in blazers, they are pretty lame on any type of after show.

  10. steve

    June 11, 2016 at 12:18 am

    As to soccer, Fox is slowly getting better. Granted, its all relative, especially when you compare their current efforts to the dark days of Gus Johnson and the absolutely embarrassing drivel they produced a few years ago. Back then their offerings looked like a production by college interns. Now their programming, such as Copa, comes across as somewhat amateurish at times – nothing deep, they try to evoke laughter, analysis is always rather ‘thin’. Their in-game commentating gets shaky IMO. Fox’s insistence on using American voices means they aren’t using the best talent out there. JP & Strong are decent, if not overly talkative at times, but their sidekicks are never polished (Holden has potential, Koby Jones never sounds TV-worthy). NBC and ESPN are just in another league – Fox is still in the minors. Fox just seems to perpetually struggle with figuring out how to put on a decent soccer production. Fox will try and try and try to make some sort of uniquely American soccer product, all while NBC and ESPN enjoy wide acclaim for doing what works. I don’t get it.
    Also, I don’t know if anyone else encounters this – I get lots of feed problems when watching soccer on FS1. The volume drops out (a lot) and the picture pixelates. It gets annoying. I think Fox has a satellite problem. It was unbearable in Hawaii (the cable company their said they had been complaining about it to Fox for years) and now I see it MD. The other day FS1-HD was unwatchable, an dI had to switch to the crappy non-HD feed. Come on Fox, get it together!

  11. Luci

    June 10, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    ESPN’s coverage is just awesome. I agree, the preview show was fantastic and I adore watching Bob Ley in studio. He’s fantastic at that and has been for years and I also loved seeing them mix in Abby Wambach and I hope that maybe she can become an ESPNFC regular at some point. But that presentation, from beginning to end was top flight.

    I don’t dislike Copa Tonight as much as you do, but to your point, I hardly ever catch it with the time that it’s on and I don’t expect much after watching them doing a segment on team football golf.

  12. myself

    June 10, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Fox sucks wang.

  13. Charles

    June 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    The Copa Tonight Show is highly entertaining and I disagree with your article completely! Copa Tonight is designed to be a fun program with some analysis in it. Both Fernando Fiore and Alexi Lalas do a fantastic job playing off each other. Hell, they are more entertaining than half of the late-night talkshows! Aly Wagner, Stuart Holden and Cobi Jones are also excellent additions… You have to enjoy Copa Tonight for what it is… It’s meant to be funny, and entertaining with a different twist on the serious soccer shows… that’s the whole point!

  14. Zack

    June 10, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    One day into the Euros and I most definitely saw the differences between both ESPN and FOX. Although FOX’s coverage so far is decent, it’s literally nothing compared to ESPN’s more refined presentation. Simply put, ESPN is still a class above FOX and its criminal that ESPN don’t have that much rights anymore.

  15. Rick

    June 10, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    FOX and ESPN needs to have a NBC Match of the Day format for extended highlights.

    FOX has 2 years to continue this rehearsal before World Cup 2018. Get it right and stop treating it like wrestling.

    • Rob

      June 11, 2016 at 1:45 am

      Your comment makes sense with the “treating it like wrestling.” I look at it more like treating it like a monster truck show.

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