Bill Simmons looked like one cool cucumber hosting the premiere edition of Any Given Wednesday on HBO. But as he sat across a table from Ben Affleck and let the actor rant on and on about how “deflate-gate” was “the ultimate bulls***, f***ing outrage of sports, ever!” Simmons must have been inwardly jumping up and down and squealing to himself, “Yes! I’ve got my viral video to publicize this show!”
Affleck’s defense of Tom Brady was indeed highly entertaining — it was so good, Matt Damon should convince Affleck to be the next moviemaker contestant on Project Greenlight just so Affleck can make his own short film expressing his outrage over, as he put it, “a conspiracy of people working inside the NFL who all come from organizations who Tom Brady whipped their ass.”
The rest of this review of Bill Simmons’s new show is going to be a rave-by-default, because I realized early on during its 30 minutes that, as a sports agnostic, I had very little frame of reference or idea what was going on. Therefore I cannot judge whether, for example, his opening-moments encomium to LeBron James was accurate or funny — if you’d put a gun to my head a day ago, I couldn’t have told you if LeBron was still an active basketball player.
Sitting on a set that looked borrowed from an old Bob Costas show, Simmons signaled his I’m-46-but-cool cred by wearing an open checked shirt and charcoal-gray T-shirt. His interview style is an effective one — opinionated without being overbearing, with just enough smugness to give some of his questions a provocative edge. I like it when guests make the camera crew laugh, and Simmons’s interview segments with Charles Barkley and Affleck accomplished that in both cases.
Clearly, Any Given Wednesday isn’t aimed at an audience like me, but entities such as Simmons’s old employer ESPN have existed a long time without support from people like me. I’ll watch it again next week to see if an Affleck-rant-less edition still holds my attention.
Any Given Wednesday airs (duh) Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on HBO.