Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Joe Namath Show (1969)

The Joe Namath Show
Stars: Joe Namath, Dick Schaap
13 episodes

In Short: Broadway Joe does a talk show.

My grasp of sports history is fair but not exceptional. So I'll cautiously reckon that while Joe Namath was hardly the first celebrity sports figure that he was something of a game changer, to borrow some lingo from the world of sport.

I won't go too deeply into this - you can go look it up. But I'll summarize by saying that Namath was a charismatic quarterback and something of a party animal, who scored big in Super Bowl III by leading a team of underdogs to a very unexpected victory. His popularity soared to the point where his celebrity tended to outshine his humble origins as a footballer.

Over the years Namath turned up in numerous TV commercials and guest shots in TV shows, with a smattering of movie roles thrown in for good measure. In 1978, he starred in The Waverly Wonders, a short-lived TV show. It was his second such effort, with The Joe Namath Show making a short run on daytime TV about a decade earlier.

Namath's other talk show hosting credits were somewhat more formidable. In the late Sixties and Seventies, he was one of the legions who filled for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. His hosting duties on The Joe Namath Show were shared with Dick Schaap, a well-known sportswriter of the day and the co-author of Namath's book, I Can't Wait Until Tomorrow...'Cause I Get Better-Looking Every Day.

Guests were pretty much evenly divided between the sports and entertainment world and ran the gamut from Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays to Truman Capote and Woody Allen. And another footballer whose sports career would later be eclipsed, in an even more spectacular fashion - O.J. Simpson.

Of Note:
Schaap also co-wrote the 1968 best-seller, Instant Replay, with Jerry Kramer of the Green Bay Packers, who made an appearance on the talk show.
Guests from the sports world included Howard Cosell, Peggy Fleming, Jerry Kramer, and Tom Seaver.
Guests from the entertainment world included Paul Anka, Ann-Margret, Jimmy Breslin, and fellow talk show host, Dick Cavett.

Observed: (1/2)
I didn't have access to the second episode of the show in its entirety but what I saw was enough. Guest stars included a rather restrained Muhammad Ali and George Segal, who was much more lively. At this point in his career, Dick Schaap didn't seem to really have what it took to be a talk show host. Namath is a little more animated and comes off somewhat better but he's kind of clunky too.

Ali is about as low-key as you'll see him and things go south when Segal comes on to do his turn. For whatever reason both guests are still on set, between the hosts, and Namath has to talk past Ali to speak to Segal. Ali shuts down at some point and later reveals that it was due to his discomfort over the discussion of nudity in Segal's upcoming movie. Namath, who was something of a playboy, seems to take exception to Ali taking exception to this and things take a decidedly uncomfortable turn.

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