Chemistry Lessons with CBS and Charles Barkley

Posted on March 20, 2012


Charles Barkley: Analyst (Sort of)

Even if you aren’t a college hoops fans I highly recommend watching the CBS/TNT/TBS/TruTV coverage of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament that picks up again later this week.

You don’t even have to watch the games — though you should because they are AWESOME — just tune in at halftime for a great example of how not to build a team show.

Last year brought a new TV rights deal where CBS shares the coverage with TNT and TBS so that every game of the tournament is available to viewers; a vast improvement over the old model where all the games were on CBS and the coverage was segmented geographically.

The new deal also made Charles Barkley and Kenny “the Jet” Smith part of the in-studio broadcast team handling the pre-game and halftime shows.

Barkley and Smith, along with Ernie Johnson, host “Inside the NBA,” the pre and post game show that accompanies coverage of the NBA on TBS. The three do an amazing job making what is usually just a lame excuse to run extra commercials, sold to sponsors as part of their NBA packages, into a really entertaining show.

Johnson is the anchor and beleaguered traffic cop trying to keep the show moving forward. Smith is close to being a serious analyst though completely willing to veer off course and Barkley is the smart-ass who knows basketball really well but would rather screw around.

Their chemistry is great.

For their NCAA coverage, CBS crammed Smith and Barkley in with their crew; anchor Greg Gumble and analyst Greg Anthony. Then for good measure they also throw in a guest commentator who coaches college basketball.

Even in year two, the results are hilarious, though mostly unintentionally.

Gumble for his part handles anchoring the show with a loose cannon like Barkley on set relatively well though he does get frustrated. At one point this weekend he said to Barkley, “Charles, you know we had a production meeting before the show right?” I’m still wondering if Barkley was just way off script or had blown off the meeting all together.

The person who isn’t taking it well is Greg Anthony who either wants to be a serious analyst, wants more camera time like he used to have, or both. He constantly appears frustrated with Barkley’s entertaining, if sometimes unintelligible, commentary.

The reality is chemistry is elusive and hard to find. There is no reason to think adding Barkley and Smith to the CBS team should be disruptive yet it clearly is. Watch closely and you’ll see the cracks.

Keep that in mind the next time you are part of or involved with a team show. The right chemistry is a magical thing but more is not always better.