CBS Sports producer David Michaels might sound a bit presumptuous talking about his new show: "We're really trying to provide something that, as ridiculous as it may sound, the whole family can watch."
But as ridiculous as it may sound, "CBS Sports Inside Out" is something the whole family ought to watch. If you don't have a family, might be worth starting one just to watch the show.
"Inside Out" debuts on Father's Day at 5:30 p.m. and returns three times in July. It's sort of a "60 Minutes" of sports for and about children. Aside from ABC's outstanding "SportsBeat," it's the only real sporting alternative from the networks' endless weekend of slam dunks, nickel defenses, chip shots, 7-10 splits and back flips.
"There is a children's marketplace," said Peter Tortorici, CBS Sports' vice president for program planning and development. "We wanted to produce a show whose target audience is children."
The program might be intended for children, but if their parents eat all their vegetables and clean their dinner plates, they ought to be allowed to watch, too.
The 30-minute show highlights kids in a variety of sporting endeavors -- rodeo, swimming, gymnastics, boxing, softball, skiing -- and explains in basic terms the goals of the competitors and the risks involved.
"What we try to do is showing the sport for some of its thrills, showing it for its dangers and going back and showing how you can start yourself," Michaels said.
On Sunday's show, "Inside Out" shows us a skiing camp for tots, a 10-year-old Colorado boy who travels throughout the state for rodeo competitions, and the swimming program in Mission Viejo, Calif., that often produces Olympians.
Between the lengthier stories, short features such as "Profiles," "Did You Know?" and "Sports Factory" -- in which we see how golf balls and basketballs and baseball gloves are made -- are engaging and informative even to the most jaded, sports-weary viewer.
There are problems. Hulk Hogan is going to be on the July 16 show. The segments sometimes are too superficial. The show is too fast-paced. With a barrage of nonstop music, quick camera movements and commercials leading us through the half hour, it appears as if the show is geared toward folks with the attention span of a 5-year-old. (Well, actually, it is.)
Perhaps most remarkable is the on-air talent CBS uses for the series. Joining CBS' underrated John Tesh as cohosts are 13-year-old Roger Kennedy and 12-year-old Shalane McCall. In last year's pilot for this series, Tesh and Kennedy worked side by side, but Michaels thought some of the repartee between them was forced and decided to suspend that approach.
"Roger came off as a junior John," Michaels said. "Sometimes he came off as a kid, and sometimes he came off as a little too grown up for his size."
But it was that quality of Kennedy -- seeming like a shorter, younger, more likable Brent Musburger -- that made him fascinating to watch. CBS ought to groom him for more studio work, perhaps on college football or the NFL. The most difficult problem he poses is fitting him for a CBS Sports jacket.
Kennedy and McCall also prove conclusively that much of sports journalism -- doing two-minute reports, interviewing athletes, writing TV columns -- is simply child's play.
Score a double fault for NBC's taped coverage of the French Open women's singles final between Chris Evert Lloyd and Martina Navratilova.
NBC's first problem was understandable -- the match lasted nearly three hours and its coverage was scheduled for two hours. So we missed the middle third of the championship final, an unfortunate break considering that it turned out to be one of the best matches Evert and Navratilova ever have played.
But NBC's next judgment call was inexcusable. Twice during the climactic final set, NBC broke the heightening drama and tension of the match by showing "French Open Memories" and highlights of the men's singles semifinals. These canned features might have been nice if the match were short or even if it were uneventful, but to interrupt the coverage when Evert was leading at 2-1 and 5-4 of the deciding set was enough to make the viewer scream.
Even if the viewer did scream, he might not be heard over the shrill sounds of NBC tennis analyst Bud Collins, who often attempts to add insight by shouting "Oooooh!" or "Aaaaaah!" during long, exciting rallies.