We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
This week: TNT’s Inside the NBA
You don’t see or hear much talk about “sports-things” on PanelsOnPages.com, unless we’re talking about the oiled-up-in-tights kind, or the rough-ladies-on-8-wheels kind. If and when certain contributors try to feign interest in pro-sports, you’re guaranteed a golden moment like Jason Kerouac‘s now-infamous “C’MON SLOVINSKI!” However, it’s been made plain that around April, May, and June, your Tag Team Champions of The World, The 11th Hour, are just the tiniest bit preoccupied with NBA Playoff season, and oftentimes, we’ve dragged a TV into the 11th Hour Studios to watch playoff games live during PoP!-Cast night. I’m not here to talk about the immense depth in this recently truncated NBA season, or the nail-biting playoffs which are currently nearing the Conference Finals. I want to take a moment to tell you about the hilarity you’re in store for EVERY night following an NBA on TNT broadcast, with TNT’s post-game show, Inside the NBA.
We’re big fans of Community on PoP!, as well as your Always Sunny‘s and your Archer‘s and your Wilfred‘s and the like. However, I can say without a doubt in my mind, that Inside the NBA is currently the funniest show on television. Hosted by Emmy Award Winner Ernie Johnson, with NBA greats Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith, ‘Sir’ Charles Barkley, and the recently retired Dr. Shaquille O’Neal on the panel, Inside the NBA not only recaps the action on and off the court, but the foursome manage to antagonize each other, NBA staff, and NBA cities effortlessly across the span of an episode. No one is safe when the mics are live. Sure, most of it is in jest, but when these four get in-depth in their game and player analysis, they pull no punches, which has often led to friction and controversy off air.
While the train does get off the tracks often-times (especially when Barkley has something to say), EJ always manages to steer them back to their bits and skits, including, but not limited to, The Great Shirt-Off between Shaq Diesel and Weight Watchers spokesman, Barkley. One of my favorite bits is the segment “Gone Fishin’”, which features the hosts casting lures and donning their best lake attire as a terrible photoshop of the most recently eliminated team’s stars and local celebrities on a fishing trip sends them off into the summer minus a Championship Trophy.
Without a doubt, the main draw of Inside the NBA is The Round Mound of Rebound, Charles Barkley, a Sports Emmy Award Winner in his own right. The lack of filter between his Alabama brain and his mouth creates some of the most compelling television this side of a triple-overtime playoff game. Sir Charles is legitimately funny, sometimes on purpose, but oftentimes, simply because he is unscripted, unrehearsed, and does not give any of the f—s. It’s a stark contrast to Barkley’s appearances as host of Saturday Night Live, which force him to read from a comedy script and cue-cards…badly. Even still, the more Barkley on TV, the better.
I’d go so far as to claim that you don’t have to watch the games to be a fan of Inside the NBA. They’ll recap all the big plays, condensing 48-minutes of basketball into a 3-minute package, and then they get to the meat and potatoes of the show: the interaction between the panelists. But, y’know, bastketball is kind of great again, so you should probably watch the games, too. Inside the NBA is SO great, in fact, when I find that a game will not be airing on TNT, and instead, ESPN or ABC, I get super-bummed, because I won’t get to see Charles Barkley call Danny Ainge fat again. The Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and the winner of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will trade off between ABC and ESPN, and the NBA Finals will be exclusive to ABC, but we can expect at least 4 more episodes of Inside the NBA this season, as TNT has exclusive rights to the Western Conference Finals, pitting arguably the two best teams in the league against one another, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonia Spurs.
We’re all black friends.