ESPN can tinker with different formats for Get Up — like adding recurring co-hosts — from now until LeBron James and his 14-year-old son are NBA teammates, but the sooner they realize the fledgling format that was ill-conceived under the John Skipper regime is unsalvageable, the happier everyone will be in the long run. As I explained when I said the show needs a gut rehab, pivoting the show into a SportsCenter vehicle driven by Mike Greenberg is Bristol’s best option.
Chemistry is a very difficult thing to predict, but Greeny and Michelle Beadle just do not have it together. Neither appears comfortable when the other is driving the conversation. Just as occurred when Beadle was out of the studio during the NBA Finals, Maria Taylor has filled in for her this week with a much fresher energy, yielding a conversation that flows much better for viewers. It is impossible to ignore. (Once Charissa Thompson turned down the role, I’ll admit that I thought, given they were going forward with this idea, Beadle was the best internal fit. That opinion was incorrect.)
Obviously, this is an inconvenient truth for ESPN, which gave Beadle a raise to a reported $5 million in exchange for convincing her to switch coasts, leaving a life behind in Los Angeles where she had become very comfortable hosting Countdown and driving SportsNation. She had rebuilt her career after returning to ESPN, following a disastrous stint at NBC that even she referred to as a “hot mess.”
But Beadle herself triggered a similar uprooting of a colleague just 1.5 years ago. At the outset of the 2016-17 NBA season, Beadle began splitting the Countdown hosting role with Sage Steele. Because ESPN decisionmakers felt that Beadle brought much crisper chemistry to the show, Steele was abruptly uprooted from her seat before that same season’s playoffs, and had little choice but to uproot her family to the East Coast where she eventually became the anchor of morning SportsCenter.
After Steele’s morning SportsCenter got bumped to ESPN2 for the launch of Get Up, she then became the co-host of 6PM SportsCenter with Kevin Negandhi, consummating a renaissance that ironically should be the template for why it is profoundly obvious ESPN should move away from Beadle on Get Up.
After about a decade of a tide of debate replacing news and highlights, the latter became a comparative scarcity, especially for people about to head to or just returning from work. ESPN underrated the extent to which a tension-free SportsCenter, that wrapped up yesterday’s occurrences or set the table for tonight’s, was a habitual part of its viewers’ day.
Beyond that, there aren’t enough talented debaters to fill the hours in the day on ESPN and FS1. You can definitely count them on less than two hands, and based on personal preferences we could conceivably split hairs all the way down to one.
Beyond the chemistry, a core problem with Get Up is its identity: Some segments are debate, some are news and highlights. That was one of the reasons why SC6 with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill didn’t work: trying to meld those two disparate formats — His & Hers meets SportsCenter — into one show made it feel disjointed. Even though it was not what they signed up for, the show was better when it shifted to traditional SportsCenter.
If you’re not going to have a captivating must-see opinionist or years-earned chemistry, the best option in sports television is to keep things moving quickly and minimize tension. A Greeny-centric SportsCenter could do just that.
With that platform, you could try out different things. Highly Questionable, after Bomani Jones left the show to launch High Noon, has succeeded with a revolving door of co-hosts. You could try that out with Greeny, and there are almost literally endless names that fit the bill: Maria Taylor, Elle Duncan, Adam Schefter, Stugotz, A-Rod, Chris Berman. Just play ESPN Mad Libs. Do Mike & Mike reunion week for the start of the NFL Playoffs. Get wild and simulcast it on ESPN Radio. Have an ensemble of experts and analysts contribute their two cents a segment at a time, which is working fantastically at 6pm now.
As far as what happens with Beadle and Jalen Rose, it’s tough to say. There’s a natural spot open on SportsNation with Marcellus Wiley leaving for FS1, but would Beadle and Cari Champion have chemistry? It’s tough to see her playing a Jemele Hill utility role because she doesn’t write and wouldn’t fit great in places like Around the Horn. A retreat into only hosting Countdown wouldn’t be the end of the world, all things considered, but there’s the psychological barrier of ESPN constantly hearing the question, “Why are you paying her $5 million a year?” Nevertheless, that’s a sunk cost, made by a previous regime, and answering that question over and over beats the alternative.
Jalen is more versatile. He’s already also appearing on Jalen & Jacoby. Bill Simmons has hinted at a reunion on ESPN+. He could remain a daily presence on Greeny SportsCenter — after all, the NBA talk never stops — even if he’s not a pillar host.
Get Up does not feel like it can be salvaged with its current hosting format. The sooner it reverts to SportsCenter, the better off everyone involved with this will be in the long run.