“Welcome to Game Theory,” Bomani Jones said on the debut episode of his new HBO show on March 13. “They done messed around and gave your boy a TV show.”
Yup. HBO done did it. They gave one of the most unique voices in sports media his own television show. But not just a show, the ability to craft and create it in his image. Jones is the executive producer and he has the HBO budget and machine behind him to hopefully allow this show to be around for a long time.
I interviewed Jones back in 2019 when he was co-host of ESPN’s “High Noon” with Pablo Torre. At the time Jones said the win was having a show, because the reality is not many people of color are given the opportunity to headline their own television show.
That still remains true and while Jones no doubt sees “Game Theory” as a win, you can tell he wants it to be so much more.
“I desperately want the show to work,” he says in an interview with GQ. “I want it to get picked up and get more seasons.”
Those of you familiar with Jones’ work on ESPN through his podcast “The Right Time with Bomani Jones” or his time as co-host of “Highly Questionable” recognize some familiar beats on “Game Theory.” He’s stated in interviews that he wants the new show to be an extension of the podcast, with the latitude and creativity a late-night HBO show allows.
Nothing encapsulated that more than his segment on retiring Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“You know what you didn’t see in that video,” Jones quipped after a montage featuring white media members all over the age of 50 waxing poetic about the greatness of Coach K. “A lot of Black people over 35. We kind of hate that dude. We hate that he beat every team Black people loved.”
The real Coach K legacy critique on “Game Theory” is the extension of what Bo has been saying on his ESPN platforms about K and Duke for years. The unathletic, uber-white, short shorts wearing Duke teams and their incessant flopping has been a scourge on the game for decades.
That was the highlight of the 30-minute show. Other parts were a little more rough and perhaps didn’t land as intended.
For instance, Bo does have a sense of comedic timing, but it’s probably when he’s writing the jokes. I don’t know how much of the monologue and him sitting behind the desk is his writing, but the jokes seemed forced.
Then there was the sit-down interview with his ESPN colleague Stephen A. Smith. Maybe it was too short of an interview and they couldn’t get deep on anything, but that didn’t land well. Smith talking about his fame and how athletes better not try him? How’s that different from a “First Take” segment when he claps back at an athlete? It was just said at a lower volume.
Making television is hard. Making really good television is even harder. The bones of an excellent show are there. With Bo as the star anything is possible. He’s that talented, and the people working on the show appear to be as well. Like anything else, it will take reps and understanding workflows, strengths and weaknesses.
“The success is that we got here,” he says in an interview with GQ. “The stuff you get on top of that is gravy. The fact that this even happened in the first place, is a personal victory for me. I ain’t never sat in a meeting before this that I was in charge of. I’ve never been the person making decisions.”