Welcome to No. TV Top 5 , The Hollywood Reporter’s TV podcast.
Weekly, hosted by Lesley Goldberg (West Coast Television Editor) and Daniel Fienberg (Chief TV Critic) breaks down the latest TV news with business and critical context, welcomes showrunners, executives and other guests, and offers insights on what to watch Guidelines for comments (or skip, as the case may be).
Joining us this week is Joe Davis, the Dodgers on-air man who replaced the legend Vince Cooley less than a decade ago. Join us with Davis vs. Major League Baseball season, kick off the exciting World Baseball Classic, what the major leagues can learn from the WBC, the league’s new rule changes, and more.
Other topics in this week’s TV’s Top 5 include this week’s headlines (featured The Night Agent , Blue Bloods, Grown-ish, Grey’s Anatomy, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jessica Chastain and X-Files), April TV Preview , and the return of our monthly mailbag segment, where we answer listeners’ questions about the Emmys, franchises and the future of broadcasting. Reminder: If you have a topic you’d like to hear us discuss on a future episode, email [email protected] .
But first, read on for a condensed portion of our interview with Davis.
We are still on the World Baseball Classic and the fact that we ended up batting between Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout get excited. How amazing and important is it to you to see it unfold like this?
I wish I could get a rewind button, then a pause button, then go back and pause that moment to Totally appreciate it because it happened so fast. I don’t know if you’re properly appreciating what you’re seeing the moment you’re trying to invoke it. You guys are in the Hollywood business; that’s the kind of thing that gets rejected in your world because it’s not realistic.
This WBC feel as if it creates buzz in a way that previous installments probably didn’t. Do you feel the same way?
I feel the same way, I hope it’s not just because I’m calling it for the first time . I’m optimistic this will push it into a very specific area.
If you could change the format, what would you do?
Obviously, you don’t want Edwin Diaz and Jose Altuve getting injured. You can maybe look at the pool you played in March, then the semifinals and the championship game, and even now the quarterfinals during the All-Star break. So, every three years, maybe you don’t have the All-Star Game, you stop the season for a week, and then it becomes this global event. There was no other sport going on at that time and you got the attention of the sports world. Think about how big it is in March when you’re competing with all the other sports, and how big it’s going to be if you compete in mid-July. That said, if they don’t change anything, I think we’ve seen it just fine.
What will you learn from the WBC to integrate into the MLB?
I’ll bring the bench to clean up the home run celebration. There is a child inside every player and every human being, and MLB, for some reason, tradition has been to suppress it. But now you can let that kid out. All members of the WBC appreciate this. [Dodgers All-Stars] Mookie Betts — a two-time World Series winner — told me that the greatest moment of his baseball career was at home plate in that major with Treya Terry Na to meet and have his entire team with them. I would be happy if we had such a celebration.
You’ve now made it through the WBC, the World Series and, of course, the Dodgers game. What type of game do you prefer to call?
The World Series is still lonesome. I don’t know that I would do anything better than this. But the WBC went from hindering my “real season” to something I loved as much as anything I’ve ever done. I would put the WBC after my World Series experience, especially at the end of the Championship.
The Dodgers added MLB Network’s Steven Nelson to the booth this season. How many games will you play, how many games will you do with Orel Hershiser?
Orel is actually going to do some road racing this year. I’ve been in fewer and fewer Dodger games this year, and that’s the nature of my deal with Fox. But we’ll do a lot of things together, and I’ll still be working with other analysts.
There are a number of new rules this season, including the addition of a pitching clock, as part of a larger effort to improve the tempo of the game. How has the accelerated pace of the game affected you and your work in the broadcast studio?
I love the tone clock; I think it’s great for baseball. A month later, you won’t even realize the clock is there; you’ll just feel the benefits of it. As for calling the game — and the famous last sentence here, because I haven’t done any spring training games with the clock — but I can count on one hand how many times in my career I wish I had more time. I never want to have more time. Our best broadcasts come when the pitcher is working fast, and you’re leaning forward in your seat instead of lounging back wondering when the next pitch will come. The only guy who needs more time and deserves more time is Vin Scully, and none of us are Vin Scully, and none of us will be, so we don’t need a lot of time between pitches. We need to play ball and we will tell the stories we have to tell. This is the contrast between the nature of the duo’s booth and what Wen is doing.
Beyond the clock, the shifts have been eliminated, the bases are now giant pizza boxes, and there is a capped number of pitchers to pitch Number of times to the first place. Which of these new rules do you think will have the biggest impact on games outside of the game clock?
Pick between limited and bigger bases and I think you can see the running race take off. Movement restrictions should mean more base hits, which is more action. This all leads to more moving work and more things to watch. We’d all rather watch stolen bases, hit bases, and balls in gaps than strikeouts, just as cool as seeing Clayton Kershaw strike out with a curveball. The game drifted a bit and I don’t think that’s good for anyone.
You talked about Vin Scully and his extraordinary ability to tell a story that was always the perfect length for an inning. How do you feel about the rhythms of the game, do you feel like you know how to fit into those rhythms?
I think I have a good feel and rhythm for the game. I work really hard on storytelling. I’ve studied it as a discipline, talked to great storytellers, and listened to Vin speak over the years. You’ll only be as good as the amount of practice you put in. I’ve been doing that for seven or eight years. I’m not Wen, and I never will be. But I think I’m better than I was last year, a lot better than I was eight years ago, but not as good as I am at the end of this year.
The Dodgers recently announced that they will be installing Vin Scully outside the press box. It’s hard to escape the shadow of a legend like Vin, especially when the press box is named after him. But is there anything you learn from him in every game or do in honor of him?
I’m not doing anything official. But the appreciation for the role of storytelling in broadcast baseball comes from that 2016 season when Vin was only doing home games and I was doing road games. Due to natural differences in schedules, we do not have any crossovers. But part of my job is obviously watching games that I’m not in. I listen to Vin every minute of every home game. As a fan, I love hearing his stories. I knew that if I liked it, storytelling would be what Dodgers fans would expect, because it’s all they’ve had since the team came to L.A., and I knew I needed to fit into it. We are a storytelling species. We all want to hear stories and to know that these players are a bit like us. Storytelling is one way of humanizing them. The seed was planted by appreciating how Vin works.
Vin is dead on the broadcast against the Giants. I remember watching it and feeling like it was one of the most exciting baseball games I’ve ever seen because you told story after story about Vin throughout the game. How do you reflect on the way you deal with it?
I know how hard Vin is going to be for everyone is over. In that moment, I didn’t fully understand my role in delivering the message. I think it’s a great responsibility to be the first to praise him. I didn’t realize I had hundreds of texts and emails from people until after the game that night. I know it hits people hard. I know I need to compliment him well. I just didn’t realize what it meant to people to do a good job praising him. We were very proud of our performance that night.
Is that you ready?
No, we know Vin is not doing well. But I found out at the end of the third inning that he had passed away, and when we got back, we knew the Dodgers social media accounts were going to post that, and that’s when we decided to announce it on telecast. From there, it was a night of trying to balance the game — it’s fitting that they were playing the Giants when this happened — and do justice to the greatest baseball broadcaster of all time. Wen has praised someone on the radio before. But there is no blueprint for this. But there’s a blueprint for how to balance the serious and the playful, because Vin is in and out every night. So he might have inspired me without having to think about it just through everything I’ve learned from listening to his osmosis.
TV’s Top 5 TV podcasts of course – unless we pass Talk about baseball to please our audience. So, we have to ask: have you seen Brockmire ?
I watched two episodes. I had a chance to be in an episode, but it didn’t fit into my schedule. I think I’ll like it. From what I’ve seen above, this might be a bit rough for my wife.
For more on Davis, including his take on the great baseball movie that should be a TV show, tune in this week Full interview for part five of TV’s Top 5.
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