The George Michael Sports Machine
|The George Michael Sports Machine|
Lindsay Czarniak (2004-2007)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original run||1984– March 25, 2007|
The George Michael Sports Machine is a syndicated, sports-related television program which aired from 1984 until 2007. The show was hosted by George Michael, a former radio disc jockey-turned television sports anchor, and was produced at WRC-TV, the NBC-owned station in Washington, D.C.
Shortly after Michael joined WRC-TV in 1980, the station launched the program as George Michael's Sports Final, a local sports wrapup show on Sunday evenings, following the late newscast. After a successful four-year run in Washington, NBC's other owned-and-operated stations—at the time in New York City, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Chicago—added the program to their Sunday late-night schedules, and it was retitled as The George Michael Sports Machine. NBC-affiliated stations began to pick up the show in 1986, and in 1991 Group W Productions took Sports Machine into wider national syndication. The show moved to other syndicators such as Eyemark Entertainment, King World Productions, and ITC Entertainment before NBC Enterprises (later NBCUniversal Television Distribution from 2004 until the show's final episode in 2007) began distributing the program in 2001.
As host, George Michael presented clips from the weekend's sporting events from across the United States and sometimes outside of the U.S. Unlike newer sports-related programming, Sports Machine did not usually present commentary or criticism and focused on the highlights, and, often toward the end of the show, an in-depth story about a particular athlete. The show was also somewhat unique in its occasional coverage of remarkable high school sports footage, and its occasional coverage of sports largely ignored by other sports wrap-up shows, such as ice hockey, NASCAR and other auto racing events, professional wrestling, rodeo, and equestrian events.
Influence and criticism
When the show premiered nationally in the mid-1980s, the only highlights available to sports fans on Sunday nights were those on late local newscasts and the ESPN and CNN cable networks, creating an audience niche for Sports Machine to fill. By the later years of Sports Machine, however, the rise of numerous specialty cable sports channels (notably ESPNews) and the expansion of Sunday evening local newscasts to either air an extended sportscast (an extra in common parlance) or a separate program to recap Sunday football and baseball action caused many stations to either drop the program or air it later in the night.
The show was sometimes derided by critics for the large quantity of fake machinery on its set. Although the set changed throughout the years, the theatrics basically remained the same: After introducing each of the highlights, Michael then pressed a button which "activated" the "sports machine"—a large computer with several monitors attached to a videotape reel-to-reel—to play the clips. Michael and the producers chose the computer motif mainly because high technology was fast coming into the American consciousness at the time of the show's debut.
Another criticism of the show was the poor video quality of the highlights, which were magnified in order to take out the distraction of the digital on-screen graphics added by the networks. However, both ESPN and Fox Sports Net have also practiced this policy in the past in order to deny other networks de facto free advertising time for their shows.
The Machine shuts down
Beginning in 2004, fellow WRC-TV sports anchor Lindsay Czarniak joined Sports Machine as a contributing correspondent and substitute host, and she became the official co-host of the program in September 2006. However, this arrangement did not last long, as Michael announced on November 16, 2006 that he would retire and Sports Machine would end its 27-year run in March 2007. Michael reasoned that he would not want his contract renewed at the expense of WRC-TV's sports staff, which was slated to be reduced under NBC Universal's network-wide, cost-reduction initiative.
The last episode aired on March 25, 2007. After thanking his co-host, sponsors, syndicators and staff, Michael said this at the end of the show:
I close every show every Sunday by saying, "Thank you for letting us be a part of your weekend." Well, tonight, for the final time, we say, "thank you." Thank you for letting us be a part of your life. From everyone at the Sports Machine, have a great weekend, everybody. We hope to see you somewhere down the road of life. Thank you.
Michael then walked off camera, and was heard to say "Last one out, turn out the lights!" as the show closed for the final time.
After Sports Machine ended, Czarniak took over as WRC-TV's lead sportscaster. Michael continued to appear on sports panel shows and Washington Redskins-related programs for WRC-TV and Washington-area sports talk radio stations until more production and budget cuts forced those shows to be terminated.
References and notes
- John Maynard (2006-11-17). George Michael to drop anchor chores, continue weekend sports panel shows. The Washington Post.