Disney's ESPN2 to debut sports-Hollywood show
From "Field of Dreams" to "The Longest Yard," the Walt Disney Co.-owned cable TV channel ESPN2 plans to launch a weeknight program later this month examining the junction between sports and entertainment.
The new half-hour show, "ESPN Hollywood," is set to debut Aug. 15, with first-week segments spotlighting the likes of basketball icon Shaquille O'Neal, sibling tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams and NFL star quarterback Tom Brady.
But the focus of each piece will be on their off-field -- or off-court -- performance as celebrities, such as Shaq spinning records as a nightclub DJ or Brady posing for a photo shoot in GQ magazine.
British rocker Ozzy Osbourne also is set to make an early appearance on the show, backstage after a concert for a one-on-one "hookup" with one of his biggest fans, Philadelphia Eagles fullback Jon Ritchie. And rapper Jay-Z, part owner of the New Jersey Nets, will be featured as he opens another branch of his 40/40 Club sports bar.
"Wherever there is an intersection of sports and entertainment, we're going to be there. That's what our show is all about," executive producer Bill Bonnell told Reuters on Tuesday.
He described the format as similar to such celebrity-driven syndicated shows as "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood," but with a decidedly sports-centered flavor.
Other subjects ripe for attention on "Hollywood ESPN" might be "Desperate Housewives" co-star Eva Longoria's relationship with Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs, or Britney Spears' interest in owning a NASCAR team, Bonnell said.
The new show will be co-hosted by Thea Andrews, formerly of the ESPN morning talk show "Cold Pizza," and Mario Lopez, who once starred as the kind-hearted high school jock A.C. Slater on NBC's "Saved By the Bell." He more recently appeared with Dick Clark and Danny Bonaduce on the short-lived, male-oriented talk show "The Other Half."
"ESPN Hollywood" is one of several new original shows coming to ESPN2 as part of an effort to blend traditional event coverage on the network with more sports-related entertainment programs.
The original ESPN channel was launched in 1979. ESPN2 debuted in 1994.