Sports media personality Paul Finebaum is one of the biggest and most well-known radio hosts in all of college football. In his 20 years of hosting his own show, Finebaum has been the center of the sport’s universe, especially in the game’s epicenter of the SEC. While he just signed a new deal to continue his Charlotte-based show for ESPN, he also recently shared that there is a TV sitcom in the works about his life.
Paul Finebaum is the king of college football talk
Finebaum graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1978 and moved to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1980, per ESPN. He became a columnist and reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald and the Mobile Press-Register. The Memphis native also hosted the Paul Finebaum Radio Network from 2001 to 2012, becoming the “Voice of the SEC.”
He jumped to ESPN in 2013 as the host of The Paul Finebaum Show and has helped anchor the network’s college football coverage ever since. In July 2021, he signed a new “multi-year extension” with ESPN.
“The Mouth of the South” is maybe most famous for a single call-in to his radio show in 2011. After someone poisoned Auburn’s famous Toomer’s Corner trees, an Alabama fan named Harvey Updyke – using the pseudonym Al from Dadeville – called into Finebaum’s show and admitted to the crime. He capped his admission with, “Roll Damn Tide.”
Finebaum’s radio show is also known for a host of colorful, college football-loving regular callers over the years. This includes the Alabama-loving Phyllis, Jim from Tuscaloosa, Darriel from Columbus, and the late Auburn superfan Tammy.
A Paul Finebaum sitcom is in development
Finebaum joined The Tony Kornheiser Show podcast and shared that a sitcom is in the works based on the college football host. The opportunity arose when Finebaum taped an episode of his podcast at Kornheiser’s old restaurant, Chatter:
A producer in Hollywood heard the podcast. He called another guy, and two years later, this thing goes into motion, and it’s developed as a sitcom. It is sold to ABC. It’s a takeoff of – just like your show many years ago went to Hollywood, the guy who was going to play me is a younger person, Jason Biggs, the star of the American Pie series. And then COVID happened, and everything’s up in the air.Paul Finebaum on his potential sitcom
“They wrote it as a guy from New York who comes to the South, loosely set in Birmingham,” Finebaum explained in more detail to Alabama.com. “Someone with that mentality dealing with a different culture. That’s the concept. One of the ideas was to have me married to a very Southern family. And, just the conflicts of a New Yorker who was edgier than the norm.”
The Kornheiser connection to Finebaum’s sitcom is twofold. In addition to the podcast taping that caught the ABC exec’s attention being at Kornheiser’s studio, the sitcom sounds a lot like a short-lived sitcom based on Konrheiser’s life that aired for one season in 2004-05.
Listen Up! was a show that aired on CBS and starred Jason Alexander from Seinfeld as Tony Kleinman (based on Kornheiser) and focused on his family life and his job hosting a sports debate show with his partner Bernie Widmer, a Michael Wilbon-type character played by Malcolm Jamal-Warner of The Cosby Show fame.
Sports-based sitcoms have a checkered track record
Sitcoms about sports have a checkered record of success on TV. Shows about sports media have a particularly tough time succeeding. In addition to Listen Up!, My Boys, about a female sportswriter looking for love in Chicago, ran for four seasons on TBS to mediocre ratings. Even Aaron Sorkin’s critically-acclaimed Sports Night, based on Sportscenter’s Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann, only made it two seasons.
However, several sports-themed sitcoms have succeeded through the years. Craig T. Nelson’s college football-based Coach ran for nine seasons, and Mark Curry’s high school basketball-centric Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper went five seasons, both on ABC.
GLOW, about the ’80s female wrestling league, ran three seasons on Netflix before COVID-19 concerns ended the fourth and final season filming. In 2021, Ted Lasso, about an American football coach learning English football on Apple TV+, is one of the buzzed-about sitcoms of the year. Recent years have brought edgier sports sitcoms to TV. This group includes FX’s The League, IFC’s Brockmire, and HBO’s Eastbound and Down and Ballers.
If the Finebaum sitcom ever gets off the ground, it seems like it will fall into the former category of sports media shows that don’t go very far. That said, ABC has a solid history of making these types of shows work, so if Finebaum is a success, it won’t be a complete surprise.