When Jim Lampley was searching for inspiration for his new show, 'The Fight Game with Jim Lampley,' which debuts on HBO at midnight ET on Saturday, he found it in what might at first blush be considered an unusual place.
"The guy who will sit in the studio and produce the show as I tape it is Bill Wolff, whose other gig is to produce Rachel Maddow's nightly show on MSNBC," Lampley revealed during a recent conversation. "And I chose him specifically because I admire the culture of that show, I admire the way they deliver information, I admire her way of building up evidence after evidence to support a point without having to say, 'This is what you should believe,' and that's the kind of thing that I'll be trying to do with 'The Fight Game'."
Like Maddow's broadcast, 'The Fight Game' will be studio-based. Lampley will interview guests via satellite, and in keeping with the comparison, he regards it very much as a news show.
"What I've told the staff is that, even though we're only airing four times in 2012, every time we go on the air, I want it to look as if the show was buttoned within the last 24 hours, with all the information up to date within the last 24 hours, and this is about a newsy look at the boxing landscape both in and out the ring," he explained.
Like any cable news program, 'The Fight Game' will have an editorial bias, which in this case will be strongly toward the boxers who make fans come back constantly for more, the ones who step forward and engage rather than step back and away. To that end, a regular feature of the show will be 'The Gatti List,' named after the man who has become synonymous with such crowd-pleasing, edge-of-your-seat action, which will showcase the ten most exciting fighters in the sport, the fighters who, in Lampley's words, "are most worth your time, money and investment to buy a pay per view, go to the arena, or see the fight on TV because they hit, they get hit, they take the risk in pursuit of victory, which to me is at the heart of the entertainment value of boxing. I want to glorify that within the culture of the show."
If the four broadcasts in 2012 meet with approval, the total could rise to as many as 24 episodes a year in the future. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen, of course, with the debut yet to make its bow, but that the show exists even on a trial basis is testament, Lampley offers, to HBO "enhancing its commitment to boxing on the network, to rebuilding it and making it bigger."
That enhanced commitment manifests, Lampley argues, in the "Road Block" of programming on HBO Zone during pay-per-view Saturdays, as well as in the proliferation of vignettes such as 'Ring Life' and '2 Days' - and now, 'The Fight Game' - all of them combining to provide "different ways of illuminating the unique lives of boxers and the unique passions of boxing fans."