Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part feature that takes Front Row readers behind the scenes of the daily ESPN2 program, Highly Questionable. Part Two will appear on Front Row tomorrow.
ESPN2’s Highly Questionable, a half-hour program in which ESPN Radio host Dan Le Batard, his father, Gonzalo “Papi” Le Batard and sports commentator Bomani Jones sit in Papi’s Miami “kitchen” and humorously answer questions about sports, presents a unique challenge for executive producer Erik Rydholm and his team.
Highly Questionable, which airs at 4 p.m. ET daily and has seen a 38 percent jump in ratings since Jones joined full time in May, is actually created in two places that are more than 1,000 miles apart. The set for Papi’s kitchen is located in a TV production facility in Miami, while Rydholm and the show’s other producers and editors are based in Washington, D.C.
“It works relatively seamlessly,” said Rydholm, who also executive produces PTI and Around the Horn from the same facility in the nation’s capital. “It’s harder when you’re up here and when they’re down there. But it’s really the only way we thought we could make the show work. We go in and we rely in some ways on the chemistry and the connection we’ve forged over phone calls and working together in different ways over many years both with Dan and more recently with Bomani.”
A production day for Highly Questionable starts at 8 a.m. when coordinating producer Justin Bolman and other producers open a shared Google document and begin entering question ideas for that day’s show. Because each of the four segments of the show is different, and due to the time crunch of having the show ready for airing at 4 p.m., each segment has its own producer.
About an hour later, Rydholm opens the document.
“I look over all the ideas that have been proposed and select the questions that most likely we should ask during the course of the show, the ones I think will elicit the best responses,” he said. “Some of that’s a mixture of what’s in the news, and what I think the guys will be really good on, and then all of this is underpinned by what I think the viewers want to hear about.”
With the lineup set, Bolman, the segment producers and the three on-air commentators hold a conference call to discuss the day’s questions before the noon taping begins.