Bob Costas doesn’t have outlandish goals for his new talk show. He’s at a point in his career where he isn’t concerned about the size of his audience or how often he appears on TV.
He just wants it to be good.
“What I hope to achieve is something pretty simple,” Costas said. “Somebody walks away from it, or goes to bed thinking, ‘That was interesting, it was in its own way entertaining and it was done well.’ That’s all.”
For Costas, that’s eminently attainable and, given his abilities, easily exceedable.
The 29-time Emmy winner returns to HBO with “Back on the Record With Bob Costas,” which debuts at 10 p.m. Friday. The hourlong show, which also will be available to stream on HBO Max, will air monthly through October. Beginning next year, it will air four times quarterly.
Costas, 69, worked with HBO from 2001 to ’09, when he hosted “On the Record With Bob Costas,” which morphed into “Costas Now” in 2005. His new iteration includes two lengthy interviews with guests, a panel discussion and a concluding commentary from Costas. His guests Friday are Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley and Olympic gold-medal gymnast Aly Raisman.
ESPN’s Bomani Jones will add commentary and contribute to the panel discussion. For the first roundtable, he’ll be joined by former pitcher David Cone and former WNBA player Renee Montgomery. The show’s executive producers are longtime HBO producer Jonathan Crystal, former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg and author and ESPN senior writer Howard Bryant.
They’ll cover big issues across the sports landscape that transcend sports. But Costas said his guests won’t always be sports figures.
“The first time around on HBO, just going off the top of my head, we had Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Billy Crystal, Tina Fey,” Costas said. “I particularly like comedians who are interested in sports because it adds some balance to the program. Bill Burr is gonna be on. If you said to him, ‘Just do an hour only about sports,’ he could easily do that because he’s got so much sports material.”
The same holds true for Jones, who hosts the ESPN podcast “The Right Time With Bomani Jones” and regularly appears on ESPN TV and radio. Costas didn’t know him personally before but had been impressed with his work.
“He can go in any direction and comment on almost anything that comes up,” Costas said. “He’s a very good and very self-assured television performer with a strong point of view. If I pick 10 sports subjects at random, he would have a knowledgeable take on all of them. And it doesn’t matter whether I agree with all of them. I don’t want an echo chamber. I want a good discussion.”
Costas continues to have a significant role at MLB Network and contributes on occasion at CNN. But he’ll be remembered most for his career at NBC, where he covered practically every major sporting event. To Chicago sports fans, he’s likely best known for calling the Saturday MLB “Game of the Week” in the 1980s, following the Bulls’ NBA title runs in the 1990s and hosting 12 Olympics.
With the Summer Games going on in Tokyo, you might think Costas feels out of place being home.
“It’s not strange for me at all,” he said. “I had decided many years before the Rio Olympics that 2016 would be my last Olympics. I just didn’t announce it publicly. So there isn’t much to get used to. I did a dozen. I felt like that was enough.
“I’m very, very glad I did it. I’m glad that it’s an important part of my career and that people still seem to appreciate it. But not even for one second have I ever felt, Oh, if I was there, I would have said this or I would have done that. It’s completely behind me, as it should be.”