by Jason Thomas April 22, 2009 19:00

After years of fans asking for it, PBA bowling was finally aired in prime time on a weeknight. The PBA King of Bowling Powered by Amp Energy was the first foray into TV’s big leagues since the 2000-2001 season.


Of course, the 9pm ET time slot put our beloved bowlers squarely up against American Idol and Lost on the East Coast, while the 6pm air time on the West Coast probably made it difficult for many bowling fans to make it home from work in time to catch the action without the use of a DVR. However, in the Midwest, the 7pm/8pm air time was probably the perfect time for the folks who probably make up the largest portion of the TV audience to catch the action.


As for the show itself, I think it has a lot of potential. The way the series works is that PBA Player of the Year Wes Malott begins as the “King of Bowling.” On each show, two players from the POY point list (this week it was numbers 2 and 3, Norm Duke and Chris Barnes, respectively) bowl a one-game match, with the winner taking on the “King” in a second one-game match. The winner of that match earns $10,000 and moves on as the King for the next week.


When the show began, I really liked the look and feel of the set. It was a bit more intimate and casual than the standard PBA set used during the season and, overall, had a more youthful, fun quality to it. There was even a throne, which allowed Malott to observe the action in the opening match from a nice vantage point.


Another thing I liked was the way the player introductions were handled. The announcer had a cool voice that reminded me of the old Chicago Bulls PA announcer from the Michael Jordan era. The players all seemed to be having fun as well and I didn’t even notice a hint of the “Oh God, I can’t believe they’re making me do this” eye roll that I’ve seen on players faces in past made-for-TV bowling events.


Now, on to the competition. The players were competing on the Scorpion oil pattern (Malott’s choice…the King will have the right to choose the pattern each week), which played quite soft. Randy did a good job of setting up the pattern, but in the future it might be more interesting and informative for fans if, instead of using the telestrator to show where the guys are likely to play, to do a three or four frame animation that shows what will happen to the oil and where the guys will move based on said changes.  


Barnes and Duke both chose to play the outside line (both around the 5th board) and each looked to have a terrific ball reaction. Duke started the match with the front five before leaving a ten-pin in the 6th. Barnes went strike, spare, turkey heading into the first commercial break and, as we’ve seen so many times from so many players, got soft on his first shot out of the break and went high for a 6-7-10 split. He then got up and spared it like it was a 6-10 (oh, did I forget to mention, these guys are pretty good!). Good thing too, because the spare kept Barnes in the match and he continued striking through the 9th frame. Duke needed a double and nine in the 10th to win and, after getting the first one, threw one a couple boards wide on the next. The ball made it back to the pocket, but got there with about as much energy as Ferris Bueller’s English teacher, leaving a flat ten and opening the door for Barnes to double for the win. Barnes threw a couple Gwen Stafanis in the 10th (in case you don’t recall that terminology, there was No Doubt either would strike) to move on 257-248.


Between games, Rob Stone welcomed Pardon the Interruption co-host Michael Wilbon onto the telecast for a fun and entertaining interview and then invited him into the booth for the title match. I really enjoyed Wilbon’s honest assessment of the sport and thought he did a great job of showing his knowledge and respect for the game. Wilbon will also be taking on Big Wes in an upcoming episode of King of Bowling and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he’s got by way of a bowling game.


As for the final match, it appeared that the lanes had broken down a bit and Barnes had moved a few boards left of where he was in Match 1. Wes was even a few more boards further left than that, and left a couple of ring 10s around a double the first four frames. After that, Malott figured out the touch and put together a seven-bagger to blitz Barnes, who struggled with carry the entire game and lost 268-214. Malott then got to shoot at a couple difficult spare conversions to earn an extra $10,000 bonus. He made the 3-10 baby split to start, but then missed the 1-2-4-10 washout to end his day.


That sets up next week’s match where Malott will face either Mike Scroggins or Patrick Allen, who will bowl one another in the opening match. Personally, if Scroggins gets by PA, I think Wes should just concede the match, given the HUGE favor Scroggy did for the Big Nasty a few weeks back to secure the latter POY over both Barnes and Duke in the season-ending US Open telecast. But I’m guessing he probably won’t.


Here are a couple other items of note from the show:

  • I think we can do without any more King jokes/references for the rest of the series…pretty much beat that horse to death this week.
  • Liking the work of Brienne Pedigo interviewing the players. Maybe she could be given a little more to do…like some background pieces or behind-the-scenes assignments?
  • I enjoyed not seeing anyone sitting behind the players on the set. It made me focus more on the players…as it should be.


What did you think? Please e-mail me with your thoughts on this week’s show at jason@jasonthomasbowling.com. Also check out my other weekly blog and be sure to follow PB Atkinson’s new Twitter page. See you next week!

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