Fox Sports 1 is adding NFL Turning Point to its lineup, a solid football show that sits squarely in sports television’s middle class.

By Jacob Feldman
September 12, 2018

This one is simple. Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1 is adding a show to its lineup that’s part NFL Network, part National Geographic and part History Channel. And it’s not new at all.

In 2011, NFL Turning Point was the first pro football show on the nascent NBC Sports Network. The premise was straightforward: Pick a couple plays each week and dive deep. Produced by NFL Films, the show mixed exclusive footage and audio with a cinematic score and an unmatched back catalog of football history. Other shows often convey the emotional stakes of a football game or break down the underlying schematics. Turning Point aimed to do both. Producer Greg Smith says the team quickly found its groove, but finding a home proved more challenging.

At first the show was an hour long, focused around the two teams who would be playing on NBC’s Sunday Night Football the following week. Dan Patrick hosted while Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison made appearances. The show aired at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, then at midnight. It got an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Edited Sports Series. It dropped to a half-hour and moved to Wednesdays at 10 p.m. It got another Emmy nomination. Then NBC let it go entirely and the show moved to NFL Network without a host. Smith tried to keep his head down, not worrying about the decisions made above his pay grade. “The only thing that’s frustrating is that you know how good the show is—you feel good about what you’ve done—and you feel like people aren’t getting to see it,” he says.

Last season, one segment was uploaded as a Facebook Watch Show each week, and people got to see it. Over six million watched a clip about Aaron Rodgers’s comeback against the Cowboys. Nearly nine million saw the show’s Philly Special breakdown. When FOX further invested in the NFL via Thursday Night Football this offseason, the network also decided to buy Turning Point on a multi-year basis. “In a lot of cases in TV, it’s a year-to-year business,” Smith says. “Turning Point has been close to my heart since the beginning, so I’m just excited that we are back.”

NFL Turning Point sits squarely in sports television’s middle class. It’s not a live game; it’s not a personality-driven studio show. It’s produced. It’s time-intensive. Which means it’s in trouble, just like a midsized newspaper or a midrange movie studio, like the middle in general in a time of monoliths. But this isn’t going to turn into a macroeconomic rant. This is a simple post about a good television show.

Morgan Spector has narrated since the beginning and is back, even though he’s built a steady TV career with appearances on Boardwalk Empire, Homeland and Suits since 2011. The show will continue to go on without an on-air host, as it has since Patrick’s departure.

Smith was excited to embark on Season 8. Sunday night, the team debated which four games they should focus on for this debut episode. Then Smith woke up Monday morning and audibled. Some footage from the Giants-Jaguars game was too good not to include. The show’s football smarts can be traced to the fact that half of the producers, Smith included, played the game themselves, though at Dartmouth, Princeton and Amherst. We’re artists here, after all, Smith explains. It shows.

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