ABC fires Esiason, two others from `MNF'

MEDIA WATCH

Along with ex-Terps QB, longtime producer Wolfe, director Janoff are let go

March 09, 2000|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

ABC yesterday dismissed former Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason as its "Monday Night Football" analyst, as well as longtime producer Ken Wolfe and director Craig Janoff, just five weeks after the three worked the Super Bowl for the network.

The network announced that it will bring back one of the founding fathers of "MNF," Don Ohlmeyer, who produced the show during its halcyon days when Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell worked the booth.

" `Monday Night Football' is a part of the fabric of my being," said Ohlmeyer, who headed the entertainment division of NBC for most of the 1990s. "Whatever success I've had in my life, I can trace back to what it was when that show was an event."

The sacking of Esiason, who could not be reached to comment yesterday, had been rumored during most of his two-year tenure. Esiason failed to connect with many critics, first for apparently sparring with former partner Dan Dierdorf on the air, then supposedly for not offering many insights last season, when he worked solely with play by-play announcer Al Michaels, who will return to the show.

However, the dismissal of Wolfe and Janoff came as a surprise to many. Wolfe, 46, was a 23-year ABC veteran who worked his way through the ranks, producing college football, baseball, soccer and the Olympics, winning five Emmys for producing a live sports series, including last year.

Meanwhile, Janoff, 49, had been with ABC for 21 years, winning 12 Emmys along the way, including an award for sports journalism for directing the 1989 World Series, which was interrupted by an earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area.

Janoff also had directed the network's Triple Crown coverage eight times, including the past four years. During his tenure, ABC won an Eclipse Award three times.

"Whenever he was directing one of our races, Craig was out on the backstretch at 6 a.m., trying to see what the light would look like for a story. He's very offbeat, and very talented," said Jim McKay, the longtime signature announcer at ABC Sports.

But ABC Sports president Howard Katz, who was a production assistant for Ohlmeyer in the 1970s, said the show, the network's highest-rated prime-time program, needed sprucing up.

"There was a sameness to the show," said Katz, who has been president for 11 months. "Nobody did anything wrong. It was just time for a change."

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