Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons has secured its premiere night guests.
The weekly 10 p.m. talk show will kick off June 22 with Charles Barkley and Ben Affleck. Barkley will appear in Simmons' first segment, where the conversation is more centered on a give topic. Affleck will follow as a solo interview, which is expected to last 10 to 12 minutes.
As Simmons outlined in a Hollywood Reporter cover story, the interviews will be pre-taped and edited down considerably for air. In doing so, Simmons' goal is to have more casual, thoughtful conversations much as he does on his popular podcast. The decision to avoid a more common live or live-to-tape format as well as a studio audience for the HBO half-hour show was his. As Simmons explained, he is neither a stand-up nor a performer and thus he preferred the more informal, podcast-style format.
His night one guests are in many ways fitting as Simmons looks to build a show that will move between sports, tech and Hollywood. Affleck, a Bostonian like Simmons, had long been a name atop the host's wish list. At one point he had discussed having Affleck on with best pal Matt Damon, but scheduling proved problematic. As for Barkley, he and Simmons have a relationship through commentating and plenty in the world of sports to discuss.
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Simmons acknowledged that he was aiming high with his hoped for guests, rattling off names including Michelle Obama (her husband sat for Simmons' B.S. podcast in 2012) and famously press-averse Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "I know by episode four I'll probably end up with the fifth lead on some CW sitcom," he joked, "but for now I'm dreaming big."
Meanwhile, Michael Lombardo, HBO's former president of programming who will remain involved with Simmons' show, has urged the host to focus less on the celebrity booking wars that consume so many other late night shows. "I just keep saying, 'That's not why anybody is going to tune in,'' said Lombardo, who added that one of Simmons' talents was that he could find way to make the seemingly uninteresting interesting.