Scott D. Pierce: Co-host chemistry makes for a watchable 'First Look'
Television networks can spend (and have spent) enormous amounts of money on programming. They spend months (sometimes years) planning and accounting for every detail possible.
But what they can't buy, plan or pay for is chemistry between co-hosts they either have it or they don't.
Doug Gottlieb and Allie LaForce definitely have it on "Lead Off," the late-night wrap-up show on the CBS Sports Network.
"Doing an hourlong show with Doug is a blast," LaForce said. "It is so much fun."
CBS hired Gottlieb away from ESPN. At CBS, he is a lead college basketball analyst; has his own show on CBS Sports Radio; and was selected to host "Lead Off," which airs weeknights at 10 p.m. MT on CBSSN.
"At ESPN, they spend six months planning what they want to do," Gottlieb said. "At CBS, it was just the opposite. It was let's do the show."
First, they had to find a co-host.
The folks at CBSSN contacted LaForce after seeing a YouTube video with clips of her working as a sports reporter/anchor at a Cleveland station.
"They reached out to me and said, 'Hey, would you be interested in doing the show?' " LaForce said. Of course, she said yes.
LaForce was one of several who auditioned for the role, and the one Gottlieb and CBS selected based on her abilities and that intangible chemistry.
"I had only met Doug once before we started, but we had incredible chemistry," she said.
"We have no problem going back and forth with each other," LaForce added. "A jab here and there, and also having a good sports conversation."
"She's a blast," Gottlieb said. "We really have a good time. It's somewhere in between friends and little sister-big brother."
LaForce is 24; Gottlieb is 37, so there's not exactly a generation gap between them, but there is a difference when it comes to pop culture.
"Sometimes she treats me like an old man because I use all these '90s movie references," Gottlieb said. "She thinks the '90s are some bygone era, like people talk about the '60s."
When "Lead Off" debuted in October, Gottlieb and LaForce spent a lot of time talking pop culture in addition to sports. As the show has evolved, that balance has shifted more to sports.
"About the time of the Super Bowl, we said, 'You know what? Let's do more sports,' " Gottlieb said. "And when we were down at the Super Bowl, we talked about almost all sports.
"That's definitely the way the show is going."
Gottlieb says the show will continue to evolve. "When we started the show, we said if we don't like what we're seeing, let's change it."
But the chemistry between Gottlieb and LaForce remains.
Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.