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Pardon the Interruption
Pardon the Interruption logo.png
Format Sports talk and debate
Starring Tony Kornheiser
Michael Wilbon
Tony Reali
Country of origin  United States
No. of episodes 1,351 (as of November 12, 2007)[1]
Location(s) Washington, D.C.
Running time 30 minutes
+ ≈3 minutes (SportsCenter segment)
Original channel ESPN
Original run October 22, 2001 – present
Preceded by Around the Horn
Followed by SportsCenter
Related shows The Sports Reporters
Around the Horn
External links
Official website

Pardon the Interruption (abbreviated PTI) is a sports television show that airs weekdays on various ESPN TV channels, TSN, ESPN America, XM, and Sirius satellite radio services, and as a downloadable podcast. It is hosted by Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, who discuss, and frequently argue over, the top stories of the day in "sports... and other stuff" (as Kornheiser put it in the show's original promo). They had previously done this off-air in The Washington Post newsroom.[2] Either Tony Reali (host of ESPN's Around the Horn) or the uncredited "producer over the loudspeaker" serves as moderator for parts of the show, which is filmed in Washington, D.C.; Around The Horn also originates from the same studio.

Similar in format to old Siskel and Ebert,[2] PTI is known for its humorous and often loud tone, as well as the "rundown" graphic listing the topics yet to be discussed down the right-hand side of the screen. The show's popularity has led to the creation of similar shows on ESPN, and similar segments on other series, and the rundown graphic has since been implemented on the morning editions of SportsCenter among many imitators.

PTI debuted on October 22, 2001.[3] The original deal was for two years with an option for a third.[2] It airs daily at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN (if not preempted by live events such as golf), and is repeated on numerous ESPN sister outlets (see "Broadcast details" below). The show originally also aired Sunday evening, but this was short-lived.

PTI is produced by ESPN. The show's production management is led by Executive Producer, Erik Rydholm. PTI is sponsored by alcoholic beverage company Diageo, via its brands Guinness, Red Stripe and Smirnoff Ice.

On February 23, 2010, various news sources reported that Kornheiser had been suspended from ESPN "for some time" for comments he made on his radio show about fellow high-profile ESPN personality Hannah Storm.[4]


Broadcast details

Pardon the Interruption airs live at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time on ESPN. The following outlets carry the show at other times:

  • ESPN 2 airs the show at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, with the TV picks, errors and "Happy time" removed.
  • WXTR, ESPN Radio affiliate for Washington, DC (where both Kornheiser and Wilbon are based), airs the entire show at 7:05 p.m. Eastern Time and again at 5:30 a.m. the next morning.
  • WMVP, ESPN Radio affiliate in Chicago (Wilbon's hometown) airs the show at 7:05 p.m. Central Time.
  • The ESPN Radio network makes an edited version available to its affiliates, with only a few segments, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. An ESPN Radio SportsCenter update is inserted at 6:40. (Previously ESPN Radio carried the show at 7 p.m. Eastern)
  • TSN airs the show live at 5:30 p.m. and cuts out before the SportsCenter segment, ending with Tony waving the Canadian flag and saying "goodnight, Canada". If pre-empted, the broadcast will air at a later time.
  • Since April 17, 2006, ESPN has also offered a free audio podcast which cuts out commercials and includes all segments.
  • ESPN America airs the show across Europe in a late night slot, usually at 11:30pm unless pre-empted by live sports coverage. It is also repeated during the following day at 7:30am.

The set

Pardon the Interruption is unique in its studio layout, featuring a "wall" full of cut-out cardboard heads of athletes and celebrities that have previously been used in the "Role Play" segment, bobblehead dolls of the show's hosts and Reali, Etch-A-Sketch art of Kornheiser and Wilbon, and several other toys and trinkets they have received, such as Kornheiser's beloved "Leg Lamp" from A Christmas Story, Stewie Griffin and Elmo.

For different American holidays, the set will also be decorated with other props to match the theme of the day. For example, on Halloween, carved jack-o'-lanterns of the host's heads are also present. The color of the rundown graphic is also changed to mesh with the holiday theme (e.g. red, white, and blue to represent Independence Day, green for St. Patricks Day, red and green for Christmas).


PTI is divided into several segments. It is not unusual for the last point or topic in each section to be about a non-sports-related pop-culture event. On rare occasions, the show will stray from its basic format, such as on August 9, 2005, when baseball commissioner Bud Selig was the guest at the very top of the show for an extended interview.

Other than the pop-culture topics, most topics discussed involve the The Big Four of American team sports: baseball, basketball, football and hockey. Both hosts are avid fans of volleyball, tennis, golf, and boxing and discuss events in those sports frequently. However, other sports such as soccer, mixed martial arts and auto racing receive much less coverage, and the hosts do little to hide their lack of interest or knowledge on those topics.

Segments included in the vast majority of shows are:

Segment 1: Introduction/Headlines

Kornheiser and Wilbon welcome viewers to the show with opening banter. Wilbon usually opens the show with the line, "Pardon the Interruption... but I'm Mike Wilbon." Wilbon will then put a question to Kornheiser concerning one of the day's sports or pop culture issues (which he answers sarcastically). The two will then continue a conversation while the opening title card is shown. The theme song (as well as the commercial outro music) thematically references the song "Cut Your Hair" by Pavement.

Kornheiser then says "Welcome to the 'PTI' program, boys and girls," and the hosts usually debate five or six topics. Each issue is listed in chronological order on the right side of the screen, and a countdown timer is shown indicating how much time is allotted to discuss a particular issue. Most topics are less than 1:30, but major news stories can run two or three minutes. If there is no guest for "Five Good Minutes," three or four additional headlines will run during the second segment.

Segment 2: Five Good Minutes

Kornheiser and Wilbon interview a sports figure, writer, or analyst typically for a period of time from three to five and a half minutes. The interview itself is actually recorded prior to the rest of the show and then trimmed down for broadcast. According to PTI's remote producer, with some exceptions, guests are booked the day of the show as they try to obtain the most relevant news of the day.[5] Other times, there are two "Five Good Minutes" segments with two different guests; there are also shows where two related guests appear during one segment, such as Joe Buck and Tim McCarver of Major League Baseball on Fox broadcasts. There have also been occasions where Kornheiser or Wilbon, while on vacation or in another city to cover an event and not hosting the show, have been the subject of "Five Good Minutes" themselves.

Guests almost always appear from a separate location, usually the site of an upcoming game or their home city, appearing with the hosts via split screen. On a few occasions, the guest has appeared in studio with Kornheiser and Wilbon. This may be the case if the guest is an athlete or coach in Washington to play a game that night, such as when Denver Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups appeared on February 6, 2009, prior to the Nuggets' game with the Washington Wizards. When this happens, the guest will sit on Wilbon's side of the table, sitting diagonally from Kornheiser.

On Mondays during the football season, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, a former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback (a.k.a. "Jaws" and "the Polish Rifle" - the latter usually rendered in a Howard Cosell-like voice), is usually the guest, to offer analysis of the previous day's games and a prediction for the Monday Night Football game that night.

On rare occasions, "Five Good Minutes" runs long, such as on June 8, 2005 when NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus's interview ran 11 minutes, forcing the cancellation of the following segment (Role Play), on March 23, 2007 when USC basketball coach Tim Floyd's interview ran 9 minutes as he talked about O. J. Mayo, and on October 22, 2009, as reporter Jackie MacMullan discussed the Magic Johnson/Isiah Thomas controversy, forcing the cancellation of the segment Report Card.

Segment 3 (various)

After "Five Good Minutes", or after extended "Headlines" if there is no guest, PTI uses a variety of different segments to talk about other sports news and make predictions. These featured segments often end with a pop culture topic.

"Mail Time" and "Toss Up" are featured at least once for every full week of episodes. During Mail Time (in which Wilbon provides the voice of the mailbox) the hosts read and respond to viewer e-mail that they take out of a talking mailbox. Early in PTI's run, an intern named Josh read the mail to the hosts. When the show changed over to the talking mailbox, Wilbon would express disgust at the mail voice, demanding it be omitted. The mail read on air is no longer written by viewers, but rather staff of the show itself. For Toss Up, the two hosts choose between two sides of a topic announced by the producer, Erik Rydholm, over the loudspeaker, and Kornheiser always claims to be the winner.

Other frequently used segments are "Odds Makers" and "Role Play". Odds Makers is featured weekly and involves the hosts giving their prediction in the form of a percentage about the likeliness of a future event occurring. Reali gives the topics and keeps track of responses on a chalkboard, to which he refers at the end of the segment in order to declare a winner. A selection at either extreme of 100% or 0% is well-respected, with the latter being coined by Reali as "squadoosh". Role Play, featured in almost every week but less so than earlier in PTI's run, is referred to as "Heads on Sticks" because the hosts alternate speaking as a sports figure with the person's picture on a stick in front of their faces. After a picture is used, it is usually stuck somewhere in the background of the set until it is replaced. Recently, the sexual nature of the title of this segment has been noticed, as a suggestive musical cue leads the segment as well as Kornheiser telling Wilbon on the first Role Play "Wilbon will give, I will receive".

"Psychic Hotline" and "Good Cop, Bad Cop" are segments where the hosts take on different roles to discuss the given topics. The set is decorated with candles and a plasma lamp for Psychic Hotline, the latter of which a host will touch to hear the question in the form of a pre-recorded phone call. The question asks the hosts to predict what will happen in regards to an upcoming sporting event. Kornheiser wears a turban, in the style of Carnac the Magnificent, while Wilbon does not dress up at all. In Good Cop, Bad Cop, however, both hosts dress in police hats and sometimes sunglasses. This segment is featured rarely, and unlike Toss Up, the hosts must take an opposite stand on each topic, saying it is either good or bad. This segment is occasionally renamed "Good Elf, Bad Elf" for the holiday.

"Over/Under" is a segment that alternated weeks with Odds Makers when they were first introduced, but is now featured only occasionally. The hosts argue over whether a certain sports figure or team will go over or under a certain number (e.g. 40 home runs, 60 wins). Reali also announces the topics for this segment, holding cards up with the statistic, as well. In order to help prevent a "push" (a Wilbon trademark), a decimal figure is sometimes used (e.g. 2.5 touchdowns). "Food Chain", where the hosts rank a top five list of teams, returned in December 2008 after a long absence. Kornheiser and Wilbon usually have variations in their lists, with Wilbon posting his as each team is introduced. Wilbon refers to his as "A real man's board!", but when Kornheiser switches to his, he claims, "That's it! That's the list!" A third rare segment is "Fair or Foul". It was introduced on February 28, 2007 after the hosts began repeating the words "fair or foul" for a few episodes because of a viewer email including them earlier in the week. The hosts discuss a variety of topics and decide if each is fair or foul (acceptable or not). If a host believes a topic is "foul", he could threw a yellow football penalty flag and/or blow a whistle.

Additionally, during the early run of PTI, a "Doctors" segment was featured occasionally, in which the hosts had to choose which head to cut off and throw in the trash out of two that were stuck together. The hosts dressed up as doctors for this segment, using coats and assorted accessories. Finally, a "time-machine" game was played once in 2005 and never returned.

Another early segment was called "Love Em or Leave Em" where a female voice cooing "Ooo La-La!" was played before the hosts discussed an individual (whose head was on a stick) they were either "leaving" or "loving" and keeping on their side.

On July 28, 2009, a segment called "What's the Word" was introduced. It consists of Reali reading a partial sentence and the hosts using a word(s) to fill the blank(s) in the sentence. On July 30, 2009 another new segment debuted called "Report Card", in which the hosts assign letter grades to various events suggested by Reali. Another recent game was debuted called "Too Soon?" where Reali asks the hosts if it's too soon for a certain sports situation to possibly occur.

Segment 4: Happy Happy Time, et al.

This segment usually starts with Kornheiser saying, "Let's get happy." Recently, the segment starts with Kornheiser talking gossip with Wilbon, someone yells that they are on, and then Kornheiser acts surprised. The hosts send out a "Happy Birthday", a "Happy Anniversary" (generally something that happened on the same date in the past rather than an anniversary), and a "Happy Trails" (a departure of some sort, such as a firing, injury, retirement, or death. In the case of a death, the background music was silenced in respect of the deceased).

If time allows, Reali (nicknamed "Stat Boy") corrects any factual errors that Kornheiser and Wilbon may have made. From the time of the show's expansion in July 2005 until August 2009, Kornheiser and Wilbon would then give their recommendations for television viewing for the night as the last discussion segment of the show before SportsCenter. Wilbon usually chooses a sporting event, while Kornheiser will often opt for pop-culture based programming; most notably, he is a huge fan of American Idol and former fan of 24, which he says jumped the shark in Season 6. He rarely states that he will watch a sporting event, saying that they are on past his bedtime. Since September 2009, they use the ending of the half-hour broadcast to give shoutouts to whoever they deem worthy of one.

This concludes the half-hour broadcast of the show, where Kornheiser bids farewell to Canadian viewers. The segment during SportsCenter is not shown in Canada, where the program airs on TSN, so when Wilbon makes the toss to Bristol, Connecticut, where ESPN's studios are located, Kornheiser usually says "Goodnight, Canada" while waving a small Canadian flag as Wilbon mentions the upcoming SportsCenter segment.

SportsCenter segment

On July 25, 2005, the format of the show was altered to merge the final part of the show with the beginning of the 6:00 p.m. ET SportsCenter. After the opening segment of SportsCenter (normally 10–14 minutes), PTI returns to debate an additional sports-related topic, then end with The Big Finish where, for the final 60 seconds of the show, the hosts alternate making comments on several other stories, usually ending with Wilbon picking a winner in a sporting event later that night ("Who Ya Got?"). The segment (and show) ends with Kornheiser saying, "We're out of time, we'll try to do better the next time," and Wilbon saying "Same time tomorrow, knuckleheads." Kornheiser will wave the show logo (on a stick) in front of his face an tell someone (usually a famous person or someone he knows) to go to his/her room. Prior to the institution of this segment, The Big Finish closed the show in the slot now used for shoutouts; Wilbon and Kornheiser often had the additional debate as a part of SC, but it was not treated as a formal part of PTI.

For the re-air on ESPN2, the show moves straight to the post-SportsCenter topic after the third commercial break, skipping segment 4. According to Nielsen ratings, PTI paired with Around the Horn combined to average more viewers than SportsCenter.[6]

During football season, Monday editions of PTI used to air in the former (30-minute) format, with no shoutouts or SportsCenter segment. Until midway through the 2008 season the show also took place at the Monday Night Football host stadium as Kornheiser was a part of the Monday broadcast team; after that Kornheiser hosted from an undisclosed location in the host city while Wilbon hosted from the PTI studios in Washington. After Kornheiser's departure from Monday Night Football PTI reverted to its normal format for the 2009 football season after the first week of Monday Night Football.

Commercial bumpers

Beginning September 2, 2008 and for all shows except for those taped at the site of a Monday Night Football game, inserts of Kornheiser and Wilbon's discussion air for 15–20 seconds as bumpers between the commercial breaks of the show. One can see the two hosts having their makeup fixed and discussing everything from whom one has recently met to inside jokes between the hosts.

Running gags

Kornheiser's beloved trampoline bear

The longevity and popularity of the show has led to numerous running jokes between Wilbon and Kornheiser that longtime viewers will recognize. Some of these include such gags as The Bald Brotherhood, (He's) Ya Boy, Beatdown!, Strugg-a-ling, The Yanks and the Sawks!, The Penguin Dance, Let Me Axe You Something, Uranus, Playoffs? Playoffs?, Ya Gotta Get Low, Drew Breeees, Good Night Canada and The Trampoline Bear.

In addition, for the first 3½ years of the show, Kornheiser only hosted a few shows away from the studio, with Wilbon during the week of Super Bowl XXXVI. Meanwhile, Wilbon has hosted many shows at the location of a sporting event he was attending. This has resulted in much teasing of Kornheiser by Wilbon, including Kornheiser's fear of flying. Finally, on March 27, 2006, Kornheiser for the first time hosted the show away from the studio while Wilbon remained back at the set, as Kornheiser was in Orlando, Florida, covering the NFL owners meetings. For the first time in November 2006, Kornheiser and Wilbon "chatted split-screen" from two different locations away from Washington, D.C.

Kornheiser and Wilbon in other media

The short-lived CBS show Listen Up! was based on the life of Tony Kornheiser. In it, the main characters Tony Kleinman (Jason Alexander) and Bernie Widmer (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) co-hosted an off-beat sports show titled "Listen Up!"[7] On the day "Listen Up!" debuted, Warner and Alexander appeared in character on PTI's intro.

Kornheiser and Wilbon appeared as themselves on PTI in the 2004 film Mr. 3000, including doing a Role Play segment with Kornheiser posing as Stan Ross (Bernie Mac) at one point.

On February 8, 2006, it was announced that Tony Kornheiser would join Mike Tirico and Joe Theismann in the broadcast booth during Monday Night Football beginning in the 2006 NFL season. Kornheiser has continued to host PTI, and Wilbon joins him on the road as they broadcast PTI each Monday from the site of the MNF game, and there has also been an extra PTI segment inserted during halftime of ESPN's Monday Night games (However, in 2008, Wilbon has stayed in the DC studios, on many Mondays). In the months leading up to the 2006 NFL season, Kornheiser would often offer self-deprecating comments on the PTI show, saying that he'd be horrible for the MNF job or that he wished that certain people that are topics on the show would ride the bus with him to the game, as he has an admitted fear of flying. On the April 6, 2006, edition of PTI, the same day that the upcoming NFL season's schedule was released, Kornheiser gave a humorous insight into how he felt about his upcoming travel schedule, sarcastically commenting about how there weren't any East Coast games on the schedule. He also took the time to apologize to fans in Jacksonville, Florida, whose city Kornheiser described in his Washington Post column as having only Waffle Houses,[8] since there was a Monday Night game in Jacksonville on September 18, the second week of the NFL season. Kornheiser recently said on the show that if at all possible, he would like to avoid traveling to the city of Seattle again since each time he has gone there, the weather has been atrocious (such as the downpour and wind that was constant in week 9 against Oakland and the snowstorm in week 12 against Green Bay).

PTI will be featured on future EA Sports video games due to the contract between ESPN and EA. The first game to have the feature is NBA Live 07 for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.[9]

Beginning in 2007, Wilbon appears weekly as an analyst for GMC NBA Countdown show Sundays on ABC.

Wilbon is a frequent guest on Washington, D.C. radio station WTEM's The Tony Kornheiser Show.

Guest hosts

When one of the normal hosts is sick or on vacation, they have a guest host, usually another prominent sportswriter. Typically, Kornheiser and Wilbon almost never appear together during the summer months of July and August, as Major League Baseball is the only major sport in season and has barely gone past half season. The most frequently seen guest hosts are sportswriters Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald, Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe and ESPN's similarly-styled Around The Horn and J.A. Adande, formerly of the Los Angeles Times. Other guest hosts seen less often are Jackie MacMullan and Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe, Jay Mariotti, formerly of the Chicago Sun-Times, and Rick Reilly of ESPN.

Many other guest hosts were used in the past, including David Aldridge, Skip Bayless, Norman Chad, Josh Elliott, Max Kellerman, Patrick McEnroe, Michael Smith, Stephen A. Smith, Michele Tafoya, and Mike Tirico of ESPN and sportswriters Jason Whitlock of The Kansas City Star and David Dupree and Jon Saraceno of USA Today. Kellerman stopped appearing on PTI when he started hosting Around the Horn. Whitlock was fired from and banned from appearing on ESPN after controversial remarks about some fellow ESPN employees.

Kornheiser was absent more than usual during Summer 2006 for medical reasons. During a phone interview on the August 15, 2006 edition of The Dan Patrick Show, Kornheiser explained this absence in most of July by revealing that he was recovering from skin cancer surgery.[10]

Other versions

Starting in the 2006 NFL season, Kornheiser and Wilbon began hosting PTI from the stadium that was hosting the Monday Night Football game. The following season, they began staging a live 3-topic, 3-minute version of the show during halftime of the game.

In 2004, Crackerjack Television started producing an Australian version of the show, which airs weekly on the Australian ESPN channel and features former Australian Rules footballer Sam Kekovich. ESPN Australia also broadcasts the American version of PTI editions before SportsCenter

The ESPN Deportes show Cronómetro (Spanish for "stopwatch") is modeled after PTI and Sports Reporters, in that it features personalities talking about sports subjects for a set amount of time.[11] Unlike PTI, there are four panelists instead of two, and segments such as Role Play are not used. Five Good Minutes is used as a discussion of one subject between the four analysts. ESPN Brasil also has a version of Cronómetro called É Rapidinho (rough translation from Portuguese: "It's Fast").

NESN, in partnership with The Boston Globe, premiered Globe 10.0 in 2007, which airs at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday. Hosted by Globe columnist Bob Ryan and a rotating cast of other sports writers, the show has ten topics that the two writers debate for one and a half minutes, in the same format as PTI (Ryan himself frequently fills-in on PTI on nights when Globe 10.0 doesn't air).

On March 25, 2008, SportsNet New York premiered two new half-hour shows, The Wheelhouse and Loud Mouths, which are similar to PTI and to each other, having two panelists debate sports topics.[12] The Wheelhouse has a moderator and sports personalities as guests while Loud Mouths incorporates viewer calls and e-mails. These shows air every weekday at 5:30 and 6:00 p.m., respectively.[13]

Prior to PTI, the Empire Sports Network had a similar show entitled Pros and Cons. Ed Kilgore (WGRZ-TV sports director, generally portraying an optimist) and Art Wander (then a sports talk host for WGR, portraying the antagonist or pessimist view) were the primary combatants, with former The Buffalo News columnist Larry Felser also on the panel. The program lasted from 1992 to 1996.


  1. ^ ESPN: PTI podcast listing
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ Atlantic Video, Inc. Welcomes ESPN's First Washington DC Daily Show: Pardon the Interruption. (2001, November). iCOM Magazine. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  4. ^ ESPN suspends Tony Kornheiser for remarks about Hannah Storm
  5. ^ Wright, B. An insider's look at PTI. (2006, December 1). Collegiate Times. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  6. ^ 2006: Best Year For All ESPN Networks. (January 4, 2007). ESPN Press Release.
  7. ^ Levin, J. (2004, September 22). Kornheiser, the Scrivener: What's with all the sportswriters on sitcoms?. Slate. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  8. ^ Kornheiser, T. (2005, January 26). What's That Smell? Jacksonville. The Washington Post, D01. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  9. ^ Gaudiosi, John. (2006, July 26). EA Heads to the Big Show. BusinessWeek.
  10. ^ The Buzz. (August 20, 2006). St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  11. ^ No Debate About ESPN Deportes Series (October 27, 2004). Multichannel News. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
  12. ^ Best, Neil (2008-03-25). "SNY offers 90 minutes of guys yelling about sports". Newsday. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  13. ^ Raissman, Bob (2008-03-24). "SNY raises voice, profile with two new shows that debut Monday". Daily News. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 

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