When you think of the top-rated shows on television, "NCIS," "The Voice" and "The Big Bang Theory" come to mind. What might surprise you is that NBC's "Sunday Night Football" was the most watched show for the 2011-12 season. It was the first time a sports program has achieved that distinction, and it is likely to happen again this year.
The ultimate reality show is produced by Fred Gaudelli. Along with his team at NBC, he has set the gold standard for covering the NFL. He spoke this week about how he and his team prepare for the No. 1 show on television.
JW: What makes this show the top program on TV?
Gaudelli: It really starts with the game that is our star. This week with the Redskins and the Cowboys playing for the NFC Eastern Division Championship—it does not get better than that. We also a very tantened crew of broadcasters led by Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya, director Drew Esocoff. They are so gifted at telling all the key stories and making the games interesting.
It is the combination of the power of the NFL and the strong talent we have doing the game that makes our show worthy of being destination viewing each Sunday. That is something we take pride in and know that we have to bring our "A-Game" each week. Nothing else will do.
JW: When do you get to town, and what comes first?
Gaudelli: Thursday, Costas, Michaels, Collinsworth, Tafoya, Esocoff and I went over to Redskins Park. We watched practice and talked to players and coaches. We had detailed conversations with head coach Mike Shanahan, his son and offensive coordinator Kyle and quarterback Robert Griffin III. Bob taped interviews we use for the show. Then we returned to the hotel and break down coaches' film on the Redskins. That helps us frame the way we cover the game.
JW: What happens Friday?
Gaudelli: We have a series of meetings and go over taped features, graphics and go out to FedEx Field, where Drew and I meet with the entire production crew. We do one last walkthrough before all the cameras are put in place to make sure that there is not a single angle that we miss. Al, Cris and Bob continue to do their research for the show. We have another meeting to go over what have learned thus far on the Redskins that we can use on Sunday Night Football.
JW: Take us through Saturday and up to show time Sunday.
Gaudelli: [On] Saturday the Cowboys come to town, and Al, Cris, Bob, Michele, Drew and I will meet at their hotel with Jason Garrett and Tony Romo. Again, Bob will tape interviews, and we will view Cowboys game film just like we did with Washington. [On] Saturday we have a camera rehearsal at FedEx, so we make sure everything is right.
[On] Sunday we get to FedEx at around 2 p.m. and we do a full rehearsal with the broadcast crew. We break the crew for lunch, then we go live at 7 p.m. with Bob, Al and Cris on "Football Night in America." Then they pass it off to us for Sunday Night Football and all the hard work we have done hopefully pays off and we have a good show.
All quotes obtained first-hand in an interview with Gaudelli set up Thursday by NBC Sports.