There have been many attempts to develop TV shows around the real-life roller coaster of emotions that only sports can provide. Some of them have been successful. Some of them… not so much. Of course, the most high-profile show was ESPN’s attempt at turning pro football into an hour-long drama in Playmakers, until it was shut down by the NFL. Since then, a network hasn’t really touched a dramatic interpretation of a pro sport, until now. Word has come that HBO has commissioned a new series about a professional basketball franchise from Gavin Polone, one of the producers of Curb Your Enthusisam. From Deadline:
The untitled project… is described as an unflinching behind-the-scenes look at a professional basketball team — and the money, sex, power and temptation that consumes the wild lives of millionaire players and billionaire owners.
There are several reasons this proposed series will be less Playmakers and more well, I can’t really think of a dramatic TV show that represented sports well. After all, I was too young to see The White Shadow and didn’t watch their reruns on ESPN Classic. The first reason to be optimistic is the involvement of HBO, who has much more business in this space than ESPN Original Entertainment. Just look at the success of East Bound and Down on HBO and many of their other hour-long dramas. And with a big name like Gavin Polone behind the project, success is likely.
The other reason to be optimistic is that basketball is the most ripe sport for a comedy-drama. Think about it, there’s only about a dozen guys who really matter on a basketball team, much more reasonable than football or baseball. Second, the Deadline article is right that basketball is full of sex, temptation, selfishness, sex, strip clubs, casinos, sex, drugs, drinking, sex, some basketball, and did I mention sex? Hey, we are talking about HBO after all.
But just stop and consider the real-life material that is ripe for the picking ala Law and Order. Things that have happened that can’t even be made up by Hollywood’s best. One episode could be a Gold Club parody. Or what about the allegedly racist owner who heckles his players. Or the reality TV star’s sham wedding with the anonymous big man. Or the announcer with the biting/ladies underwear fetish. Or the somehow famous family who makes a living leeching publicity off of basketball players. Come on, there’s plenty of material on Basketball Wives alone.