Back in May one of our ten sports media questions for this upcoming football season was "Will Peter Berg's Mike Leach documentary series become a reality?"
It was certainly something I was hoping to see come to fruition. But with no real updates from Berg's camp or Washington State, I had all but given up on the chance of the show being produced. Unfortunately, yesterday confirmation came in that proposed series is not happening, most likely due to a lack of interest from the likes of HBO and Showtime. From The Spokesmen Review:
"Leach said he hasn’t heard anything about a potential documentary on HBO about the WSU football team. A camera crew led by director Peter Berg was in Pullman shortly after Leach's hire, he said, but there's been no update since."
Berg had previously said back in January, "I assume HBO will go for it because it will be really good… I don't know why they wouldn't."
This was coming off the heels of a Berg produced series On Freddy Roach that was solid and made me appreciative of all the work Berg had done in the sports genre. At the time he was touting the Leach series and beating the drums for a Friday Night Lights movie.
Just like Berg's stated fascination with Leach whose demise at Texas Tech is reported to be part of the script to the proposed movie, I've found myself fascinated with Berg's career, particular within sports.
Although his sports projects have drawn critical acclaim, commercial success has been an issue. Likely adding to the lack of network interest in the Leach series was the fact that Berg's Battleship was seen as one of the biggest flops of the year, so much so that Comcast's quarterly numbers specifically blame it for down numbers.
in many ways, Berg reminds me of a seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneur looking to make big things happen. If you read the Grantland oral history on Friday Night Lights, a lot of the focus on that article really centers on Berg's ability to usher that show into production and cut deals to keep the show going when it faced cancellation almost every step of the way.
Helped by the success of the first FNL movie as well as the success of Hancock, Berg was able usher the series to 5 complete seasons as well as attract partners for a 30 for 30 and the Freddy Roach series.
Yet\\\\\\\\, Battleship and lackluster ratings for FNL and the Roach series seems to have stalled Berg's ability to sell his projects to networks and studios.
Going back to my Silicon Valley analogy, there is a saying that "you have to create your own heat." Basically you create your own momentum and buzz and hopefully it snowballs into real interest, opportunities, partnerships, and deals.
Quotes like ""I assume HBO will go for it because it will be really good…… I don't know why they wouldn't", "We're not done with Friday Night Lights", and "We're doing the movie", all of which are examples of Berg trying to create his own heat.
On both the Leach series and the FNL movie, I'd imagine that interest was lukewarm and hence Berg went to the press bringing his typical bravado fishing for a Hollywood suit to bite. It seems as if nobody bit on the Leach series, which is unfortunate as I would have really enjoyed that. It was my thought that if the usual suspects of HBO and Showtime didn't want to get involved that potentially NBC Sports Network or new Pac 12 television partners in FX and the Pac 12 Network might roll the dice. I'd also imagine that the limited size of WSU's fanbase, regardless of their College Gameday flag waving zeal, also hurt his chances.
With the Leach series officially not happening, hopefully Berg can get the stars to line up to get a FNL movie produced. I'm skeptical in wake of Battleship and the fact that shows like The Wire and The Sopranos among others never found themselves onto the big screen despite continued rumors of such a possibility. Hopefully in the meantime he'll stay away from making 9 figure movies based off of board game,s although you can certainly take my $10.50 if Hungry Hungry Hippos make makes it to theaters.