Last night, news broke that ESPN was indeed moving up the release of the upcoming 10-part Bulls documentary The Last Dance, chronicling the Jordan-era Bulls. That’s been a possibility for a while, as the network obviously has a lot of time to fill right now.
This morning, ESPN officially confirmed the new premiere date will be April 19th, along with releasing a new trailer and the full series calendar.
On April 19 … IT BEGINS ?#TheLastDance | @StateFarm pic.twitter.com/BTxWjWyqdY
— ESPN (@espn) March 31, 2020
ESPN released a statement on the release date change:
“As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience. We’ve heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that. This project celebrates one of the greatest players and dynasties ever, and we hope it can serve as a unifying entertainment experience to fill the role that sports often play in our lives, telling a story that will captivate everyone, not just sports fans.”
It’s a move that makes a lot of sense. The NBA isn’t going to be back for a while (if it’s back at all, which looks increasingly less likely for this season), and The Last Dance will likely have the full attention of a sports-starved viewing audience. It’s something ESPN has wanted to do for a while; we reported this on March 15th:
What we’re being told is that nothing is 100 percent official and the programming department is looking at various options to deal with this unprecedented situation, and programming changes will be announced when they become final. Behind the scenes, we’re told that The Last Dance is not actually finished, which is very understandable given that it’s a 10-part miniseries that was supposed to have three more months to be completed. What’s most likely is that ESPN is hoping for a finished product sometime this month (maybe this week or next) and will want to air not long after they have a final cut. I get the feeling that they’d prefer to not announce a new airdate until those involved (Director Jason Hehir and ESPN’s Libby Geist and Connor Schell) feel confident in the finished product or are at the one-yard line before formally making an announcement. Sources say that such a move is likely at this point, which echoes the change in the advertising.
It’s possible (maybe even probable) that The Last Dance is still being worked on; the first episodes might be coming within three weeks, but the documentary will stretch out through mid-May, with episodes premiering on Sunday nights.
Regardless: every trailer has looked great, and credit ESPN and the filmmakers for making this happen.