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The W - Random - ESPN's "Playmakers" Beyond Horrible
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NickBockwinkelFan
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Since: 10.4.02
From: New York City, NY

Since last post: 832 days
Last activity: 60 days
#1 Posted on
After trying to digest the stunning upset of Sam Farha by Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 World Series of Poker, I thought I'd give this show a shot.

I've always liked the idea of a tv show set in the world of sports, but they always suck. The White Shadow is probably the only one that was any good, and it was classic.

ESPN's Playmakers couldn't have been worse. ESPN has cornered the market on awful sports movies with their butchery of John Feinstein's Season on the Brink and Jim Dent's The Junction Boys. Bargain basement production values and a complete disreguard for the intelligence of the viewer are the trademarks of "ESPN Original Entertainment" (at least their movies). Sure, PTI and Around the Horn are entertaining, but those are shows with sportswriters talking about sports, you can't screw that up (unless it's Mitch Albom with his bad wig running his mouth). It's a formula that works. Their movies and now Playmakers just don't work at all.

Every single pro sports cliche was blatantly trotted out in the guise of "drama":
the young vs old
the coach vs gm
the inequities of the star system
the drug abuse (illicit & scrip)
sex and marital infidelity
the players being violent as a product of "tough" upbringing
the police giving the athletes favored treatment
and
who could forget the moral ambiguities faced by the athletes as they struggle with their philosophical difficulties in participating in modern gladitorial games.

Of course this was all done in a completely mediocre fashion with embarrassing results.

Other problems:
The football "action" scenes make the XFL look like Super Bowl XIII

They don't bother with any crowd shots, so they were able to save themselves both the costs of hiring extras or paying for stock footage

Bad casting. To have Omar Gooding (Cuba Gooding's brother) portray an NFL top rated running back is a joke. He's fat and has absolutely no physique. I'm supposed to believe that this guy is supposed to be able to evade Ray Lewis or Urlacher hauling all that baby fat! And smoking crack 30 minutes before kickoff. Talk about suspension of disbelief. Well at least his dreads and tats are hooked up.

This show was fucking putrid.



(edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 27.8.03 0534)


"Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!"
--Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview


"As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!"
--Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys

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Since: 11.7.02
From: MD

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#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.29
I lasted two minutes. I got past the hospital scene and checked out with the steroid scene. I said "what's the fucking point" and decided time was better served playing Civ3.



"Each time I've met Huffington, I wondered if she was not somehow the long-lost daughter of Madame Nicolai Ceaucescu, or a genetic cross between Martha Stewart and Count Dracula. Had this Greek-born harpy lived in medieval times, she would have been sewn up in a bag with a rooster and two snakes and thrown into the nearest river."
-- Eric Margolis, Toronto Star
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Since: 6.8.02
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#3 Posted on
Hey I was trying to avoid seeing who won the world series of poker, thanks a lot for ruining it for me.



Brazen Snatch
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Since: 3.1.02
From: Northern NJ

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#4 Posted on
My refrigerator crapped out 10 minutes before the show started and it was a mad race to get everything out and down to the jam packed basement fridge & freezer so I missed the first 30 minutes of the show - unfortunately I noticed that it was on again at 10pm - what a waste of a precious hour's worth of sleep.......



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Since: 15.1.02
From: Flatwoods, KY

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#5 Posted on
I watched based solely on Bill Simmons review on Page 2.

http://espn.go.com/page2/s/simmons/030826.html

and 10 minutes in I was like, oh yeah Bill Simmons WORKS for ESPN, no wonder he gave it a decent review. The show was very very bad. I don't think I will be watching it again. I did like The Junction Boys though so that gave me some hope for the show, sadly my hopes were dashed less than 10 minutes in.



WIENER OF THE DAY! July 6, 2002!

If I lived back in the wild west days, instead of carrying a six-gun in my holster, I'd carry a soldering iron. That way, if some smart-aleck cowboy said something like "Hey, look. He's carrying a soldering iron!" and started laughing, and everybody else started laughing, I could just say, "That's right, it's a soldering iron. The soldering iron of justice." Then everybody would get real quiet and ashamed, because they had made fun of the soldering iron of justice, and I could probably hit them up for a free drink.
ges7184
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Since: 7.1.02
From: Birmingham, AL

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#6 Posted on
I didn't watch this show on principle. I mean, could they have tried to shove this show down our throats any harder??! If this show fails, they won't be able to blame it on lack of promotion! (Too much promotion, on the other hand...)



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Since: 24.7.02

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#7 Posted on
Its a sorry attempt at remaking 1st and 10. That show was at least original, 15 years ago.

Will Discuss World Series of Poker after this point. If not interested in having viewing spoiled, please do not view.
























Now, onto the important programming. I'm shocked Farha didn't call Moneymaker on the next to last hand shown. The way Sam was playing throughout the tournament, he totally played against himself on that hand. That was a rookie mistake by Moneymaker, and he was somehow able to survive it.
And please, I know its invaded other sports as well, but I really didn't need to hear in depth commentary from Moneymaker's father during the last hands. If your going to mic someone in the crowd, have it be one of the former World Champs as he's viewing the finale.

(edited by redsoxnation on 27.8.03 1114)


Ok, so Ted Williams is decapitated now? What will his son do next, sell him to the Japanese dog food company that bought former Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand?
Broncolanche
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Since: 2.6.03
From: Littleton, CO

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#8 Posted on
I was surprised to find out that Omar Gooding plays the cocky RB. He's sure come a long way from whatever show he co-hosted on Nickelodeon and Hangin' With Mr. Cooper.

(edited by Broncolanche on 27.8.03 1017)


"How did the Cards go 11-5? How did Emmie Smith rush for 1,400 yards? How did Jeff Blake become the No. 3 rated passer in the NFL? You dreamt it, that's how."

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Alessandro
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Since: 2.1.02
From: Worcester MA

Since last post: 42 days
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#9 Posted on | Instant Rating: 3.04
    Originally posted by Ffej
    I watched based solely on Bill Simmons review on Page 2.


From said review:



I'm not sure what's happening with ESPN, but I think it's a good thing. In the first scene of "Playmakers", an ambitious football drama premiering Tuesday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN) -- right after "The World Series of Poker, Day 742" -- we hear a paralyzed wide receiver grumble, "I can't even feel my (expletive)."


That's right, (expletive).


I waited for Vitale to enter the hospital room. And I waited. And I waited. Eventually it dawned on me that somebody just said (expletive) on ESPN. Looking back, it was a watershed moment for the Worldwide Leader, right up there with Jeff Brantley unleashing his retro-Larry Legend mullet-perm to an ecstatic "Baseball Tonight" audience for the first time.


Anyway, (expletive) set the tone for the rest of the pilot: Semi-naked groupies, guys smoking crack, and more swear words like (bleep) and (expletive deleted), none of which I'm allowed to use in this column. You figure it out.



While watching everything unfold, I kept imagining my buddy Gus' 70-year-old father searching for a Giants score, clicking on (what he thought was) "Baseball Tonight," then being helped out of the room five minutes later. We've come a long way from the days of Sal Marciano and Lou Palmer, folks.


As it turns out, "Playmakers" is an intense, fairly exhausting show, like if someone took "Oz," watered it down, removed the gang rapes and threw football helmets on everybody. Much like "Oz," you need to suspend your "Believability Radar" for an hour and enjoy the ride; if you're saying to yourself, "Wait a second, there's no way a running back could smoke crack 90 minutes before a game and still play," then this probably isn't the show for you.


Before we delve any further, you should know three things:


1. I watched the first two episodes of "Playmakers" -- the finished pilot and a rough cut of the second episode -- and it kept my interest the entire time. If you like football and you like different types of TV shows, it's worth sitting through the pilot -- if only because it's a unique show, and because there hasn't been a truly memorable sports-related show since "The White Shadow" (as I described in detail two years ago).


2. With that said, I didn't like "Playmakers" all that much, for the same reason that I stopped watching "Oz" right after Adebici died (for God's sake, couldn't they have spun him off into his own sitcom?) and inmates started getting killed in every way imaginable. "Playmakers" never seems totally believable; it's like a distorted, over-the-top version of the NFL. For instance, Episode No. 2 revolves entirely around painkillers, crack, steroids, and players beating drug tests by injecting clean urine into their (expletives) with a catheter. Apparently strippers, lap dances, date rape and abortions are scheduled for Episode No. 3.



3. And with THAT said, there's a 95 percent chance that I will end up TiVO-ing Episode No. 3 to see what happens.


So there you go. As far as endorsements go, that's about as lukewarm as you can get. My buddy Sal watched the first two shows and thought they were "compelling and intense ... maybe too intense ... sort of reminds me of 'Oz' in that you might need a break from watching it three weeks in." I liked that analogy. It's the same reason I avoid "The Wire," a terrific show that always leaves me drained and unhappy after it's over. Whether that happens with me and "Playmakers" remains to be seen.


There were a number of things I liked here. For one thing, creator John Eisendrath did the right thing by concentrating on the pregame/postgame stuff; for a show like this, you don't need game scenes that would cost too much money and seem comically staged, anyway. I liked the rhythm of the show, the way things moved from scene to scene, the theme music, even the running clock that was ripped right from "24." And the characters were sketched out distinctly enough that you could tell them apart (even during the pilot, when it's always difficult to tell who's who).


Four major plots emerge in the pilot episode (airing Tuesday night, as you probably know from the thousands of commercials on ESPN this week).


  • An engaging rivalry between aging running back Leon Taylor (played by Russell Hornsby) and upstart rookie D.H. Harris (Omar Gooding, the only actor on the show who really distinguishes himself on the show). Coming off knee surgery, Leon is trying to get his job back, but he's stuck in that "Terrell Davis after the ACL surgery" phase of his career, and D.H. runs like Clinton Portis. There's some good tension and cattiness here; enough to make you forget about the 40-yard dash in the beginning, where D.H. falls behind, then makes the most dramatic comeback since Rocky's beach sprint against Apollo (if you want to like
    this show, don't replay that scene in slow motion).


  • DH's rollercoaster ride with drugs, women and partying, the best part of the show. Every time he appeared on-screen, I was excited: Imagine Terry Glenn's background, LaDainian Tomlinson's talent, Michael Irvin's demons, and that weird vibe you get every time you see Edgerrin James get interviewed. That's DH. Good actor, great character. If they were smart, they would start revolving shows around him; I loved the scene in the second episode when DH and his posse were arguing about rappers. High comedy.


    We need more of that stuff ... and less of:



  • Star linebacker Eric Olczyk (Jason Matthew Smith), who battles inner demons after paralyzing an opposing receiver in a game: Nightmares, phone calls with his sports psychologist, awkward visits to
    the hospital room, the whole shebang. He's like a bald Zach Thomas -- and probably about as good of an actor. Just about every scene with this guy was excruciating to some degree, but none more than the hospital scene where he brought DVDs to the guy he paralyzed.


    Hey, I know you have screws in your head, and you can't move, and there aren't any TVs on the ceiling, but you would die laughing at the deleted scenes in "Old School" if you could see them.


  • A tepid battle of personalities between the team's overbearing owner and his taciturn coach, centered mostly around which running back should play. Here's where I thought the producers really screwed up: They needed a name actor to play the coach, someone who could carry this baby for scenes at a time, like Pacino in "Any Given Sunday," or Kaplan in "Fast Break." Instead, they gave us ... Mr. Tony Denison, who makes Tony Dungy seem electric by comparison.


    I know they were on a budget for these things, but why not break the bank for someone good here? Hell, I would have settled for Jack Wagner. When you're launching a show about professional football and avoiding game scenes, then you better hit a home run with little things like "Here's the scene where the coach gives an inspiring pregame speech." In a scene like that, we should feel like we're watching Dave McGinnis' Emmy Award-winning work in the "Arizona Cardinals 2002 Yearbook" all over again.


    And if I'm not ... well, there's a problem here. A big one.


    (There's one more character who doesn't emerge until Episode No. 2: A Peyton Manning lookalike-QB with a burgeoning addiction to painkillers. He spends most of the second show with a weird half-smile/half-grimace on his face, like he can't see the cue cards or something. When he appeared on screen with the coach, I think both of them actually flat-lined for a few seconds. I can't believe they didn't lure Craig Sheffer out of retirement for this role; at the very least, James VanDerBeek could have filled in.)


    So there you go. There's actually a good foundation here for a weekly drama; just for DH alone, it's worth watching. And because it's a football setting, they can always fire the coach, waive the QB and trade the bald linebacker, then bring in some characters and actors that resonate with the audience like DH does.



    Down the road, I'm hoping for less clichés (groaners like "This league's like life -- when you're a playmaker, the rules don't apply") and narration that doesn't sound just like the guy from the Gatorade commercial. I'm hoping they concentrate on the riff-raff that surrounds the teams, like DH's posse and the slutty TV reporter who had an affair with the aging running back. And I'm desperately hoping they bleep out f-bombs instead of having the coach say things like "This is the biggest damn game of the damn year!" (an actual quote from the pilot).


    And that leads to a bigger point, one which will probably determine whether "Playmakers" succeeds or not. I'm not sure you can "push the envelope" on basic cable these days, not when HBO and Showtime are crossing every line imaginable. Shows like "Playmakers" inevitably end up in creative limbo -- just different enough from network TV that it's appealing, but restricted from heeding the great Bruce Dickinson's advice and really exploring the proverbial studio space.



    Here's an analogy, which we'll call the "Four-beer analogy": Let's say you're hitting a sports bar with your buddies for Monday Night Football. You could have two or three beers, throw down some chicken wings, play some Golden Tee, wager on the home team, bond with your boys, then head home when the outcome has been decided. Or you could do everything from above, but keep throwing down
    beers until you're bombed and someone has to drive you home. Either way, it's going to be a good time.


    Well, unless you have four beers.


    That kills you. You're not sober enough to drive home. You're not quite drunk enough that you feel like you really let loose; if anything, you're more groggy than anything. And you drank just enough that
    you'll have trouble getting up for work/class the following morning. The next day, you always end up wishing you had more beers or less beers. Just not four.


    "Playmakers" left me with that four-beer feeling. Either they should have gone all the way, spent money on better actors and crossed a bunch of lines, or they should have toned things down, made things more realistic and appealed to a wider audience. Regardless, it's an intriguing direction for ESPN, one worth watching ... at least for a few shows, possibly more. And if this show leads to Page 2 writers eventually being able to call Isiah Thomas a big fat (expletive) in columns, then nobody's happier than me.


    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get the (bleep) out of here.





    Doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement to me ...

    P.S. Wait, hold the phone ... OMAR FRIGGIN' GOODING is in this show?!? The guy from Wild and Crazy Kids? Wow.



    (edited by Alessandro on 8.9.03 1648)



    Alessandro "Hercules" Boondy



  • StaggerLee
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    Since: 3.10.02
    From: Right side of the tracks

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    #10 Posted on
    Well, glad that my Crapola sensors were fine tuned and I didnt bother with this show. I mean, for crying out loud, the commercials, all 3,584,987 of them that they showed seemed like it was just THE PROGRAM Part 2.

    Besides that, is there nothing, and I mean NOTHING they can show on ESPN that is actually SPORTS instead of this shit? I mean, no offense to those of you who enjoyed this show, or the poker world series, but for crying out fucking loud, watching people play cards is BORING. You have one of the most exciting seasons in baseball, and you cant show a frieking AL or NL central game? You gotta show us these shitty vomit inducing shows?

    FUCK, this is all MTVs fault. Take a network that people enjoy, and try to make "interesting TV' out of it. Show me a fucking ballgame, show me some tennis, show me the Worlds Strongest Woman compitition again, show me anything but this fucking "original programming" garbage!
    spf
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    Since: 2.1.02
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    #11 Posted on
    I am going to give you a pass on the WSOP disparagement, only because of how many other threads have involved posts where you mention causing great suffering of a physical nature to people. Otherwise, it would be time to throw down and throw down hard.

    Though I could go for some of the WSW reruns, as I think I had a crush on Heini Koivuneimi (sp?)



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    StaggerLee
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    Since: 3.10.02
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    #12 Posted on
    LIke I said, if the WSOP was your thing, more power to you, I for one, just couldnt get any level of interest in watching OTHER people play cards.
    NickBockwinkelFan
    Frankfurter








    Since: 10.4.02
    From: New York City, NY

    Since last post: 832 days
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    #13 Posted on

      Originally posted by StaggerLee
      LIke I said, if the WSOP was your thing, more power to you, I for one, just couldnt get any level of interest in watching OTHER people play cards.


    It was the personalities that drove my interest in the World Series of Poker. Guys like Johnny Chan, Phil Helmuth, Scotty Ngyuen and Sam Farha made it very entertaining. Having the show on at 3:00am also played into the equation.

    I understand your argument, but it's one that is often used against people viewing any spectator sport. You could plug in any sport into your sentence: "I for one, just couldn't get any level of interest in watching OTHER people play *****." (*insert football, basketball or even god forbid pro wrestling)

    You're right on the money about the AL Central, though. The White Sox had already hit 4 dingers off of Clemens (including a Frank Thomas grand slam) before the chips hit the table at Binion's.





    "Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!"
    --Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview


    "As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!"
    --Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys

    Joseph Ryder
    Head cheese








    Since: 19.3.02
    From: Seattle, WA

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    #14 Posted on

      Originally posted by NickBockwinkelFan
      Bad casting. To have Omar Gooding (Cuba Gooding's brother) portray an NFL top rated running back is a joke. He's fat and has absolutely no physique. I'm supposed to believe that this guy is supposed to be able to evade Ray Lewis or Urlacher hauling all that baby fat! And smoking crack 30 minutes before kickoff. Talk about suspension of disbelief. Well at least his dreads and tats are hooked up.

      (edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 27.8.03 0534)



    You're also supposed to believe that absolutely no one in the Smackdown lockerroom has scouted Tajiri's handspring elbow.

    Omar Gooding freakin' rules. He might not be a roid monster, but the fool can ACT. Pay some respect before he hits it big, because it's only a matter of time.
    NickBockwinkelFan
    Frankfurter








    Since: 10.4.02
    From: New York City, NY

    Since last post: 832 days
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    #15 Posted on

      Originally posted by Joseph Ryder



      Omar Gooding freakin' rules. He might not be a roid monster, but the fool can ACT. Pay some respect before he hits it big, because it's only a matter of time.



    I didn't say he couldn't act.

    Robert DeNiro, Halle Berry, Christopher Walken and Samuel Jackson all can act too, but they wouldn't be believable (today 2003) as an NFL running back.

    You're right about Omar Gooding not being a roid monster, he's soft and flabby. At least when his brother played a receiver in Jerry McGuire he was ripped and diesel.

    Maybe he's a good actor, but I'll wait to "pay my respect" after he expands his resume from just Hangin with Mr.Cooper and the Smart Guy.

    Concerning Tajiri, maybe the locker room is still empty during the Velocity taping.



    "Well, you can't involve friendship with business. It has to be one or the other. It's either business or friendship, or hit the bricks!"
    --Life Lessons from "The Tao of Bobby the Brain Heenan" Uncensored 2000 preview


    "As long as the check don't bounce, I guess he's okay with it!"
    --Former All Pro Giants LB Harry Carson on Bill Parcells joining the hated rival Dallas Cowboys

    drjayphd
    Scrapple
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    Since: 22.4.02
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    #16 Posted on
    So am I going to be the only one who says the show wasn't THAT bad? It's only been one ep, so who knows. But I'm watching next week. Maybe it was just the whole mindfuck of someone complaining that they couldn't feel their dick on ESPN.

    And I was *thisclose* to screaming at Farha to call on that second to last hand. I forget what he had, but he just HAD to know Moneymaker mighta been bluffing. Either way, it's probably fair to call most of the people there sack kings like Chris Webber (apologies to Ludacris).



    Today's Out-Of-Context Quote, Courtesy of hardygrrl:

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    Zeruel
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    Since: 2.1.02
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    #17 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.05

      Originally posted by redsoxnation
      If not interested in having viewing spoiled, please do not view.


    Psst. They did invent spoiler tags. Use spoiler and /spoiler in brackets.

    Spoiler Below: Highlight text to read
    See?





    Almost finished my 2002-2003 College Football raitings. Watch this space!!!

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    Since: 1.9.03
    From: In Your Refrigerator, and it's not funny anymore

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    #18 Posted on
    Wow, I may one of few who liked the show.

    Then again, I was hungover, so who knows.

    I thought a lot of the Cinematography was ripped off from The Shield...it looked like The Shield gone sports for most of it... maybe that's why I was tricked into liking it.


    I totally didnt realize that was Omar Gooding as the RB. Damn... my Nerd Sensor is getting weaker by the day



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    Aldo D 2112
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    Since: 21.4.02
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    #19 Posted on
      Originally posted by NickBockwinkelFan
      After trying to digest the stunning upset of Sam Farha by Chris Moneymaker in the 2003 World Series of Poker, I thought I'd give this show a shot.

      I've always liked the idea of a tv show set in the world of sports, but they always suck. The White Shadow is probably the only one that was any good, and it was classic.

      ESPN's Playmakers couldn't have been worse. ESPN has cornered the market on awful sports movies with their butchery of John Feinstein's Season on the Brink and Jim Dent's The Junction Boys. Bargain basement production values and a complete disreguard for the intelligence of the viewer are the trademarks of "ESPN Original Entertainment" (at least their movies). Sure, PTI and Around the Horn are entertaining, but those are shows with sportswriters talking about sports, you can't screw that up (unless it's Mitch Albom with his bad wig running his mouth). It's a formula that works. Their movies and now Playmakers just don't work at all.

      Every single pro sports cliche was blatantly trotted out in the guise of "drama":
      the young vs old
      the coach vs gm
      the inequities of the star system
      the drug abuse (illicit & scrip)
      sex and marital infidelity
      the players being violent as a product of "tough" upbringing
      the police giving the athletes favored treatment
      and
      who could forget the moral ambiguities faced by the athletes as they struggle with their philosophical difficulties in participating in modern gladitorial games.

      Of course this was all done in a completely mediocre fashion with embarrassing results.

      Other problems:
      The football "action" scenes make the XFL look like Super Bowl XIII

      They don't bother with any crowd shots, so they were able to save themselves both the costs of hiring extras or paying for stock footage

      Bad casting. To have Omar Gooding (Cuba Gooding's brother) portray an NFL top rated running back is a joke. He's fat and has absolutely no physique. I'm supposed to believe that this guy is supposed to be able to evade Ray Lewis or Urlacher hauling all that baby fat! And smoking crack 30 minutes before kickoff. Talk about suspension of disbelief. Well at least his dreads and tats are hooked up.

      This show was fucking putrid.



      (edited by NickBockwinkelFan on 27.8.03 0534)


    You forgot about people saying "shit" every 3 minutes just because the show's on cable.

    Overall, the show's a decent waste of 60 minutes but some of these stories are on the Oz Season 4-5 Level of Unbelievability. To avoid spoilers, I'll just recommend you all to watch the last twenty minutes of the episode "The Piss Man."



    "Alright, now I'd like to show you one of my favorite cartoons. It's a sad, depressing story about a pathetic coyote who spends every waking moment of his life in the futile pursuit of a sadistic roadrunner, who mocks him and laughs at him as he is repeatedly crushed and maimed. I hope you enjoy it!"

    "Weird" Al Yankovic - UHF
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