Totally Hoops,” a documentary series created by Douglas Ross and Lara Spotts, the team behind Disney’s reality series “Bug Juice,” marks a big step in filling the void of quality programming for adolescent girls. While many popular shows geared to the “tween” audience of 12- to 14-year-olds focus on melodrama and ro-mance, “Totally Hoops” man-ages to encompass the whole coming-of-age experience as seen through the eyes of an all-girls basketball team, exploring the lives of the 11 Dayton’s Lady Hoopstars on and off the court.
Premiering with back-to-back episodes, “Totally Hoops” is an engrossing exploration. In one sense, the show is similar in tone to HBO’s award-winning “A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back,” in carefully documenting the pressures and rewards of organized sports. More than just a jockumentary, how-ever, “Totally Hoops” is a look at the teen experience and the link between self-esteem and social involvement.
This diverse group is equally dedicated but each player is struggling with her own challenges. Tiffany is striving to make a name for herself inde-pendently of her sister Tamika, a former Hoopstar now playing for collegiate power U. of Connecti-cut, while Alisha, one of the youngest players on the squad, is a former “B” team member who rides herself relentlessly to keep her place on the varsity.
The sacrifices required to re-main an elite team affect the girls’ schoolwork, their friendships and family relationships. Directors Samantha Counter and Sitarah Pendelton are careful to capture these moments as unobtrusively as possible.
Filmed in both direct interview and fly-on-the-wall style, the girls bare their souls directly to the camera, but the most revealing moments come as the crews follow them around through daily routines. Although aware of the camera’s presence, these media-savvy teens are natural and relaxed. There’s no “Real World” like showboating here, but judging from the two episodes provided for review, there’s not a lot of conflict either. So far, harmony prevails as the main theme, and if Disney wants to move beyond its squeaky-clean image, it can easily go one step further without compromising its standards.
A predominantly female film crew most likely helps to evoke the relaxed filming atmosphere, while editor Marlise Malkames exhibits good instincts when it comes to splicing together the numerous sub stories. William Anderson’s choice of pop tunes and mood music gives the show a hip and timely feel.