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The debut date: April 2, 1995
The host: Bryant Gumbel,

In the first installment of “Real Sports,” HBO Sports has rolled out an impressive, entertaining mix. “Real Sports” bears a strong resemblance to TV-mag legend “60 Minutes” right down to the no-onscreen-titles interview format and the Andy Rooney-style position paper at the close (though Billy Crystal takes it to a hilarious, new level).

Does “Real Sports” break new ground? Often. Is it a gloves-off lid-blowing blasting of sports icons and institutions? Occasionally — but this is one heck of a rookie effort, and the future for the quarterly program (which returns in July, October, and December, and may expand to eight or 12 episodes next year) looks bright.

When HBO announced last month it would tackle the world of sports in an unprecedented magazine-style format, the cabler gleefully added that the new show would also have unprecedented leeway: HBO has no advertisers to ruffle, and it has no rights-fee deals with major sports leagues.

Gumbel is bolstered by a superb collection of sportswriting and reporting talent, particularly New York Times mainstays William Rhoden and Ira Berkow, author Frank Deford and sportscaster Jim Lampley.