ESPN gets ‘Reel’ with Reynolds

'Classics' lineup has 'Hoosiers,' 'Raging Bull'

ESPN Classic has signed a one-year deal with Burt Reynolds to host its weekly showcase for sports-themed movies “Reel Classics.”

Reynolds’ run will kick off Oct. 26 with one of his biggest hits, “The Longest Yard,” delivering anecdotes about his role as the quarterback of a team of convicts thrown into a mayhem-saturated football game against a team of prison guards.

Crowley Sullivan, head of programming for ESPN Classic, said the network had such a happy experience working with Reynolds on a recent “Reel Classics” project that it offered him the hosting chores. Reynolds was a star football player at his alma mater, Florida State U., and is a diehard sports fan.

Reynolds will tape the intros and commentary at his memorabilia-filled home in Jupiter, Fla., and Sullivan said he’s hoping that Reynolds will be able to draw on his showbiz relationships to bring guests that he could interview on the air, like Robert Redford, whose “The Natural” will show up at the beginning of the 2004 baseball season, and Sylvester Stallone, whose five “Rocky” movies will run in sequence on ESPN Classic next year.

Some of the other titles scheduled for ESPN Classic’s 2003-04 season include “A League of Their Own,” “The Karate Kid,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” “Semi-Tough,” “Raging Bull,” “Kingpin,” “All the Right Moves,” “Major League,” “Hoosiers,” “The Black Stallion” and “Point Break.”

ESPN Classic reaches 46.9 million cable and sat subscribers. It’s one of the fastest-growing cable nets, having added 7.53 million homes in the past year.

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