×

Playmakers

ESPN boots one through the uprights with "Playmakers," the sports net's first original scripted series. Show helps bridge the divide between sports fans and drama lovers in its exploration of football players' personal lives and the psychological elements of the game, though it veers dangerously close to chick flick territory in some ways.

With:
Coach Mike George - Tony Denison Demetrius Harris - Omar Gooding Leon Taylor - Russell Hornsby Eric Olczyk - Jason Matthew Smith Kevin "Buffalo" James - Marcello Thedford Derek McConnell - Chris Wiehl

ESPN boots one through the uprights with “Playmakers,” the sports net’s first original scripted series. Show helps bridge the divide between sports fans and drama lovers in its exploration of football players’ personal lives and the psychological elements of the game, though it veers dangerously close to chick flick territory in some ways. Consider it a baby step in the network’s bid to attract viewers outside its core audience.

Series creator John Eisendrath, with college gridiron experience and writing credentials on “Alias” and “Felicity,” goes after typical issues — drugs, contracts, competitive motivation. And while the appealing ensemble cast may not debunk any long-held characterizations of pro footballers, they do offer a few new insights — most notably that some players are in it for the unbridled brutality.

Jason Matthew Smith stars as Eric Olczyk, a tough linebacker whose psychological game is severely thrown off when he critically injures a rival team’s quarterback. Olczyk can’t shake the experience and finds himself conferring with his psychiatrist more than his coach. His breakthrough comes when he realizes that he hates football but has made it this far because it serves as an outlet for years of pent-up rage.

Olczyk’s friend and teammate Leon Taylor (Russell Hornsby) loves the game, but a knee injury has sidelined his career as a running back and left the door open for hotshot newcomer Demetrius Harris (Omar Gooding). The talented Harris scores the instant fame and all the perks that come with it, but he abuses drugs, women and basically any rules regarding the conduct of team members. While his teammates are practicing on the field an hour before game time, Harris can be found picking up remnants of cocaine off the car upholstery.

Coach Mike George (Tony Denison) would rather play Taylor than the unreliable Harris, but the team owner, who looks a lot like the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, has him over a barrel. His contract is up for negotiation, and there’s a rumor (or is it fact?) that he has some very serious health issues.

Pilot sets up several intriguing story arcs, capitalizing on the inherent drama of the game, and the cast fleshes out the ideas nicely.

Hornsby deftly conveys the strange dichotomy that is the fierceness and vulnerability of an aging player. Denison, a reliable character actor, so far avoids the saintly coach routine and the ruthless win-at-all-costs characterization.

Director Scott Brazil (“The Shield,” “CSI: Miami”) is a smart choice for the pilot seg. His frenetic camera work, paired with Stephen Lawrence’s sharp editing and host of rap songs, mimics the high-voltage energy of a big game.

Playmakers

ESPN, Tues. Aug. 26, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Toronto by ESPN Original Entertainment. Executive producers, Orly Adelson, John Eisendrath; co-executive producer, Michael Angeli; producer, Jamie Paul Rock; director, Scott Brazil; writer, Eisendrath;

Crew: Camera, John Berrie; editor, Stephen Lawrence; music, Lou Natale; casting, Libby Goldstein, Jon Comerford. 60 MIN.

Cast: Coach Mike George - Tony Denison Demetrius Harris - Omar Gooding Leon Taylor - Russell Hornsby Eric Olczyk - Jason Matthew Smith Kevin "Buffalo" James - Marcello Thedford Derek McConnell - Chris Wiehl

More TV

  • TV Ratings: 'Batwoman,' ‘Kids Say the

    TV Ratings: 'Batwoman,' ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things' Tick Down

    After solid debuts last week, both The CW’s “Batwoman” and ABC’s revival of “Kids Say the Darndest Things” with Tiffany Haddish dropped off a little in week 2. The Ruby Rose superhero show fell 36% from a 0.5 rating to a 0.3, and lost around 400,000 total viewers from week 1. “Supergirl” followed it up [...]

  • Rafael-Cobos

    ‘The Plague’ Creator Rafael Cobos Talks Season 2, Screening at Mipcom

    MADRID — Writer-creator Rafael Cobos hosted the first market screenings for Season 2 Movistar Plus’ tentpole series “La Peste” (“The Plague”) at Mipcom this afternoon. Season 1 bowed in Spain in January 2018 to the best opening results of any series, aired or available, on the Telefonica-owned pay TV giant, who have promised that Season [...]

  • Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral is seen

    Pathe, Vendome Pictures Join Forces on TV Miniseries About the Notre-Dame Fire (EXCLUSIVE)

    One of Europe’s most revered film groups, Pathé, is stepping into TV drama with Philippe Rousselet’s thriving Vendôme Group to co-produce an ambitious miniseries retelling the devastating fire that ripped through the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. The companies are partnering with U.K.-based Xavier Marchand’s Moonriver TV to co-develop the project, surely one of the highest-profile [...]

  • Donald Trump Hollywood Racism

    White House Says Trump 'Strongly Condemns' Violent Anti-Media Video

    President Donald Trump hasn’t yet watched a violent parody video in which he’s depicted killing figures representing media outlets and his political rivals, but the White House says he “strongly condemns” it. “Re: the video played over the weekend: The @POTUS @realDonaldTrump has not yet seen the video, he will see it shortly, but based [...]

  • How Mipcom is Adapting Through 'The

    How Mipcom Is Adapting to Wider Content Offerings Through 'The Streaming Offensive'

    With the rise of streamers rapidly changing the television industry, it was inevitable that the biggest TV market would have to address the evolution. A year after exploring the so-called big shift in television, the theme of this year’s Mipcom conference is the Streaming Offensive, with sessions from speakers including Amazon Studios’ head of international [...]

  • Ronan Farrow Noah Oppenheim

    NBC News Rebukes Ronan Farrow: 'We Have No Secrets'

    The battle for facts between Ronan Farrow and NBC News continues. The president of NBC News pushed back on some of the explosive claims made by Farrow Monday, calling into question an allegation that the NBCUniversal news outlet knew about sexual misconduct by former “Today” anchor Matt Lauer before he was fired in 2017 – [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content