ESPN tied to Bonds

Tollin/Robbins takes swing at series

ESPN Original Prods. will start airing on April 11 a weekly nonfiction series on Barry Bonds as he nears Hank Aaron’s all-time home-run record.

ESPN plans to spend up to $2 million on the docu and has commissioned Tollin/Robbins Prods. to follow Bonds with cameras 24/7.

“This is the biggest challenge we’ve ever undertaken,” said Mike Tollin, partner in Tollin/Robbins, about the series, which will be called “Bonds on Bonds.” “We could be editing this series at midnight on the day we have to deliver a finished half-hour episode to ESPN,” for slotting in the Tuesday-at-7-p.m. timeslot every week.

A one-hour special opening episode kicks off on ESPN2 on April 3.

Tollin said he has hired Mike Tronick (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) as editor and Ron Fortunato as cinematographer.

ESPN said it plans to funnel the docu series to the network’s “multiple platforms,” but Tollin said he’s totally focused on the weekly series. “When the 10 hours are finished,” he said, “we could edit it down into a feature-length documentary and release it to theaters and, later, in DVD, but that’s down the road.”

Major League Baseball, which is giving full cooperation to Tollin/Robbins, would have to approve any of these aftermarket decisions.

Bonds, 41, has smacked 708 homeruns, six behind Babe Ruth’s 714 and 47 behind Aaron’s 755. Tollin said ESPN has the flexibility to stretch the half-hour Tuesday time period into an hour on the night Bonds passes the Babe.

Tollin said the series will include archival footage of Bonds, as well as tape from the hours he shot last year before the San Francisco Giants put Bonds on the disabled list.

Tollin/Robbins produced such movies as “Coach Carter,” “Varsity Blues” and “Hardball,” as well as the HBO series “Arliss” and the WB’s “Smallville.” In the mid-’90s, the company produced the docu “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream.”