Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Surprising Balance

Last night, the hockey world watched the premiere of HBO’s 4 part series, 24/7 Penguins Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic.  Expectations were through the roof, and HBO Sports had a lofty history of the 24/7 series and Hard Knocks to live up to.  It did that: and then some.

Every single aspect of this show was impeccable.  I will get to the editing and production in a little bit.  An entire book could be written on that alone.  The first thing I noticed when the show started was how even it was.  They must have taken a stopwatch to the footage to be as accurate as they were.  There was the exact same amount of time spent on each team and its players.

You may say “Well, that’s their job,” and you’d be right.  But the fact is that objectivity is hard to fully achieve.  While everyone in the media is supposed to be completely unbiased, that isn’t the case.  Just tune in to any locally broadcast sporting event and you will see the bias.  It isn’t intentional, but when you spend enough time with someone, you tend to take their side in matters.  Beat reporters are glued to the hip of their team, and it can result in coverage that is a little slanted.

Using this same logic, you would think that the HBO producers would have developed biases by now, seeing every aspect of the life of every player on each team.  If they have, none of it showed through in the broadcast.  Not being partial after following someone for 24 hrs a day is incredible to me all on its own.

And that’s before you get to the actual production of the show.  Let’s start with the editing.  I don’t know how many of you have ever edited video, but it’s a fairly painful process.  It’s awesome to watch the final product come together, but you want to include everything.  You can’t but you want to, and it makes cutting very difficult. 

They have 24/7 footage of two teams, their coaches, and select players to go through.  That’s not including game footage.  Snipping all that down to 55 minutes is difficult enough, even without the quick turnaround.  The show aired Wednesday and contained material from Sunday night.  For some perspective, I did a 1-minute sports update every week for our TV station that included B-roll. It took me 20 minutes to edit. Now imagine having to do that with 24/7 worth of footage for a 55-minute show.  Yeah, not a single member of that crew slept the last two nights.

The most impressive part of the show for me was the scene that tracked the Caps’ 7-0 shutout loss at Madison Square Garden.  The music choice was phenomenal, building a mood that brought you through what the players were feeling.  The lack of narration gave it such a feel of raw emotion.  One of the most personal speeches given was also heard during the 2nd intermission, when assistant coach Dean Evanson told them to “Pick up your sock,” and “F-ckin’ compete.”  It was an emotionally charged segment that really gave the audience a look into the psyche of the Capitals.

If this is a glimpse of what is to come, than yes please.  The opening episode had all the makings of an Emmy Award-winning series.  Hopefully the fates of the teams will change slightly so that we can get a more complete look at all the personalities, but so far, this show gets a huge A+.

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