Episode Two of 24/7 is Top Heavy, With Some Christmas Filling and a Missing BizNasty
December 23, 2010 4 Comments
Episode one of HBO’s 24/7 - Penguins/Capitals:Road to the Winter Classic had a lot to do. It had to introduce all the characters, explain the widely contrasting situations each team was in, lay down the format of the show, go through a couple of games, show some locker room meeting and speeches. They also took you behind the scenes to the planning stage of hockey with the meetings between the coaches and GMs. Tie that all together in a coherent, well-shot, watchable story and you make for some great television – much like I said last week did. It was fantastic, fresh, and made good for repeat viewings. I must have watched the first show five times over the course of the week.
Similarly, both episodes three and four will have new elements to present. Episode three will have an actual game between these two teams to breakdown. Meaning there will be nowhere they can’t go in either locker room. Something’s felt a bit empty about seeing the Pens and Caps play opponent after opponent from just one side. For example, how did we not get to see BizNasty react to Matt Cooke’s prank before the Pens game against Phoenix? Thursday night’s game, and the highlights of Boudreau and Bylsma and the front offices behind each team’s game plan, will possibly give viewers the most rounded view of hockey game ever presented. I anticipate it greatly.
For episode four, we’ll likely get a little bit of everything. I can predict it’ll be the most chaotic, disjointed episode of the show, because not only will the teams separate again, but there’ll be tons of footage from all the preparations for the Winter Classic at Heinz Field, with what HBO producers mentioned as “the third team” participating in the Winter Classic. I imagine there won’t be a second available for filler in that show with all the atmosphere and pomp and circumstance that goes around with New Year’s Day.
That said, episode two … didn’t really find that much new to do. It felt a lot like, at times, they were putting up retreads of episode one, mixed in with quite a bit of filler material. Did I really need to know the route Sidney Crosby takes to get to the rink. That borders on the type of stuff that will get easily angered at the focus on the Penguins star center. On the opposite side, they still really haven’t been given the access to Alexander Ovechkin that one would hope. I may be wrong, but I find it really hard to believe that Ovie stays in his house and plays video games under the watchful eye of mommy and daddy all the time.
Regardless, I still found quite a bit to like about the episode. Including the fact that it remains easily watchable, and I think a ton of credit needs to be handed out to the cinematography. The show is shot better than anything I’ve seen on HBO before, certainly better than any of the Hard Knocks or other sports programs, which the network is renowned for being good with. That said, it’s a testament to hockey’s cinematic quality that colors fly off the screen as if it were 3D on 24/7. I remain supremely impressed by all the pretty colors, in short.
Also, the one rerun from episode one that I did enjoy was the look into the GM’s, this time on the Capitals end. I don’t know what it was, but the segment with George McPhee’s talking head, mashed up with the radio talk hosts in Washington blasting the team, struck me as some of the darkest sports television I’d ever seen. It almost looked as if McPhee was a competent, albeit humorless version of The Office’s Michael Scott. That really stuck me as fascinating, uncomfortably good TV. It almost made you squirm.
In addition, I gotta say, I liked the game footage more this time, because the produces seemed to really take free reign on the players being wired for sound on this one, particularly during the Caps triumphant comeback win over the Senators. I think I enjoy it so much because, despite the borderline ridiculous amount of swearing, you can almost hear it like it’s the brain of a hockey game. Thoughts flow at hundred per second, everything’s very chaotic and quick, until you figure it out, and it looks like the simplest thing in the world. I don’t know if that’s HBO’s intention, but it certainly struck me that way.
On the Pittsburgh side, they basically did a mea culpa and said “Hey, they don’t play for four days, what are we gonna do?”. The answer to that question should’ve been “follow around someone more interesting than Dan Bylsma.” The Penguins coach is a likable family man, but certainly not worth devoting that much time to his home life, where his wife and kids sound like sitcom family members trying to explain how he keeps his job “at the rink.” It was very boring. In that vein, I don’t care how amazing he is and how much he meant to the game, there was no reason to hang on Mario Lemieux’s little scrimmage as much as it did. I’m sure it meant a lot to Pens fans to see it, but I was not amused.
One more criticism. As I mentioned before, HBO didn’t show any sort of reaction from the NHL’s most entertaining side show, Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette, getting prank by Pens pest Matt Cooke. Wyshynski points out some tweets that make it evident the social media maven’s missing responses were an editing decision:
“So HBO didn’t put my comments about cooke cutting my laces on the show? The fans were cheated.”
“They asked if I was mad cooke did it. I said no, as long as he didn’t put BBQ sauce on my face before this interview.”
“Then they asked what I would do to get back at him. And I said I’m not playing so ill have throw a hotdog & popcorn at him from the pressbox.”
Sarcasm aside, Biz is 100% right on this. The fans were robbed. Did HBO not understand the cult favorite the NHL’s most popular healthy scratch is? Merely seeing Bissonnette’s sweater before the prank made me perk up on the show for the first time in awhile. This is a bit like an empty, two-minute 5-on-3 for 24/7. Again, Sidney Crosby’s parade route to the locker room and Craig Adams’ kid naming all the players on the team probably could’ve stood to see the cutting room floor in favor of that. Maybe HBO felt explaining Bissonnette would take too much time, but with all the filler in this show, I find that hard to believe.
Overall, though, I find it hard to criticize the first ever show to give me this sort of access to my favorite sport and some of my favorite athletes without sounding a little greedy. The show remains compelling and will probably get many reviews from me on my DVR this week. The music, from the sublime (Boston’s “Long Time) to the ridiculous (DJ Pauly D’s “Beat Dat Beat) is terrific. They just need to cut down on some of the duller points and keep showing us something new. With the introduced novelty of actual competition coming up in the next two episodes, I have no doubt we’ll see that.