On Episode Two of 24/7, and Reality TV’s Self-awareness Problem
December 22, 2011 3 Comments
Here’s what I said about episode two of last season’s 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic:
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.
In episode two of season two, there was a clear attempt to rectify a lot of this, giving the Rangers a little bit more to do on the side, including the heartwarming story of 10-year old Liam Treanor, who suffers from cerebral palsy and has enjoyed a deep friendship with Ranger coach John Tortorella (Dear NBC: If you don’t get an interview with that young boy at the Winter Classic, the NHL should revoke the TV contract). That, and almost everything that involved the Rangers, were the highlights of the episode (in addition to scenes that dealt with NHL referees). The Flyers side, however, was a source of real trouble for both me as a viewer, and potentially this series’ long-term potential.
Have you ever followed a reality show beyond one season? There’s a reason most of them aren’t successful beyond that initial run. Either the characters from the previous season have returned, become totally self-aware of their fame, and totally self-aware that what they are doing is displayed to a national television audience. They either become too afraid to do anything interesting, or play up the stereotypes that made them famous. Jersey Shore is a great example of this. On the other hand, if you have reality shows that change their cast from season-to-season – like, say, Survivor – your second season contestants will know how to “play the game” a little bit better.
The Philadelphia Flyers are doing a little bit of both. Now, let’s get this out of the way – there’s nothing wrong with milking Ilya Bryzgalov for every last nugget of wisdom he’s got. He, unlike his teammates, appears to just be acting natural. It’s the rest of the club commenting on his fame and trying to get him to play for laughs that’s bothering me. Most of the stuff in the Flyers half of the episode felt like a bunch of guys who already knew how to play the game, and that’s definitely a troubling thought as we think about wanting this show to be a yearly event. That, and the handling of Chris Pronger’s season-ending injury felt skimmed over.
The other problems the show has remain what they were in year one: that episode two doesn’t really have a clear, over-arching narrative to it. I personally think they need to move the first match-up between the two opposing teams to the time frame of the second episode next year. Not only does it spread out the meetings a little bit more, but it allows you to either recap the game more in the third episode, or make the third episode more about the buildup for the Winter Classic itself. It would free up the show to do a few more things and it would make every episode sort of event-centric. The first episode introduces the teams, the second one gets them on the ice together, the third one introduces the Winter Classic and it’s venue, the fourth one presents the big game.
Does anyone else think that John Tortorella comes off way better in this show than Peter Laviolette does? This is completely aside from Tortorella’s friendship with that young boy. Especially in episode two, Laviolette comes across as a bit petulant, blaming the refs and claiming that their behavior is “typical Montreal”. In contrast, we get to hear Tortorella deliver that ridiculous, almost alarming soliloquy to his team to try and get them back in the game, blaming no one but themselves. It was the sort of compelling, gripping piece of television that has me coming back to this show time and time again.
The referees played a real interesting role in this episode. From the scene set in their own locker room, to their dealings with Laviolette and Max Talbot. I know many people have advocated for a Stanley Cup Final edition of 24/7, but I think if you do that, don’t really bother the players: do it totally from the perspective of the referees and capture that experience. I don’t know how you’d do it, but a 24/7: The Officials show would be a great idea in any sport, especially hockey or basketball.
Overall, I’m always a little overly harsh on this show because I really love it. I think it’s the best combination of sports and the medium of television ever created. It isn’t easy to do either, as last summer’s subpar The Franchise focusing on the San Francisco Giants showed us. I just feel that there are certain problems highlighted by this episode: some of them easily correctable (giving the second show more of a connected narrative between the teams) and some of them, including the self-awareness of the players, perhaps not.