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Tuesday, 26 August
Worst and Ten

Tonight I watched, mainly out of purest inertia, ESPN's new drama "Playmakers," an intensely realistic look at the inner workings of an NFL team. And when I say "intensely realistic," I of course mean "screamingly demented," because this is after all TV; and while I have no special insights into any particular NFL teams, I can observe that this team basically resembles the cast of Passions, only with horrific scars, spinal trauma, and a predilection for the almost-naughty-for-cable expletive "shit." No NFL team can possibly have such a storied collection of ridiculously fucked-up players.

Okay. Maybe the Bengals.

The series starts by highlighting a few choice characters, all of them spectacularly fucked up; in fact, there doesn't seem to be the stock "grounded wise person" character floating about tsk-tsking over his friends' awful life choices and dispensing pithy observations about same--in fact, nobody in this show appears to even have any glimmer of self-awareness at all; professional football in this context appears to be something akin to Scientology or Amway: a fundamentally silly venture that somehow makes its followers completely unaware of its drastically inane premise.

There is the aging running back, who just came off a harrowing rehab; he is having illicit thoughts about an apparently amorous newscaster, which presents a threat to the family that he loves. Yes, this sounds plausible: when it comes to football groupies, they always chase the nearly-washed-up old guys whose careers are in twilight. He is also threatened by the rookie phenom just hired who is basically taking his job, and anyone with working synapses can see that the TERRIBLE TEMPTATION OF PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS is in this character's near future. Suspenseful! This is like waiting to find out if Yogi Bear is going to steal a picnic basket sometime soon.

The aging running back has a good buddy linebacker, who has problems of his own: he nearly tackled a guy to death recently, paralyzing him, and is wracked with guilt over the memories, because he's clearly a nice guy. See, he even brings his erstwhile victim some DVDs in the hospital, while the guy lies there and calls him an asshole and explains to the linebacker, "I can't even feel my dick." The linebacker looks away ashamed, and so does the viewer. Later, we see that the linebacker is so guilt-burdened that he sees a psychiatrist about it, and the viewer looks away again, because god damn it, "The Sopranos" clearly has a lot to answer for; the viewer then goes to make a drink while the shrink and the killer linebacker exposition for a while: turns out that not only is the linebacker all fucked up over nearly killing the numb-dick guy, he also had an obsessively creepy fucked-up father who killed the linebacker's brother by coaching him into a heat-stroke when they were teens. Next week, I imagine we'll find out that his mother was a cross-dressing lesbian ace pilot for the Luftwaffe, because he doesn't have enough psychologically damaging freight to haul around yet; he's like Job in shoulder pads.

There's also the aforementioned hotshot rookie runningback who has some voiceover bits (though everyone has voiceover bits in this series; evidently the producers are iconoclastic revolutionaries dedicated to overthrowing the notion that in visual narratives you don't say it, you show it) detailing his crummy crackhead parents. He says, more than once, like a mantra, "Don't do drugs." You're going to really freak out when I mention that he does drugs. YOU CRAZY PRODUCERS! What nutty curve ball will you throw me next? No, don't tell me! He . . . has an pathological urge to collect old Ranger Rick magazines? He . . . eats asparagus obsessively and then performs gas chromatograph tests on his urine in order to create a "smelliness index"? He . . . enjoys frolicking with incredibly pneumatic chicks who possess the unearthly ability to wake up with artfully arranged clothing and blankets that just barely cover their nudity? (This always kills me. I've known so many women who, after a night of frenetic fucking, carefully make sure to put their bras back on, because they're just so comfortable.)

I knew I'd finally hit on it. Anyway. He's a swaggering crack addict who's a really talented football player. You now know utterly everything about his character.

There's also some head office shenanigans involving the team owner, who is anonymously reptilian and evil, which is actually fine. My inner pinko really kind of believes that people who are that rich are probably pathological fuckheads anyway; I realize it's not at all fair, and probably provably false, but really, take a look around you: are the ridiculously rich not, as a general rule, kind of awful? Hell, if you want, just take a look at most sports owners. I don't have a problem demonizing them: they're hideous.

And finally, as if this litany of woe weren't wretched enough, there is the head coach, who is typically tough as nails, godammit, and you've got to be there for the TEAM! and if you're not, well, godammit, you got no place here, all right? He's got tough decisions to make, like whether or not to start (1) the aging running back who is old and slow and has been out for eight months or (2) the rookie hotshot who, apart from the fact that he runs like his asshole is on fire, is wildly popular with the media. I wonder who he'll pick? Again, this is about as suspenseful as Frog and Toad Are Friends.

But I haven't really gotten into the heart of the head coach's character, for there is a deeper secret. A shocking secret. A disgusting secret.

He is apparently pissing blood, and won't see a doctor. Yes, you read that right.

The viewer, once again, looks away. It's time for another drink.

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.


The only problem with this review is that you have described so well how bad this show is that now I just HAVE to see it....Damn you, Skot!

Comment number: 001409   Posted by: KOTWF on August 27, 2003 05:28 AM from IP:

I just read King Kaufman's review over at yesterday, and you definitely wrote a more interesting review. I really wish we got ESPN here.

Comment number: 001410   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on August 27, 2003 05:37 AM from IP:

[He is apparently pissing blood, and won't see a doctor.]

He's obviously waiting for John Coffey to show up and lay hands on him, creating an intriguing tie-in.

Comment number: 001411   Posted by: wolfdog on August 27, 2003 06:17 AM from IP:

I was thinking of watching the show, until I saw those two minute long commercials over and over. Anyone notice that this is a tv show about football, made by a channel that knows a lot about football, yet when they show a tackle, the guy making the tackle merely bumps into the other guy? If you made tackles like that in the pros, or even college (unless you were Neon Deon), you'd be out of a job and quick.

Glad to see I was right about the show. Nice review.

Comment number: 001412   Posted by: Scott on August 27, 2003 06:35 AM from IP:

You misspelled "pic-a-nic". Buy a spell-checker, for yenta's sake.

Comment number: 001413   Posted by: ColdForged on August 27, 2003 07:32 AM from IP:

Damn, blood-pissing. There's a storyline we haven't seen in a while.

I loved your little diatribette on the post-fucking positions on television. Many's the time I've seen a post-coital couple on the tube, and the man gets up to wash his face or get the chinese delivery meal, or be stabbed to death by an intruder, and he's wearing UNDERWEAR!!!

Is there some sort of mass sex-through-your-underwear fetish I've not been told about?

Comment number: 001414   Posted by: Bet on August 27, 2003 08:34 AM from IP:

what pisses me off is how i get home after a long shitty day at work, and i just want to watch the mariners highlights. instead, i have to sit through about a million retarded commercials for this clearly retarded show.

Comment number: 001415   Posted by: on August 27, 2003 10:13 AM from IP:

wasn't there an HBO sitcom with a similar premise waaay back in the day? what the hell was that called?

football related entertainments tend to be rather formulaic, though. If you ever find yourself at home, on meds due to major oral operation, watch Any Given Sunday and The Replacements and see if you can differentiate what happened in which movie.

Comment number: 001416   Posted by: beige on August 27, 2003 12:05 PM from IP:

Wasn't it called first and ten?

Comment number: 001417   Posted by: Scott on August 27, 2003 01:48 PM from IP:

haha. you sir, are very rad.

Comment number: 001418   Posted by: lauren on August 27, 2003 09:17 PM from IP:

I, for one, would like to applaud ESPN for the courage to give America it's first blood-pissing character. Finally, those of us who piss blood have representation on television.
My name is Joe. And I'm a blood-pisser.

Comment number: 001420   Posted by: Joe on August 28, 2003 06:27 AM from IP:

You really should have that seen about, Joe. We care.

Comment number: 001421   Posted by: Bet on August 28, 2003 07:25 AM from IP:

Hey, I found _Frog and Toad Are Friends_ very suspenseful! Would they remain friends, or would it develop into... something more? Oh, the angst of it all...

Comment number: 001422   Posted by: Romy on August 28, 2003 08:05 PM from IP:

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