Paul Sullivan: ‘Winning Time’ was great junk food TV. Now how about a series on the 2004 Chicago Cubs? | Entertainment

The working day just after the collection finale of your favored Tv demonstrate is generally tricky.

You’re attempting to decipher the meaning of the ending though pondering if you are going to ever discover yet another clearly show as enjoyable as this a person.

Sorry, but I will not be accepting any calls, emails, texts, DMs, instant messages or beeper messages Monday whilst processing Sunday’s finale of the HBO display “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” Look at me on the IL.

Recognizing I’ll have to shell out the rest of the NBA postseason devoid of Magic Johnson, Pat Riley, Jerry West, Jerry Buss and the rest of my favourite characters is distressing me to no finish.

If you really don’t have HBO — or never expend time in lots of of our favourite roadside motels that market the top quality channel on their marquees — you have been lacking out on a single of the finest athletics-connected dramas in television record.

As the title implies, “Winning Time” is centered on the Los Angeles Lakers’ rise to glory in the 1979-80 time soon after drafting Johnson out of Michigan Point out to staff with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Among the the plotlines that figure to be resolved Sunday are:

•Will Magic be able to rekindle his marriage with his outdated girlfriend, Cookie, just after a calendar year of nonstop sexual escapades?

•With his mother getting just died and his crew in the NBA Finals, will Buss experience still an additional in a series of psychological breakdowns?

•Can the Lakers defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in the Finals soon after the crew voted to kick coked-out star Spencer Haywood off the playoff roster?

•Can interim coach Paul Westhead and assistant mentor Riley head off the scheming Jack McKinney, the head coach they replaced following his skull-breaking bicycle incident?

•Will Magic discover the sky hook from Kareem and get revenge on his childhood hero, Julius Erving, just after Dr. J humiliated him on the court following a evening out on the city?

•Can West ever discover internal contentment?

If you haven’t guessed, “Winning Time” is more cleaning soap opera than sporting activities drama. That is why there are so couple of scenes of the actors playing basketball. The Lakers and their famed gamers and coaches are the hook, but the off-court docket drama is the meat and potatoes of the series.

It is dependent on Jeff Pearlman’s ebook “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” But the sequence will take dramatic license all over, fictionalizing gatherings to match the narrative. The standard tale is based on truth, but the characters are not generally accurate to daily life — or at least to our perceptions of them.

Most noteworthy is West, an iconic player whose silhouette is utilised as the NBA symbol. In “Winning Time” he is portrayed as a Bobby Knight-like bully — regularly offended and screaming and obsessed with beating the archrival Boston Celtics.

It’s a much cry from the image West managed as a participant and NBA govt, and he a short while ago demanded HBO to situation a retraction. (Spoiler notify: It didn’t.) West even said he was ready to consider his case to the Supreme Courtroom, which was a little something his character in the clearly show might’ve explained.

You cannot blame West for being upset with the show’s portrayal of him. Jason Clarke, a fine actor, tends to make West out as a raging lunatic with a severe identity ailment. Then again, anyone on this display is cartoonish, primarily Buss, Magic and Riley.

Most reasonable viewers would speedily fully grasp that Clarke’s West is a caricature of the Lakers govt, not necessarily the true offer. The exhibit is identical to 1980s above-the-major, prime-time cleaning soap operas this kind of as “Dallas” and “Dynasty,” with a tiny little bit of “The White Shadow” mixed in for hoops fanatics.

Junk meals Tv at its very best. It looks and seems like a 1980s Tv exhibit with poor hairpieces, funky-looking clothing, moody background audio and plenty of overacting by stars Adrien Brody (Riley), Jason Segel (Westhead) and Sally Subject (Buss’ mom). John C. Reilly’s nod as Buss has a unique J.R. Ewing flavor to it. Like the famed Texas tycoon of “Dallas,” Buss is portrayed as an amoral creep who nevertheless is tricky to despise and often receives off the greatest strains.

“Winning Time” is not meant to be large drama like “Downton Abbey,” and in fact it slows to a crawl every time it turns significant. Buss is 1 of the key figures, but I have experienced plenty of of the dysfunctional spouse and children plotline. Specially uninteresting is the story of daughter/upcoming government Jeanie Buss, a single of the only serious-everyday living characters — along with Cookie Johnson — whose public picture doesn’t just take a beating.

All people else seemingly was fair match, which include the L.A. athletics writers, who in a person episode are dumb enough to generate to the airport to job interview Magic Johnson about an future street excursion. Like West, the Lakers conquer writers of the 1980s must consider their situation to the Supreme Court docket for being portrayed as finish dopes.

The pieces I savored most had been the cameos — arrogant Celtics honcho Red Auerbach, shady UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian and a misanthropic Larry Chicken, the yin to Magic’s yang. These are sporting activities figures we’ve found on Television set and read about but never ever definitely realized.

Whether the portrayals we’re observing in “Winning Time” bear any resemblance to the humans they’re centered on is irrelevant to me as a viewer. It is an fulfilling 10-aspect collection, not a documentary. Thankfully HBO presently has renewed it for one more time in spite of the outrage it created for repeated actuality-stretching.

And as a baseball beat writer who has chronicled a handful of soap operas about the very last several decades covering the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, I simply cannot support but feel about how some of my all-time most loved seasons — and gamers, professionals, executives and homeowners — would be portrayed in a fictionalized Tv miniseries.

Theo Epstein, Jake Arrieta and the 2016 Cubs? Terry Bevington, Tony Phillips and the 1996 White Sox? The two the figures and teams were deserving of their individual sequence, but the perfect decision to piggyback on the achievements of “Winning Time” would be the 2004 Cubs, a period that needed no embellishment.

Amid the plotlines would be angry reliever Kent Mercker (played by an indignant Sean Penn) calling the Wrigley Field press box to complain about announcers Chip Caray (Nicholas Braun) and Steve Stone (Stephen Root) reluctant nearer LaTroy Hawkins (Will Smith) keeping a news meeting to announce he no for a longer time would be speaking to media customers and disgruntled slugger Sammy Sosa (Wilmer Valderrama) putting himself on the disabled record with a sneeze and walking out on his teammates on the closing day of the year, leaving supervisor Dusty Baker (Wendell Pierce) to explain his absence.

And, of system, some explanatory flashbacks to the 2003 playoffs, with Timothée Chalamet giving an Emmy-deserving functionality as Steve Bartman.

The alternatives are countless. That is will have to-see Tv you and your spouse and children would tune in to every week.

Sammy, get me a rewrite.

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