I am ready for some football – even it's an in-depth profile of a NFL team I've despised since the mid 1970's.
This Tuesday on HBO at 10pm, Hard Knocks returns with its annual behind the scenes look at a professional football team. This year, it's the Dallas Cowboys.
I grew up in Pittsburgh and remain a devoted Steelers fan. My favorite football team has lots of rivals, but its oldest and fiercest is the squad from Big D. The Cowboys famously declared themselves America's Team in the 1970's. The Steelers proceeded to defeat them in two Super Bowls that decade, proving who America's Team really was.
But I digress. You don't have to be a football fan to appreciate Hard Knocks. When it's at its best, it's a look into the inner sanctum of the finest athletes you'll ever see and the struggles that come with being a professional. At its worst, it's a bunch of huge guys playing to the cameras and being anything but themselves.
This HBO mainstay wavers year to year from an informative organizational peek to a commercial for some of the NFL's biggest franchises. Always keep in mind that the team has final cut and only lets you see what they want you to see.
But each season opens with two features that always keep me coming back for more. The consistently gorgeous cinematography of NFL Films and the flawless narration of Liev Schreiber.
Some of the most striking images ever seen on television are courtesy of NFL Films. The Sabol family has always treated the game of football as fine art. The beauty of a tight spiral floating in the air in slow motion never gets old.
A magical voice has always accompanied the pristine pictures. John Facenda was the first memorable NFL Films narrator. His dramatic reading of football situations always felt like a poetry recital. Harry Kalas followed after Facenda passed away and maintained his tone. Liev Schreiber keeps the spirit alive making something as simple as a weak side blitz sound like a moment in history.
Reality television owes a lot to Hard Knocks. Reality programs worth watching make you feel like a fly on the wall and true voyeur into a world you could never access. 99% of us will never be professional football players, but these cameras provide a glimpse into what this world actually feels like.
It's also why the team that's being chronicled really doesn't matter. It's not about the success or failure of this year's squad. It's not about the fans or any of the ridiculous hype. It's all about the process and mechanics of a NFL training camp.
This season there will be plenty of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on display, and that's okay. It's his team, he's earned that right. I'm much more interested in the veteran who's trying to stick around for one more year, or the high draft pick too good for the room. Or "The Turk" who lets these guys know if they made the final squad.
Access to athletes has changed dramatically over the years. Sports figures are everywhere. When Hard Knocks first came on the scene, it was the only way to see these coaches and players in their element. These days there are cameras at every training camp, and the NFL has its very own network to highlight all of their teams.
But there will always be something special about watching this weekly profile on HBO. Even if you're rooting against the team you're getting to know better.
THIS WEEK’S SPTINAFOBYMB! (Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Reservation Dogs (HULU) – Four teenage friends on an Oklahoma reservation try to scrounge up enough cash to move to California. Barks Monday.
Untold (NETFLIX) – Five-film sports documentary anthology from the Wild, Wild Country creators starts with the 2004 "Malice at the Palace" NBA brawl. Bows Tuesday.
Fantasy Island (FOX) – Elana Roarke welcomes you to another reboot of the Ricardo Montalban/Herve Villechaize classic - expect a short stay. The plane arrives Tuesday at 9pm.
What If? (DISNEY+) – Animated tales of classic Marvel characters (with their movie star voices) thrown into alternate realties. Smashes Wednesday.
Cribs (MTV) – A decade later, the series returns for more peeks into your favorite musicians homes. Wednesday at 9:30pm.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC) – Final season featuring two episodes each week. Roll call Thursday at 8pm.
CODA (APPLE TV+) – Apple paid $25 million for this Sundance Film Festival winner about the lone hearing member of a deaf fishing family. Premieres Friday.
Heels (STARZ) – Two brothers in a small-town work as professional wrestlers, and someone has to be the bad guy. Marks Sunday at 9pm.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
The Kissing Booth 3 (NETFLIX) Wednesday, August 11th
The Kissing Booth movies are extremely cheesy. I'm sure you've spent the past year wondering where Elle Evans will end up going to college. This film series is the classic "I can't believe I'm watching this" as it charms its way into your heart.
Believe me, this franchise is well aware of its cheeky appeal. It's Elle's final summer before college, and you know Joey King is going to make the most of it. The boyfriend, the best friend, the new guy in town – they'll all be competing for Elle's heart. Enjoy the rom-com.
Modern Love (AMAZON) Friday, August 13th Season 2
The first season of this anthology series based on the love column from The New York Times struck a chord. A star-studded cast shot in gorgeous metro New York City locations – how could it miss? The stories were poignant, distinct, and good enough to earn a second season from Amazon Prime Video.
Season two features another crop of charming recognizable actors including Kit Harrington, Anna Paquin, Tobias Menzies, Sophie Okonedo and others looking for love in all the right and wrong places. Get ready for eight more episodes of heartbreak, connection, and a reason to hold hands with someone you love.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.