From Showtime's The Hoop Life to NBC's Inside Schwartz and HBO's
Arli$$, the roster of sports-related comedies and dramas on TV is
mostly undistinguished. One show that could be an exception is
ESPN's Playmakers, a weekly one-hour series about a pro football
franchise called the Cougars, that is the 23-year-old network's
first foray into fictional drama. (Its 10-episode run begins on
Aug. 26 at 9 p.m.) The show eschews game action and focuses on
the off-the-field lives of the team's personnel. Playmakers
really picks up steam when Omar Gooding (who plays the Cougars'
star running back) is on screen. Where older brother Cuba Gooding
Jr.'s Rod Tidwell had a sweetness buried beneath his chesty
exterior in Jerry Maguire, Omar's Demetrius Harris is all thug.
He smokes crack before kickoff and crawls the clubs deep into the
night in search of women. "When you're a playmaker," Harris says
in the first episode, "rules don't apply." That's true for this
program, too. A show featuring nudity, salty language and graphic
drug use is a bold move for ESPN. But its realistic depiction of
the seamy side of the game makes it look like a smart idea.
Elliott Sadler became the latest Winston Cup driver to take a
spin in the broadcast booth when he joined TNT for a Busch Series
race two weeks ago. Turner Sports coordinating producer Jeff
Behnke was pleased with Sadler's outspoken style as an analyst
and may ask Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Robby Gordon to sit in
on coverage later this year.... ESPN will use Sportsvision's
virtual 1st & Ten line--the computer-generated yellow line that
marks first downs--on all its NFL and NCAA college football
telecasts this season. --R.D.