SBD/Issue 167/Sports Media

Spike Set To Debut Michael Irvin's "4th And Long" Reality Show

Irvin's "4th And Long" To Provide The
Winner With A Shot At Making Cowboys
Spike TV's "4th and Long" reality show featuring Pro Football HOFer Michael Irvin debuts tonight at 10:00pm ET, and it is the "anti-Hard Knocks," as it is a "training camp taken to a 'survivors boot camp' extreme," according to Barry Horn of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The "brutality is like nothing seen in an NFL training camp," as all drills in the show are "in pads and helmets, and they are run to excess." Coaches Joe Avezzano and Bill Bates "don't play 'good cop, bad cop,' just 'bad and badder' cop." And "don't expect any of the rich Irvin belly laughs you may have heard over the years," as he too is "strictly business." Spike has "placed the show in a prime spot" -- following "UFC Unleashed," the network's most-watched show -- and the net is "hoping UFC's viewers linger and a legion of Cowboys fans are introduced to Spike." Spike officials and producers "know how to put a 60-minute 'reality' show together," as the premiere episode is "fast paced, with an emphasis on hard work and pain." Horn: "Just guessing that if you tune in Monday, you won't cut yourself. You'll come back for more" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/16).

NO HOLDS BARRED: In N.Y., Neil Genzlinger writes the show "has the courage to show the ugly side of professional football," as "lots and lots of vomit is spewed in the opening episode of the program, which despite all the retching and a fair amount of disingenuousness is pretty entertaining, in its testosterone-fueled way." The winner of the competition will earn a chance to attend the Cowboys' training camp, which "isn't much of a prize," but Irvin "sells the bit perfectly, injecting his role as drill sergeant/eliminator with a menacing, overhyped gusto" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/18). Also in N.Y., David Hinckley writes the show "maintains a fast pace while focusing on just how high a level of skill is required to become even a marginal pro." But that does not mean the show "avoids all trappings of reality shows," as Irvin "sounds like he's trying to channel Gen. Patton when he makes his speeches to the players." Also, there is "way more footage than we need of a player throwing up after running drills," and it is "hard not to notice the product placement" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/18). When asked if he is "running the show like an NFL training camp," Irvin said, "I have to, because there's no other way to show this is real football. You're pushing people to go places that in their mind, they don't know they can. There's no easy way to do that, except by emphasizing the realness of it all. You push hoping to pull the best out of them" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 5/14). Spike Dir of Original Series Joe Weinstock: "It's not going to feel like a reality show. It's going to feel like a training camp to compete for a roster spot on the Dallas Cowboys. It's very real. Competition is high and these are all incredible athletes" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 5/15).

KNOCK ON WOOD: The Bengals will be featured this season on HBO's "Hard Knocks," and ESPN’s Herm Edwards, who was coaching the Chiefs when they appeared on the show in '07, said, "Very important: This is not a reality show." Edwards: "You’re not trying to become a soap opera star. It’s about football. It’s about going to training camp, getting better as a football team." But ESPN's Trey Wingo said, "They say any publicity is good publicity. We’ll find out this summer” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 5/15). ESPN's Jim Rome: "Nobody wants to see a buttoned-up professional franchise, like the Pats or the Steelers, on that show. Reality TV is all about casting. They need knuckleheads and dysfunction, or they’re not going to get the train wreck that they’re looking for and that we all want" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 5/15).

REALITY CHECK: VH1 currently is filming Bills WR Terrell Owens for an upcoming reality show, and SI.com's Ross Tucker wrote of the potential restrictions on filming, "I would imagine the Bills would forbid T.O. from filming anything that could either put the organization at a competitive disadvantage or paint the Bills in a negative light. Buffalo is a small market, so maybe the franchise is happy to get this type of exposure and coverage just like the Bengals are thrilled to be this year's featured team on HBO's 'Hard Knocks.' That said, I can't imagine teams like New England, Pittsburgh or even Kansas City, now that [GM] Scott Pioli is in charge, condoning something like this in any way, shape, or form because of the either real or perceived distraction" (SI.com, 5/15).

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