SBD/December 16, 2010/Media

HBO's "24/7 Penguins/Capitals" Earns High Marks For Debut

HBO Series Offering Behind-The-Scenes Access To Teams' Preparations For Winter Classic

HBO last night debuted "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic," and viewers were "thoroughly entertained," according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. Just a minute into the show, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau "dropped his first of many f-bombs." LeBrun wrote, "Now that's hockey, baby, whether commissioner Gary Bettman was squirming or not. ... You want real? You got it in this show." The Capitals "welcomed the HBO crew in the middle of a brutal stretch," and Boudreau told his players, "It's a tough month and HBO is in here. But at the same time, I can't sit here and watch (what) we've been going through without saying what needs to be said." Boudreau then told the players that the documentary "will no doubt focus on one team struggling and the other, the Pittsburgh Penguins, having the time of their lives." LeBrun wrote there is an "obvious attempt in the show to reach out to a wider audience and not just the normal hockey fans," which "makes sense given the hype HBO and the NHL gave this." The documentary explains how Penguins coach Dan Bylsma "started his NHL coaching career in incredible fashion by winning the Stanley Cup," which was "old news for the majority of viewers, but a needed component for newbies" (ESPN.com, 12/16). In Albany, Pete Dougherty wrote of the series, "It truly is compelling TV." Dougherty: "If I were to nitpick, I wish we could see a little more from the fights. It's not the fist-throwing that's interesting ... but rather the post-fight conversations to which we're not usually privy. HBO gave us a couple of glimpses of that, but I would have liked to have seen more" (TIMESUNION.com, 12/15).

HEAT OF THE MOMENT: In DC, Dan Steinberg wrote Boudreau was the "runaway winner in profanity, with a whopping 31 of the F-bomb deployments." An "extremely unofficial count recorded 70 varieties of F-word usage" from everyone appearing on the show, along with "four s-words, one bull-(bleep), two asses, a b**ch, and a douche. For a 60-minute show, that's not too shabby" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/15). Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis wrote on his blog, "Parental discretion is advised. As you might imagine, in the heat of battle, between periods and immediately following losses, our players and our coaches are upset with themselves and our performance. ... A couple of wins should help the vocabulary." He added the show is "fabulously produced and gives viewers an unprecedented look behind the scenes. Unfortunately, however, this coincides with our losing streak and is at a time when Pittsburgh was in the midst of its winning streak" (TEDSTAKE.com, 12/15). NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "distinguished between" Boudreau's language and Jets coach Rex Ryan's obscenities during HBO's "Hard Knocks" series. Bettman noted Boudreau's language was "in the heat of the moment." Bettman: "Watching him deal with what he's had to deal with takes this to a new level of reality." Meanwhile, NHL COO John Collins also compared the series to "Hard Knocks," saying that such a documentary series is "more potent when games count than before a bout or the NFL season." Collins: "The regular season is more unpredictable." Bettman added, "In the preseason, the emotion is who will make the team. This is real life." Meanwhile, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly noted HBO is "promoting this everywhere -- not just on hockey outlets." Daly: "It's nice to see" (NYTIMES.com, 12/15).

UNDER PRESSURE: Leonsis during the show talked about the pressure that faced his team. He said, "We need to win the Stanley Cup. That’s the pressure that’s on us. We don’t want to have a great team that almost gets home. The internal pressure that we put on ourselves now is with this group of players growing up coming into their prime. ... We have to win a Stanley Cup. Pittsburgh’s already won theirs.” He added, “We have a lot of work to do, so that’s a pressure that’s on Alex (Ovechkin) and the other leaders of the team. Last year we had a fantastic year statistically and we lost in the first round of the playoffs. It was a failure of a season and that binary success and failure in sports is very daunting” ("24/7 Penguins/Capitals," HBO, 12/15).

TWITTER REAX: ESPN N.Y.’s Don La Greca wrote on his Twitter feed about the debut of the show, “24/7 was awesome! You know it's good when you hate to see it end!” Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Michael Russo: “A+ for 24/7 Part One. Effin awesome, as Bruce Boudreau would say. Well, not necessarily about the episode, but in general.” Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Brian Stensaas: “HBO should do this for every sport. Very cool.” N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman: “NHL 24/7 first HBO episode a killer. Rex who?” Newsday’s Neil Best: “Sports TV shocker of the year: Caps' Bruce Boudreau out-F-bombed Rex on HBO's NHL 24/7! My ears!” Toronto Star’s Damien Cox: “Watched HBO 24/7 show on Pens/Caps. Pretty good. But not for kids. F-bombs every other word.” NBC Sports’ Joe Yerdon: “Can we award the next NHL TV contract to HBO? Is that possible?”

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