Coaches Emerge As Stars In First Episode Of HBO's Maple Leafs-Red Wings "24/7" Series
If the first installment of HBO's "24/7" series chronicling the upcoming Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs is "any indication of what's to come, hockey fans are in store for a real treat," according to Brendan Savage of MLIVE.com. The cameras "go inside the Red Wings' dressing room" during last week's 2-1 home loss to the Panthers and they capture coach Mike Babcock's "instructions to his club before the game and during intermission." The cameras also provide "a glimpse inside the Red Wings' team plane, they go inside goaltender Jimmy Howard's hotel room on the road and they capture sights around Detroit." It is "surprising how current the topics are in the first episode." HBO producers "make sure that the screen time is divided almost equally between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs." The Leafs are shown "before, during and after a 5-2 loss" to the Bruins, which allows producers "to flashback to last season, when Toronto blew a 4-1 lead" in the third period of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 7 against the Bruins. The episode also gives viewers "an idea of what's said during the games" as Babcock and Leafs coach Randy Carlyle wear microphones and "can be heard shouting instructions to their teams and jawing with officials." That is one thing "to be aware of -- the language is rather salty at times and there are a decent number of F-bombs although it's far from excessive" (MLIVE.com, 12/15). SPORTSNET.ca's Shannon Proudfoot wrote Carlyle and Babcock in the first episode "emerge as the most interesting personalities by a long shot." That is "more because they turn out to be cartoonish versions of exactly who you think they are than it is due to any surprising revelations" (SPORTSNET.ca, 12/15).
MR. CLEAN: In Detroit, Steve Schrader wrote, "Unlike previous coaches who did the show, at least Mike Babcock kept it pretty clean." He got to "about the 48-minute mark before he dropped an F-bomb." Behind-the-scenes stuff included Babcock’s "fiery -- but clean -- dressing-room talks." There was a "nice segment on [Red Wings RW] Daniel Alfredsson’s family making the transition from Ottawa to Detroit." The show also highlighted Maple Leafs D Dion Phaneuf’s "extensive wardrobe -- including bow ties -- and actress wife Elisha Cuthbert" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 12/15). In Toronto, Steve Buffery noted with the "exception of a few F-bombs and a chuckle here and there, there is nothing particularly colourful about the opening episode." Nary a player or coach "goes on any angry or bizarre tangents." Viewers get to see the players "in the dressing room, during practice, in restaurants, on the plane, but nothing particularly exciting happens." But of course "24/7" always is "professionally done and this year’s version brings home just how important the sport of hockey is to the two cities involved in this year’s presentation, Detroit and, especially, Toronto" (TORONTO SUN, 12/15). Also in Toronto, Damien Cox wonders why HBO "bothered with the warning" for viewers to "beware of violence, coarse language and mature subject matter." Maple Leafs LW Joffrey Lupul said "shit" twice, but "otherwise the version delivered to Canadian viewers on Sunday night was one you wouldn't mind watching with your elementary school child." Cox: "Pretty vanilla, actually. Which is fine. It was the season opener, and we'll see where it goes from here" (THESTAR.com, 12/16).
HITS & MISSES: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes just like "Hard Knocks" involving NFL training camp, "24/7" has "become must-see TV." The formula of "peeking behind the curtain never gets old." However, one complaint comes from the first episode, as Phaneuf "had a telephone hearing with the NHL for a dangerous check on an opponent." He was suspended for two games but the hearing "was not televised in the show" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 12/16). In Toronto, Mark Zwolinski wrote there is "some juicy stuff" in the debut, as viewers are "afforded a view of some" of Carlyle and Babcock’s between-period messages. A fight in last week's game against the Kings involving Lupul "is particularly riddled with coarse language, but that’s expected." However, the bulk of the show "follows a simple narrative, revolving around " Phaneuf and Lupul, and "spliced with a profile" of Carlyle and Babcock (TORONTO STAR, 12/15). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle wrote while the "on-ice action remains compelling here given its unique point of view, hopefully [the] first episode was all setting the table for more in the next three episodes, as there wasn’t a lot of depth to the portraits of the players and coaches involved" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/15).