Do sports and TV mix?

Tracee Hamil­ton laments the lack of good sports-themed tele­vi­sion shows.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - Tracee Hamil­ton hamil­tont@wash­post.com For pre­vi­ous col­umns by Tracee Hamil­ton, visit wash­ing­ton­post.com/hamil­ton.

Why is it so hard to make a good tele­vi­sion se­ries with sports as its core? I’m look­ing at you, “Nec­es­sary Rough­ness.”

The USA Net­work show about a ther­a­pist work­ing for a fic­tional pro­fes­sional foot­ball team started out well, but now, in the sec­ond part of its sec­ond sea­son, it is flail­ing. A 22-year-old woman with, to put it mildly, a check­ered past in­her­its her fa­ther’s foot­ball team and im­me­di­ately re­designs its jer­seys and dic­tates who will start at re­ceiver? Se­ri­ously?

It’s a shame, be­cause the show has a good cast and they per­form well. It’s the ma­te­rial that’s lack­ing. And our hero­ine, Dani the ther­a­pist, fre­quently spends time away from the foot­ball team to work with rock stars, roller derby queens and race­car drivers. Is it about foot­ball, or isn’t it?

Per­haps the al­ter­nate plots are a good thing, be­cause the show’s por­trayal of pseudo-NFL play­ers is so one-di­men­sional it’s painful. Few are even fea­tured, and the ones that are make Ter­rell Owens look like Al­fred Mor­ris. Drug prob­lems, ego prob­lems, gun prob­lems. I hate to see what they do next to poor Ter­rence King, a.k.a. TK. The prob­lem play­ers this sea­son are black, as is the poor coach stuck in the mid­dle of all this. Now there’s a way a black man can get a job coach­ing pro­fes­sional foot­ball — be­come an ac­tor!

And yet I watch, be­cause there is lit­tle else avail­able. I’m not a fan of “East­bound & Down,” although I know a lot of peo­ple are. And none of the re­al­ity shows in­ter­est me, ex­cept HBO’s “24/7” and “Hard Knocks,” and nei­ther is really a reg­u­lar se­ries in the tra­di­tional sense.

This isn’t a new trend — there’s been a dearth of good sports shows for decades. My short list is short by ne­ces­sity, not brevity: “Sports Night.” “Fri­day Night Lights.” “The White Shadow.” Prob­a­bly not in that or­der, but when there are only three, the rank­ings hardly mat­ter.

It also mat­ters not one whit that there is a lack of th­ese kinds of shows, of course, be­cause there is so much ac­tual live ac­tion be­ing tele­vised, from hoops to ten­nis to poker, plus net­works de­voted en­tirely to one league, plus ESPN’s sta­ble of chan­nels and tal­ent to man them, that per­haps any­thing fic­tional seems un­nec­es­sary.

Or per­haps any­thing fic­tional seems un­ex­cit­ing. If “Nec­es­sary Rough­ness” had tried the Manti Te’o story line be­fore the truth came out, it would have raised some eye­brows, but no one would have bought it.

Let’s face it, the sports land­scape seems more and more fic­tional all the time. Who needs a tele­vi­sion se­ries when we can just flip on “Sport­sCen­ter” for the lat­est jaw-drop­per. Maybe, where sports are con­cerned, fic­tion is now stranger than truth.

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