If you are wondering how ESPN is going to be able to produce nine hours of interesting content on a man best known for leading one of the most boring franchises in sports history: you are not alone.
On Thursday, the network announced it would be teaming up with Tom Brady and his production company to produce “Man in the Arena,” a nine-part documentary series on his career. But Michael Jordan giving the world weeks of brilliant television doesn’t mean every sports star is suddenly up to the task.
ESPN is attempting to ride the wave of momentum created by “The Last Dance”, a 10-part docuseries that chronicled the success of Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls. It was the most-watched ESPN documentary ever and averaged 5.6 million viewers during its five-week run.
According to Deadline, the next nine-episode series will premiere in 2021, and focus on firsthand accounts of the most important moments of Brady’s career, including, obviously, his nine Super Bowl appearances and late-round draft underdog story.
“We’re defining the key moments and challenges that were seemingly insurmountable, but through hard work and perseverance, became career-defining triumphs, in both victory and defeat,” Brady told Deadline.
The Brady series allows ESPN to masquerade another first-hand anecdote as a legitimate documentary and allows Brady to basically turn the project into his own branded marketing campaign.
While ESPN did the same thing with Jordan and Lance Armstrong, the likelihood of Brady’s whole-grain wheat-bread career being able to capture the attention of America — the way Jordan’s story did — is at best far-fetched, particularly as lockdowns loosen nationwide and TV viewership dips back to pre-pandemic levels.
Despite Spygate and Deflategate, both controversies that are also largely placed upon the shoulders of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, what more about Brady’s career do people really want to know?
Yes, he was great on the field.
But do I really want to watch a documentary about Brady’s glorified vegan diet, that allowed him to play an extra five years in the league?
I really don’t.
I also doubt Brady will give us an in-depth look into his personal life outside of the game. Even though a nine-part documentary on Brady’s superstar supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen might be more interesting.
Similar to Jordan, Brady will give us everything that he wants us to know. However, the difference between the two is that Jordan is a far more charismatic storyteller than Brady has ever been.
Jordan’s most memorable and viral moments have been on the internet for years, and his meme-ability was just as vital to his popularity, and the success of “Last Dance”, than any of the new stories to emerge from the series. His “Be like Mike” commercials are still stuck in the heads of many older millennials, and his ‘90s flair and style made him a fixture off the court.
This is all in addition to his shoes that have made him a cultural icon, for decades, in communities across the world.
Will Brady’s oatmeal-brand career, orchestrated by Belichick’s business-like structure, be entertaining enough for viewers to return every single week?
I’d say no.
ESPN is looking to capitalize on telling one-sided views of history through the words of captivating subjects. But when the focus of the work is mundane, and the world doesn’t hang on their every word, it’s bound to flop.
Brady is arguably the greatest football player of all time, but his career as an entertainer isn’t enough for a documentary to this scale.