I finished Winning Time last night and even though I hate the Lakers, I thought this was a quite entertaining show. It does a great job of getting at the culture of the team around that time. And yeah, sure, Adam McKay is all cutesy in his directing, with his fourth-wall breaking and his splitscreens and his intentionally old looking footage. His work can be extremely hit or miss. But this is a good series that works well. John C. Reilly is really perfect as Jerry Buss. It’s amazing they got two guys who can pull off playing Magic and Kareem while also looking something like them and having some basketball skills. In fact, the guy playing Kareem actually played at Cal, so he has actual very real skills. Moreover, these are very well-developed characters, as are several of the other players, especially Norm Nixon, who was the only major figure on the team to be involved with the project. Adrian Brody is also excellent as Pat Riley. The biggest problem with sports films and shows is that the recreation of the games is laughably bad. McKay does a very good joy avoiding this through both limiting the total amount of what is presented here and also through using the camera to accentuate what needs to be there. It’s not a great show, but it is a quite entertaining one and well worth your time if you have even a passing interest in hoops.
What really does not make sense though is the Lakers’ visceral reaction against the show. It makes almost no sense. The author of Showtime, the book it was based on, was friends with Jeannie Buss and had all the inside info. None of this was new information to the world. Yes, McKay took some of the characters and ran with them. But look, maybe Jerry West was not that angry of a person where he was throwing trophies around, but he was also very clearly an angry, depressed person. Maybe McKay exaggerated. But West being portrayed as an unreasonably angry person who acts so unreasonably angry over the portrayal of this to the point of threatening to go to the Supreme Court, well…..not exactly your strongest move there Jerry. At least Jeannie Buss approached Reilly at a Lakers game and told him that her father was a big fan of his work, so it seems that there is at least some acquiescence to the whole thing at the top. But the entire show is made by huge Lakers fans, from McKay to Sally Field. None of the portrayals are even that negative, not even that of West, who is just played as an intense and depressed guy who cares about basketball an awful lot.
I know there’s a season 2 being planned, but I doubt it will be that good. The 79-80 Lakers are a great story. The personalities are all there and the story arc is clear. Following future season where the Lakers either win and the story arc repeats itself or loses and therefore the story arc doesn’t finish satisfactorily to viewers has limitations. I’m sure I’ll watch the next season, but with relatively low expectations.