The Winning Time TV series is out. HBO has cancelled the low-rated series but gave producers time to give the show an ending. The season and series finale aired tonight.
A sports comedy-drama series, the Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty TV show is based on a book by Jeff Pearlman. The second season cast includes John C. Reilly, Quincy Isaiah, Adrien Brody, Jason Clarke, Gaby Hoffmann, Jason Segel, Hadley Robinson, DeVaughn Nixon, Solomon Hughes, Tamera Tomakili, Brett Cullen, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Spencer Garrett, Molly Gordon, Joey Brooks, Delante Desouza, Jimel Atkins, Austin Aaron, McCabe Slye, Thomas Mann, and Gillian Jacobs, with Michael Chiklis and Rob Morgan. The show is billed as a fast-break series about the professional and personal lives of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, one of professional basketball’s most revered and dominant dynasties. The second season explores the period just after the Finals in 1980 through 1984, culminating in the first professional rematch of the era’s greatest stars: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
Airing on Sunday nights, the second season of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty averages a 0.05 rating in the 18-49 demographic and 226,000 viewers. Compared to season one, that’s down by 47% in the demo and down by 40% in viewership in the live+same day ratings (includes DVR playback through 3:00 AM).
The original version of the second season finale (which was sent to critics) ends with Magic Johnson (Isaiah) sitting in the Lakers locker room following the team’s defeat to the Boston Celtics. However, in the aired version, the episode picks up five days later and focuses on team owner Jerry Buss (Reilly) and his daughter Jeanie (Robinson) on the court, reflecting on all that had been accomplished. A montage of real footage describing what happened to each of the people ends the show.
According to Vulture, HBO gave producers a heads-up about the possible cancellation in January, and they were encouraged to make an alternate ending, just in case.
Could a third season of Winning Time be produced elsewhere? Executive producer Kevin Messick is open to it if the opportunity arises. He said:
“We haven’t really dug into that. I’ll say this: We’ve figured out a way, I think stylistically and creatively, to capture the Lakers at this time. There was kind of no better advocacy than what we got in an interview from Jeanie Buss, who we were able to finally sit down with last week.
[She] loves the show, misses her father when she watches it, is kind of wowed by the detail, is blown away by the performances of our younger actors like Quincy Isaiah and Solomon Hughes. When I showed her the two different endings, just so that she knew what was coming, she had a pit in her stomach because she lived through the loss in ’84. The first thing she said is, “You can’t end there!”
And then I showed her [the ending which aired], and she teared up seeing both the scene with her and her father, and the accomplishments that everybody went on to achieve, including her. I know it’s effective because the person that was in the room where it happened was affected by it. But, again, it wasn’t where we wanted to land.”
What do you think? Have you enjoyed watching the Winning Time TV series? Are you disappointed HBO didn’t renew this sports drama for a third season?