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How HBO, NHL might top the first 24/7 series

Jan 8, 2011, 4:50 PM EST

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To call HBO and the NHL’s 24/7 experiment a success is an understatement. For hardcore hockey fans, the mini-series was so outstanding that many people became genuinely emotional during the last episode’s final sequences.* Yet the biggest gains might have come in the impact it made on casual fans and those totally ignorant to pucks; all of a sudden a brand new audience – and a sophisticated one in that – learned about some of the most interesting people in sports.

The great news is that all signs point to another 24/7 series between HBO and the NHL. Yet as HBO president Ross Greenburg explains in a video at the bottom of this post, it will be tough to top the groundbreaking original series.

NHL executive John Collins already discussed the potential idea for HBO to follow two teams around during a playoff series, so I thought I’d pass along a few ideas/suggestions for a 24/7 sequel and solutions for possible problems.

Following a playoff series

Why it would be awesome: One thing that gave the Penguins/Capitals special some extra juice is the fact that the two teams really don’t like each other. Imagine the kind of vitriol that would develop during a grueling, high-pressure best-of-seven series? It’s OK, you can get excited about the idea.

How to make it work: Of course, the tough part is that teams go from secretive to Big Brother/CIA-level scarce with details during the playoffs. (Just wait for the vague “upper/lower torso” type injury reports we’ll be stuck with in April, May and June.)

My suggestion to (partially) solve that problem: air the footage after once the series concluded. Sure, that would hurt it a bit from a “timely” standpoint, but then teams could feel slightly less paranoid about information “leaking” via HBO’s cameras and microphones.

Follow a buzz-poor team during a full season

Why it would be awesome: It was hard not to get a little attached to Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma and players such as Matt Hendricks (seen in a screen capture that is this post’s main image) during the 24/7 series, but it was just the tip of the iceberg since it followed only a month (or so) of play. Imagine how amazing it would be to follow a team during the course of an 82-game season?

Maybe an elite team like Pittsburgh or Washington would balk at the idea, but what about a team struggling to generate buzz like Florida, Phoenix, Dallas or Atlanta? The last two would be especially interesting because they have been successful during this season and employ colorful characters like Dustin Byfuglien and Steve Ott. HBO would gain a full season of access; the team would find an unusual way to drum interest in their squad.

How to make it work: Again, the team could request a slight delay on the footage or maybe enter into an injury-related gentleman’s agreement with the network.

***

OK, so those are two ideas worth considering for the future of the 24/7 series. How would you try to top that great Penguins/Capitals series? Let us know in the comments and enjoy Greenburg’s reflections on the special and its future.

* – Did I go into “trying not cry during sad movie” mode during the end of that episode? Maybe. (Crushes beer can on forehead to compensate for expression of feelings.)

  1. stakex - Jan 8, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    Personally I don’t think following a team for a full season would be all that great. What made the first 24/7 series really good was the fact it was a brief look at hockey that you normally don’t get. If you had the series running the entire season a few problems pop up:

    1. If the series stays short (4-6 episode range) then each episode would be very watered down and important moments would be glossed over.

    2. If the series is too long (10-12 episode range) then its going to be hard to make every episode entertaining. Not to mention it would be tough to keep the series focused on a long term goal.

    There are a lot of other things I can think of that would be bad for a full season series, but I don’t feel like typing them all. To be honest, the series needs to stay short… five episodes would be good. So in that case I think they should stick with doing a playoff series, or possbily following several teams during the playoffs. If all the teams they start following get knocked off they can just move on to different teams and keep going till its the finals. That might requier more episodes, but given the entertaining nature of the playoffs it shouldn’t be hard keeping them entertaining.

  2. plax18 - Jan 8, 2011 at 11:57 PM

    totally agree that a full season would be wayyyyy to long. all of the 24/7’s and Hard Knocks lead up to a certain event. no one would care to follow the thrashers for an 82 game season. when hbo does 24/7 to boxing its short and sweet leading up to a special event. keep it that way. i like the idea above about following teams through the playoffs to the stanley cup, that would be great

  3. blitzburghbrian - Jan 9, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Following a playoff series between the Blackhawks and Canucks would be unreal. As a fan from the East, I’d love to get this kind of look at some teams I don’t get to watch very often.

    All 16 playoff teams would be a bit much; you certainly wouldn’t be able to cover every round in one episode. But watching the grind of a few months of playoffs to see one team you’ve grown to love win the Stanley Cup against another team that’s endeared itself to you in some other way would make for truly fantastic television.

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