Playmakers got decent ratings and some amount of critical praise. There can be one reason and one reason only that it was cancelled: ESPN caved to pressure from the crybabies in the front office at the NFL, who I've noticed recently have become very vocal about claiming they're all about character as opposed to the NBA and weren't happy with the show's less than happy-sunshine-family depiction of the league. (This despite the fact that we've all known for years that NFL stands for National Felons League. But I digress.)
For those of you who didn't watch Playmakers, here's a brief catalogue of some of the characters (which, coincidentally, doubles as a list of the NFL's grievances):
- The owner, a sanctimonious, greedy, hypocritical, underhanded, condescending all-around piece of shit. In short, Jerry Jones' evil twin.
- The cancer-stricken coach who's constantly having to check over his shoulder for his obnoxious intended successor, picked by the owner of course.
- The quarterback who's hooked on the pain meds that are destroying his kidneys and fucks anything that moves.
- The young star who's late to the game because he's doing crack in the parking lot. He covers for his friends when they commit murder and steals painkillers from the kid he visits in the hospital. How messed up is this guy? Snoop Dogg guest-starred as his brother. His significantly more moral brother. scarcrest had a good wisecrack about how you know your character's sleazy when Snoop Dogg looks like a fine upstanding citizen in comparison.
- The aging player that we're all supposed to love because he's such a good guy. During the course of the season our supposed hero beats up his wife, then insists he didn't do anything wrong, uses steroids, possibly cheats on his wife (I missed a few episodes), repeatedly treats his best friend like dirt, and bellyaches about his contract until everyone in the general vicinity, viewers included, wants to beat him with a stick. I sincerely hope the writers didn't really think he was supposed to be the team's salt of the earth.
- The poor, sweet, dumb-as-a-box-of-dumb-rocks guy who decides the best way to avoid being harrassed for being gay is to marry a poor, sweet, dumb-as-a-box-of-dumb-rocks model.
- The only character I actually really liked, the aforementioned best friend, a basically good guy who's fighting depression issues and serves as the moral compass (he calls his homophobic teammates idiots, on camera). He ends the first season utterly screwed when an ill-advised one-night-stand results in a pregnancy and the mother-to-be is obviously interested in getting as much of his millions as possible while doing her damndest to keep him from ever seeing his child. Don't forget to use birth control, kids.
Playmakers wasn't Homicide or The Wire. Hell, it wasn't even The Shield. But I watched, even though -- or maybe because -- it was basically a testosterone-fueled soap opera. A big, freaking soap opera. And that was okay. Because sometimes you just want a soap opera. It's kinda like how every once in a while, I need McDonald's Chicken McNuggets, I know they're disgusting but they're childhood comfort food and I have to have them anyway. (In fact, I want them right now. Dammit.) So anyway, as I've already established, I'm basically a shallow person and I like my junk.
But by carrying on about Playmakers, the NFL showed how whiny they are. If they'd just shrugged and ignored it, it wouldn't have been a big deal. I mean, the NFL has enough real hijinks. Why were they obsessing over a stupid TV show?
But my biggest "up yours" goes to ESPN. In their press release announcing the cancellation, they concluded with something along the lines of "we're happy that our viewers were willing to try something new and hope they'll look forward to our next original drama." Why the hell should we? You sold out, you have no credibility, and why should we tune in to see if you immediately cave to another league or if you just become the PR department. "This week on Playmakers... what happens when the team runs out of Gatorade?" Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
However, if you do a show about the Portland Jail Blazers, I will be there, because I am shallow. Hell, they could do it as another entry in the newly resurgent stoner humor genre. I mean, that team has so many pot arrests they must be growing it in the locker room. Wacky hijinks ensue as poor, classy Mo Cheeks counts the days until he can escape to a real job!