The Washington Post

Sports TV shows worth watching have long been hard to find

Why is it so hard to make a good television series with sports as its core? I’m looking at you, “Necessary Roughness.”

The USA Network show about a therapist working for a fictional professional football team started out well, but now, in the second part of its second season, it is flailing. A 22-year-old woman with, to put it mildly, a checkered past inherits her father’s football team and immediately redesigns its jerseys and dictates who will start at receiver? Seriously?

It’s a shame, because the show has a good cast and they perform well. It’s the material that’s lacking. And our heroine, Dani the therapist, frequently spends time away from the football team to work with rock stars, roller derby queens and racecar drivers. Is it about football, or isn’t it?

Perhaps the alternate plots are a good thing, because the show’s portrayal of pseudo-NFL players is so one-dimensional it’s painful. Few are even featured, and the ones that are make Terrell Owens look like Alfred Morris. Drug problems, ego problems, gun problems. I hate to see what they do next to poor Terrence King, a.k.a. TK. The problem players this season are black, as is the poor coach stuck in the middle of all this. Now there’s a way a black man can get a job coaching professional football — become an actor!

And yet I watch, because there is little else available. I’m not a fan of “Eastbound & Down,” although I know a lot of people are. And none of the reality shows interest me, except HBO’s “24/7” and “Hard Knocks,” and neither is really a regular series in the traditional sense.

This isn’t a new trend — there’s been a dearth of good sports shows for decades. My short list is short by necessity, not brevity: “Sports Night.” “Friday Night Lights.” “The White Shadow.” Probably not in that order, but when there are only three, the rankings hardly matter.

It also matters not one whit that there is a lack of these kinds of shows, of course, because there is so much actual live action being televised, from hoops to tennis to poker, plus networks devoted entirely to one league, plus ESPN’s stable of channels and talent to man them, that perhaps anything fictional seems unnecessary.

Or perhaps anything fictional seems unexciting. If “Necessary Roughness” had tried the Manti Te’o story line before the truth came out, it would have raised some eyebrows, but no one would have bought it.

Let’s face it, the sports landscape seems more and more fictional all the time. Who needs a television series when we can just flip on “SportsCenter” for the latest jaw-dropper. Maybe, where sports are concerned, fiction is now stranger than truth.

For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.

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