For those of you looking for something to do while not watching the ESPYs Wednesday night the premium cable channels HBO and Showtime offer two interesting documentaries.
I wrote the other day about HBO's "The Curious Case of Curt Flood," a fascinating - if depressing - look at the troubled life of the player rights crusader.
Showtime, meanwhile, premieres "The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants," in which MLB Productions embeds itself with the defending World Series champs.
Wednesday night's hour-long episode covers the season to date. Seven 30-minute episodes will premiere every Wednesday henceforth through the end of August.
Naturally, "The Franchise" has been compared to HBO's "Hard Knocks" series, but there are important differences. "Hard Knocks" covers only training camp, while this series follows a team nearly for an entire season
Also, baseball's vibe is considerably less frenzied and emotional than football's, making for a more sober experience.
"Inherently it’s going to be different for a couple of reasons," executive producer David Check said. "Baseball has such a different pace and tone than football.
"Secondly, 'Hard Knocks' has always focused on preseason, and a very quick turnaround. We were dealing with a long swath of time. So I think there’s a huge difference right there, so the narrative is going to be different as a result. We have to compress essentially six months of activity."
Check said that compression was "a great challenge. There were a lot of opinions about what should be in versus what shouldn't."
There is plenty of good material here, but also no doubt the pace is not we have seen in other shows of this sort, including HBO's look at the Penguins and Capitals in advance of the most recent NHL Winter Classic.
But The Toronto Star might have been a tad too harsh in a review saying the series "could turn out to be the most tedious documentary series in the history of all visual mediums, stretching back to cave paintings."
A key point here: Bruce Bochy, the Giants' stoic manager, is the anti-Rex Ryan in the reality television biz.
Bochy is a dud, but the Giants do have their share of characters, notably relief pitcher Brian Wilson.
Other personalities and stories emerge in the first show, notably relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt.
The biggest Giants news of the first half was the season-ending injury to catcher Buster Posey, which is covered well.
The most affecting scene is Posey being carted away, his leg immobilized, while the man who replaced him on the roster, Brandon Belt, walked past in the opposite direction.
David Gavant, another executive producer, said the Giants have been cooperative.
"It’s been great. A lot of the players grew up in reality television so this isn’t foreign to them," he said. "To be with any baseball team for this long, it’s never been done before.
"They basically said, 'Hey, we’re the World Series champions and it’s part of what comes with being World Series champions. We’re going to be asked to do more things.' That is their mentality."