Empty7-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16
Adapting the "60 Minutes" format to sports, the "E:60" premiere showed flashes of journalistic excellence. It also showed some questionable news judgment and an inability, in one instance, to keep from slip-sliding into contrived "reality" schmaltz.
The show features five reporters -- Jeremy Schaap, Lisa Salters, Tom Farrey, Rachel Nichols and Michael Smith -- who take turns presenting stories after first telling one another how good they are, while seated around a conference table.
By far the best of the three stories in Tuesday's premiere was Farrey's report on an incident of rape at top-ranked Miami Northwestern High School involving the star running back, nearly 19, and a 14-year-old girl. The story, "Justice Intercepted," was thoroughly reported from all sides. Like the best works in journalism, it raised more questions than it answered.
Then the show careened to the opposite extreme with a non-news tabloid-style story that lacked any semblance of balance. The segment, "Fielder's Choice," reported by Schaap, was about a family feud between baseball great Cecil Fielder and his son, Prince, a star with the Milwaukee Brewers.
From the start, it was a dubious premise. A rift in a family, even a formerly close one, is about as unusual as a beer commercial in a football game. In addition, neither Prince nor his mother (now Cecil's ex-wife) would comment, which all but guaranteed that the story would be incomplete and unbalanced. This practically smacks of putting on a story just to show the son and the mother that their lack of cooperation can't stop it.
The final piece, "Ray of Hope," has almost nothing to do with sports. Salters told how the organs of Jason Ray, 21, the mascot at North Carolina basketball games, improved the lives of dozens of people. Ray was struck by a car in New Jersey, just before the team began play in the NCAA Tournament this year.
It was a touching story with a positive message, but then Salters played outside the lines of journalism by trying to "improve" it and creating her own news. "E:60" arranged a reunion between Ray's parents and organ recipients, transforming this heartwarming story into emotionally manipulative "reality"-style fluff.
"E:60" even has its own Andy Rooney. As special contributor, Bill Simmons, aka "The Sports Guy," donned a motion-capture outfit and played basketball with members of the Boston Celtics. Then we saw how computers translated the action into video game-style animation. Pretty clever, especially if you never saw the Los Angeles Times pre-movie Calendar section promos that did essentially the same thing.
"E:60" will air on each of the next three Tuesdays. Then it will return for five weeks in April and for six weeks in June.
An ESPN production
Executive producer: Andy Tenant
Coordinating producer: Robert Abbott
Senior producer: Julie Anderson
Scripts editor: Kristin Huckshorn
Reporters: Jeremy Schaap, Lisa Salters, Tom Farrey, Rachel Nichols, Michael Smith
Special contributor: Bill Simmons