HBO Picks Up LeBron James Barbershop-Set Talk Show (Exclusive)

LeBron Carter Bennett Snoop Dogg The Shop - Publicity - H 2018
John Johnson / HBO

The first episode features Jon Stewart, Snoop Dogg, Odell Beckham Jr. and Candace Parker.

LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s barbershop-set talk show The Shop is coming to HBO.

The premium network has ordered a handful of episodes of the program, which first bowed in 2016 on James’ Uninterrupted digital site.

The first episode for HBO was shot last week in Los Angeles at West Hollywood’s Barber Surgeons Guild, and is set to bow Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 11 p.m. ET/PT. It features James and Carter in conversation with Snoop Dogg (who throws shade on frequent collaborator Dr. Dre in the clip below) as well as the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker and comedian Jon Stewart.

“This show is real, it’s candid and it’s the essence of conversation,” James tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And we know with social media and text being the way people communicate, the form of conversation, actually talking, is kind of a lost art.”

Each episode will assemble a mix of personalities in a barbershop for unconstructed, frank talk while the cameras roll; the conversation will then be whittled down to 30-minute episodes.

"When I was a kid, being in barbershops meant listening to adults talk about sports, clothing, politics, music, everything happened in the shop," says James. "It was so real and so candid — no one had a sense of, well I can’t be myself here. That’s how The Shop became an idea."

So far, the NBA superstar is slated to appear in at least the first three episodes of The Shop. HBO Sports has left the episode order somewhat vague given James' day job, so it’s unclear when the second episode will air.

"We’ll do it as frequently as the conversation warrants," says HBO Sports executive vp Peter Nelson. “It’s LeBron’s baby, so he very much wants to do it. And he wants to do it as much as possible.”

James is, of course, in the process of moving full-time to Los Angeles, care of a four-year, $154 million deal to join the Los Angeles Lakers next season, one that dovetails nicely with his burgeoning production empire. His SpringHill Entertainment shingle has offices on the Warner Bros. lot, and he has several projects at HBO, including a multi-part documentary about Muhammad Ali directed by Antoine Fuqua and the documentary Student Athlete, which is set to bow Oct. 2 and examines the NCAA’s controversial rule barring athletes from earning a cut of the money they bring to their colleges.

For HBO Sports — where the linchpin is live boxing and its shoulder programming — The Shop is the latest effort to broaden its sports offering.

“Sports for us is really about a lens into socioeconomic, political, cultural issues and ideas around virtuosity in competition,” says Nelson. It is what is reflected in programs like the long-running investigative series Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, as well as more recent efforts including Bill Simmons' Andre the Giant documentary and Student Athlete.

In a statement, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler characterized James as "a transcendent figure, not just in sports but in American culture. The Shop creates a vehicle to hear LeBron’s voice on a range of subjects that we know will be engaging and compelling.”

Randy Mims and Paul Rivera, who are among James and Carter’s business partners, first proposed The Shop. The first episode was filmed at a barbershop in Toronto during the 2016 NBA All-Star Game weekend, with a second the following year when the All- Star Game was in New Orleans. After that, conversations with HBO Sports began in earnest. (The New Orleans episode was optioned by ESPN as a one-off; it featured Charles Oakley, Draymond Green, Steve Stout, Rich Paul and 2 Chainz and his dog Tappy.)

The HBO deal does not include the archive episodes, which are no longer available. New installments will premiere on HBO and also be available on HBO Now, HBO Go and HBO’s on-demand and partner streaming sites.

Apparently Stewart — who, like James, has a deal with HBO — intended to make only a brief appearance in the first episode, but stayed for more than three hours. Asked if the pay cabler would leverage its A-list creator core in booking the show, Nelson notes the goal is not to populate the program with random famous people.

"The objective is candor," says Nelson. "The barbershop is a place, historically, of secular communion. There are a dearth of forms where athletes and artists who have achieved a certain level of excellence can really feel porous and honest with one other. And so it’s less about, 'Let’s leverage these names and these relationships, and can we get this person or that person?' It’s more about who has something to say."