3:58pm PT by Chris Gardner
Inside the Premiere Party for LeBron James' New Obstacle Course Series 'Million Dollar Mile'
The Los Angeles Lakers did not make the NBA playoffs this season, which means the team’s newest and biggest star, LeBron James, will have to watch the action from home for the first time in about 15 years. Or, actually, he can skip over the games and point his remote in favor of his own network show.
James and his production company, Springhill Entertainment, just debuted Million Dollar Mile on CBS on March 27 — a partnership with Big Brother producer Fly on the Wall Entertainment and Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative Television. It's an obstacle-course reality show that pits everyday athletes (the runners) against more elite professionals (the defenders) with the chance to win $1,000,000.
Hosted by Tim Tebow, Million Dollar Mile — which debuted to a decent 4.07 million viewers — may not be such a new concept to residents of downtown Los Angeles, site of the mile-long obstacle chain. For Rich Meehan, who created the show with Big Brother partner Allison Grodner and their Fly on the Wall Entertainment banner, the biggest challenge wasn’t navigating DTLA, it was “figuring how to shoot, light and cover the course — just the sheer production of it.”
It was worth it, Grodner added. "Every episode is different because every run is different," she told THR. "The defenders are human, too — superheroes, though, most of the time — but there are times when it comes really close and people go far. Throughout our 10-episode run, you will find that it is uniquely exciting and suspenseful."
Showrunner Lee Metzger explained that the production schedule — night shoots from about 7 p.m. every night until 4:30 a.m. every morning — was also difficult. In order to cover both runners and defenders, they made use of drones and 60 cameras total to track the course, but the real secret was employing the same technical team who most recently worked on the Winter Olympics. “Every obstacle was treated like it’s own stage,” Metzger said. “We shot it like a movie.”
The rigorous shoot meant Metzger had very little free time, so he laughed when asked if he ever got to see his colleague James in action at Staples Center. “I barely see my wife and kids,” he said, standing in the middle of Fairfax Avenue haunt No Name, which hosted the show's premiere party for cast, crew, creatives and friends. (No James in sight though, as TMZ later reported he was having a low-key dinner date with his wife at Nobu in Malibu that night.)
As for Meehan, he never asked for freebies because he didn’t need them.
“Luckily enough, I’m a huge Lakers fan and I already have season tickets,” he explained, adding that he’s been investing in the team for 10+ years. “It’s pretty cool to have two things that are coming together, my Lakers fandom and [this] production. It’s very cool.” Not so cool is the fact that the Lakers have lost more games than they’ve won this season, but he is optimistic a championship is not far off. “No matter where we are in the standings, it’s always sold out,” he said. "So it’s always a great time."
Even with news that James will be sitting out the rest of the season, Metzger noted that they don't lean on him too heavily when they don't need to. "LeBron is first and foremost a professional basketball player, that’s his job, so it's about working with his team and they are amazing. He’s surrounded by a great group of people so we lean on them when we need to. At the end of the day, [LeBron] is name that draws people to the show. We got contestants on the show that we might not have gotten if it were just a regular show, and that makes a difference. He's filling the void as a producer with his social media presence and cultural presence — and that's meaningful."
Million Dollar Mile airs tomorrow on CBS.