Slow it down, Showtime.
That was my initial thought after watching a preview of the first episode of the pay-cable channel's "The Franchise" on the plane back from Arizona.
Maybe it was yours, too, as you watched the official premiere of the San Francisco Giants' new reality series on Wednesday night. While the production values were gorgeous and the players were charismatic, it was hard to shake the feeling that we were moving faster than a 1-0 game pitched by one of the team's aces.
That's a great thing for a baseball game, but not for a television show that has aspirations of delving deep into a franchise. Put it this way: When the half-hour preview show makes this hour seem as shallow as the team's offense, you know there's a problem. This first episode begins with the World Series ring ceremony in San Francisco and ends around the time that manager Bruce Bochy is making his selections for the All-Star game in Detroit. That's almost 100 games of baseball squeezed into a quick 60 minutes.
Give the producers credit, though, because they didn't miss many first-half storylines. From the Buster Posey(notes) collision to Brandon Belt's(notes) demotion (and subsequent recall) to Ryan Vogelsong's(notes) unlikely emergence to the injury rehabs of Cody Ross(notes), Barry Zito(notes) and Pablo Sandoval(notes), nearly every significant event gets screen time.
But unlike the preview episode, when the intertwining stories of uber-prospect Belt and career minor leaguer Marc Kroon made for must-see TV, no topic was given enough time to serve as an intriguing anchor for the show. Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle reviewed the show and deemed it for Giants fans only. But I'm not even sure that was the case as fans of the team would have undoubtedly liked to see more details from scenes like front office meetings or player evaluations. (Also, where was Tim Lincecum(notes)? For being the face of the franchise, he was conspicuously absent for most of the show.)
Luckily, there is hope. I'm told that the next five episodes, which will air over the next five weeks and clock in at 30 minutes apiece, focus on individual players and use flashbacks to events from earlier in the season. So the type of developed stories we want to see — heck, maybe even some controversy — should be on the way.
And it's clear that they should have plenty of good scenes to choose from because the bright spots of this first episode were a product of the great access the camera crews have been granted. In one scene, Belt arrives in the bowels of AT&T Park just as a heavily bandaged Posey — whose season-ending injury opened Belt's roster spot — heads the other way on the back of a golf cart. In another scene that provides a lot more levity, most of the team groans and laughs as it watches Aubrey Huff(notes) do his club dance on a MLB Network television show.
Scenes like the ones mentioned above make "The Franchise" a watch that's worth your time. But because the beauty of baseball is contained within its details, the depth of the next five episodes will determine if the show is a contender for greater accolades.