Everybody knows that sports draw huge ratings on american television, whether it’s football, baseball, basketball, with the Superbowl as the jewel crown of all live events with more than 100 million viewers tuning in that night of the year. So have you ever asked why there are not more scripted series about sports, as comedies or dramas? Maybe because for some reasons, most of those who went to series didn’t last long. Do you have one example of a big success in that department? The sitcom Coach did good back in the 90s. Arliss too. One Tree Hill was not really about basketball. But how many ratings failures? I can name you plenty: Aaron Sorkin’s Sports Night, Friday Night Lights -5 seasons but 5 miracles-, Lights Out, Clubhouse, Blue Mountain State… Every now and then, a network tries it again. ABC already did in 2013 with Back In The Game, sandwiched between The Middle & Modern Family. Expectations were high. It didn’t do that terrible but it was not enough. 13 episodes and cancelled. 3 years later, ABC is… hum back in the game with pilot Dream Team. And I have a good feeling about this one.
Dream Team wants to be the Modern Family of sports and mostly is. It’s a mockumentary-style comedy, filmed as such, with interview scenes and weird looks at the camera. And it’s not really about sports, which is a good thing obviously. Co-creator Bill Wrubel was one of Modern Family‘s top writers and producers for the first five seasons. He knows what he is doing. Kari Lizer is a soccer mom on the weekends. She knows the story she’s telling. And both already worked together on one of the best sitcoms of the 2000s: Will & Grace. All of this means one thing: it was meant to be at least good, possibly great. And it is good on paper. With the potential to become great once filmed. The cast looks pretty solid. Justin Long & Wanda Sykes are the perfect choices for their respective roles. Dunno much about the others, but if the group has chemistry: bingo!
So no, it’s not really about sports. It’s about families who have no other choice but to spend time together while their brilliant children are touching the ball. And that’s where I have a tiny problem with Dream Team. What makes most of ABC comedies so good and successful is the importance given to the children characters and the talent of their portrayers. But here, at least in the pilot, we don’t see much of them. We meet them and then they do their things without us, off camera. But I’m not really worried. If it’s ordered to series they will have to use the kids to fuel the stories. They are the reasons why the parents are here. Without the kids, there is no show. The one other character the show can’t do without is, of course, coach Marty Schumacher (Justin Long). He’s a funny and charming little guy, slightly nerdy, way too confident sometimes but really appealing. He’s a bit of a loser in the pilot but the loser who keeps on believing instead of whining. I really like him. You probably will.
About the families, we have first our latino couple, Carlos & Olga, and their shy daughter Vanessa. They’re fighting like… all the time. With each others but also with the other parents. For a parking spot. And other things. Olga is very competitive. Think Gloria in Modern Family. Rick & Denise, and their soccer superstar daughter Tiffnee, is the traditional white couple, with Rick being a sexist ass. Think Jay Pritchett, but younger. Then there’s Leslie (Wanda Sykes) and Michaela, and their strong daughter Miley, an interracial lesbian couple. Leslie is competitive, crazy for sports. Michaela, not so much. They are cute. Think Mitchell & Cameron. And finally, we have recently divorced single mom Robin and her daughter Olivia. As you can imagine, there’s a real spark between her and Marty. Those two are meant to be together but not now. So Dream Team, like Modern Family, has a wide range of characters whom you can relate to. You can choose you team. And it goes without saying: there are a lot of fun when they all interact with each others.
Dream Team has success written all over its pilot script. It could score BIG. ABC couldn’t pass on the opportunity to finally have what looks like the next Modern Family. But we all know better, right? Nothing’s ever a sure thing, especially with comedies where it’s the cast who does the heavy-lifting. If for some reason they don’t deliver, it’s screwed. So let’s not get too excited for now…