The last documentary in the “30 for 30″ series, Pony Excess, received very good ratings for ESPN, garnering a 1.8 final rating and a respectable audience of 2.5 million viewers. There will be a couple of more 30 for 30 films in 2011, but they won’t be scheduled weekly as they were the last couple of years. We have the final ratings of the series plus some highlights. We’ll require a jump break.
ESPN Films wrapped up the critically acclaimed “30 for 30” films with Thaddeus D. Matula’s Pony Exce$$, Saturday, Dec. 11, immediately following the Heisman Trophy presentation, earning a 1.8 rating, according to Nielsen. That represents an average of 1,843,000 million homes (2.517,000 viewers, P2+) to become ESPN’s most-watched documentary of all time.Pony Exce$$ edged out Billy Corben’s The U, which earned a 1.8 rating (1,801,000 homes, 2.368,000 viewers) in December 2009, and Jon Hock’s The Best That Never Was, which earned a 1.8 rating (1,760,000 homes, 2,229,000 viewers) last month. Overall, the “30 for 30” slate of 30 films averaged a 1.0 rating (958,000 homes, 1,193,000 viewers). The series, created in celebration of ESPN’s 30th anniversary, not only highlighted some of the most memorable moments in sports history but examined the impact that they had on pop culture and society as a whole.“Storytelling is at the heart of what ESPN does – whether on TV, online, radio or in print – in our features, game summaries, event productions or, of course, documentaries,” says John Skipper, executive vice president, content, ESPN. “The positive feedback from media and fans shows there is an audience for long-form, high-quality storytelling, and it belongs on ESPN.”Connor Schell, executive producer, ESPN Films, adds, “We worked with an extraordinary group of directors for the ’30 for 30’ series. Due to the enormous creativity of the storytellers, the collection of films was as interesting in style as in subject matter. We intend to continue making quality, point-of-view films going forward.”Highlights for the series include –
- Airing in March 2010 on NCAA men’s basketball’s “Selection Sunday,” Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks, directed by Peabody Award-winning director Dan Klores, posted a 1.5 rating, the fourth highest ever for an ESPN documentary and the highest-rated show ever in the time slot following the Bracketology program.
- The Two Escobars has played at the prestigious 2010 Tribeca, Cannes and Los Angeles Film Festivals, garnering critical acclaim. Its televised premiere June 21 was ESPN Deportes’ top-rated documentary ever with a 1.2 Hispanic household rating.
- “30 for 30″ won the 2010 International Documentary Association’s “Distinguished Continuing Series” award.Although major markets nationwide played a big role in the success of the series, it was the Southeast that was the biggest supporter, posting the highest average market rating per film. Birmingham, Charlotte and Louisville were the three top markets for the “30 for 30” series, averaging a 2.0, 1.6 and 1.5 respectively. Smaller markets that posted the highest rating for select films include Birmingham (3.6 for Jordan Rides the Bus), Austin (2.2 for Run Ricky Run) and Knoxville (2.0 for Tim Richmond: To the Limit).On several occasions the city or location being depicted in the film was not the top-rated market for that film. Notably, The U earned a 5.6 rating in Birmingham while Miami came in sixth with a 3.3. Additionally, Straight Outta L.A. rated the highest in Miami with a 2.0 while Los Angeles came in seventh (0.8).
“30 for 30? Film FactsWith the series coming to an end, here are some “film facts” on a few of the documentaries that garnered critical acclaim over the past 18 months.
Kings Ransom (Directed by Peter Berg)
- Kings Ransom features never-before-seen footage of Wayne Gretzky’s wedding to Janet Jones.
- Peter Berg, a dedicated Los Angeles Kings fan even before Gretzky joined the team, has been a close friend of Wayne’s since the 1990s, when they played in a softball tournament together.
- Berg’s next project will be directing Universal’s feature adaptation of the popular board game Battleship.The Band That Wouldn’t Die (Directed by Barry Levinson)
- 43 interviews were conducted including one with Jim Irsay, son of the man who took the team away in the middle of the night. Levinson thought that enough time had passed – 25 years – that he might want to talk about it.
- During the 12 years Baltimore was without a professional football team, the Baltimore Colts Marching Band still performed at events including The Preakness, 4th of July parade, Cleveland Browns halftime and the 1991 Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
- Baltimore’s Marching Ravens is an all-volunteer organization comprising more than 300 musicians, flagline, color guard and equipment crew. It is the largest musical organization associated with the NFL. The members come from all over Maryland and several surrounding states to practice every week from March to the end of the football season.The Legend of Jimmy The Greek (Directed by Fritz Mitchell)
- Jimmy threw legendary Super Bowl parties that included many Hollywood celebrities and sometimes went on for a week at a time. For one Super Bowl, he rented a penthouse suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Because Warren Beatty was renting the other, Jimmy hired a guy to give haircuts in his suite so guests wouldn’t leave to go to Beatty’s.
- Gerry Ford is famous for pardoning Richard Nixon, but during his brief presidency he also pardoned Jimmy. In a petition to the President for The Greek’s pardon, the FBI Director Clarence M. Kelley stated that Jimmy was an informant for the FBI.Without Bias (Directed by Kirk Frasier)
- Fraser initially recorded interviews with people who knew Len Bias in an effort to find out who Bias really was, with the intent to write a script for a motion picture. The interviews were compelling enough that he decided to produce the documentary first.
- In 1988, Congress passed a stricter Anti-Drug Act that is known as The Len Bias Law. It was backed by both parties and it reinforced the previous Drug Law with stiffer penalties and created the DARE program.The U (Directed by Billy Corben)
- Because of low ticket sales in the late ‘70s, the local Burger King would give away tickets to the Miami Hurricane games just to fill the seats.
- In the 1992 Orange bowl, Nebraska, which was actually the home team, had requested Miami not run out of the tunnel with their signature smoke. At the last minute Miami’s mascot, Sebastian the Ibis, went out and borrowed a fire extinguisher from the local firehouse so the team could run through the tunnel with smoke.
- Among the 38 program insiders interviewed for the documentary were: players Bennie Blades, Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith, Michael Irvin, Bernie Kosar, Santana Moss, Brett Perriman, Jeremy Shockey and former head coaches Dennis Erickson, Jimmy Johnson and Howard Schnellenberger.Muhammad and Larry (Directed by Albert Maysles)
- Albert Maysles is the only person with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews of both Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes in the two months leading up to their epic fight.
- Kool & The Gang re-wrote their hit song “Ladies Night” with lyrics specifically for Larry Holmes. Holmes is seen singing along to it in the film.
- Muhammad Ali’s training facility had a camp-like atmosphere. People of all ages would go to watch him practice, tell jokes and even do magic tricks.Silly Little Game (Directed by Adam Kurkland and Lucas Jansen)
- In 1981, the members of the Rotisserie League tried to pool their resources and buy an actual baseball team: a double-A minor league franchise in Massachusetts called the Holyoke Millers, whose owners were looking to sell. Their $85,000 bid was matched by a local group and the owners gave it to them instead. The new owners later sold the franchise for four million dollars, a profit of more than 4500%.
- The legendary meeting in Manhattan at La Rotisserie Francaise restaurant, during which Dan Okrent planted the New York seeds for the Rotisserie League, was actually his second attempt to get friends involved. The first effort was at a barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas.
- In the early 1980s there was little space in sports publications to cover insider information on injuries and other vital details. To make smarter trades, the Rotisserie Leaguers resorted to calling the offices of Major League teams and posing as reporters for fictional sports publications, in order to talk their way through to the trainer or assistant coach who could give them precious pearls of backstage dish.Run Ricky Run (Directed by Sean Pamphilon and Royce Toni)
- Most people think his decision to retire was spontaneous, but Ricky told his sister, Nisey, around the same time that he felt “football isn’t my gift, I’m supposed to heal people.”
- Sean Pamphilon quit his job as a producer in sports television to hit the road with two friends and begin filming the documentary. In the following 28 days, they interviewed approximately 30 intimates in Miami, New Orleans, Texas and San Diego.
- The original plan for this film was to be totally independent, take 5-6 months and be completed by the Super Bowl in early ’05. Over the next few years the plan changed several times, until Ricky and Sean both agreed the best place for the film to air would be on the very network (ESPN) that covered so much of his troubles.Straight Outta L.A. (Directed by Ice Cube)
- Raiders gear was the top seller in the league for a number of years because of its association with rap as well as the exposure it received in music videos.
- N.W.A. did not call themselves a rap group; they referred to themselves as a gang who rapped about their experiences. This then coined the term “gangsta rap.”
- According to Al Davis, the inspiration to add silver to the Raiders’ uniforms came from seeing the success that shoe retailer Stuart Weitzman had selling silver women’s shoes in Oakland.Birth of Big Air (Directed by Jeff Tremaine, Produced by Johnny Knoxville and Spike Jonze)
- Hoffman went from virtually unknown to a sponsored rider with just one event – a bicycle freestyle championship at Madison Square Garden in 1986.
- Because he got tired of going to the hospital so often, Hoffman used to carry around his own suture kit to stitch up his own injuries.
- Hoffman has had a total of two comas, 21 broken bones, 23 surgeries, 100+ concussions and 300+ stitches.Jordan Rides the Bus (Directed by Ron Shelton)
- On the day it was announced that Michael Jordan would be playing for the team, more Birmingham Barons tickets were sold in half a day then in the entire year before.
- Current Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona was the manager of the Birmingham Barons when Jordan joined the team in 1994.One Night In Vegas (Directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood)Among those interviewed for the documentary were:
- Hip hop artist Nas
- Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton
- Actor Mickey Rourke
- Poet/Author Dr. Maya Angelou
- Former C.E.O. Death Row Records Marion “Suge” Knight
- Former heavyweight champion Bruce SeldonGuru of Go (Directed by Bill Couturie)
- Paul Westhead is the only coach to win a WNBA and NBA title.
- Hank Gathers and his brother, Derrick, would break into the local gym at night to play basketball until 3 a.m.
- Being a former teacher, Paul Westhead used to quote Shakespeare to players to motivate and teach them life lessons.
- In a February 1990 LMU/LSU game, Hank racked up a total of 48 points—the most any player has ever gotten against Shaquille O’Neal.
That’s going to do it.