‘A Season With Notre Dame’ Showtime preview
Miko Malabute | Monday, September 7, 2015
Leading up to the season-opening game, fans were filled with excitement, anticipation and a small dose of anxiety pumping through their veins. Following Notre Dame’s 38-3 victory over the Texas Longhorns, the Irish faithful were ecstatic, excited and relieved in what was a start-to-finish dominating performance. However, there is no true time for rest, as fans are refilled with the same excitement, anticipation and anxiety, as well as a large sense of wonder, with the premiere of Showtime’s “A Season With Notre ” on the horizon.
Announced in early August, the premium network was able to do what many have dreamed of, but very few have been able to accomplish: gain an inside look behind Notre Dame football. According to John Walters of Newsweek, for the past five years, no one has been allowed the kind of inside access that Showtime will be afforded. In 2010, following the quiet, tumultuous tenure of Charlie Weis, the University’s director of sports information Brian Hardin insisted on a more transparent football program, with the caveat that writers should keep players’ injury statuses private. This all ended after only one month, however, when a Notre Dame beat writer let slip an injury report on a player, directly contradicting Hardin’s policy.
Now, five years after the incident, Notre Dame has opened its doors to the Showtime crew to give viewers — whether passionate Fighting Irish fans or not — a look at the lives behind the coaches and players we see on TV. After the continued success of the documentary, “real-world” style of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” it seems natural — and even inevitable — that there would be a similar documentary-style series to follow prominent college football teams.
The potential behind the series is as high as the potential of the team being covered. With so many different, compelling angles surrounding any college football team, a documentary series (especially on a premium network like Showtime) has so many different avenues to pursue, which always make for a very interesting watch. This is exponentially true for Notre Dame football: a program as rich with history as ours garners attention, whether wanted or not. Throw in an exclusive inside look at a program that has, for the most part, closed its doors to the media and the public, and it would be hard to not tune in and watch.
The interesting question behind the college football documentary series: exactly how much can we see? By the very nature of the program, many have drawn comparisons to HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” However, “Hard Knocks” covers professional athletes who are getting paid, in part, to be in the limelight; “A Season With Notre Dame” follows student-athletes — emphasis on “student” — who excel in both the classroom and the gridiron. Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president of Showtime Sports, addressed the question of the degree of transparency by insisting that they want to showcase the program while still being sensitive to the figures they are covering. “The last thing we want to be is exploitative,” Espinoza said. “We realize that that the things we depict can have a lasting impact.”
However, does that mean it will be just paint the perfect picture of Notre Dame football? “You want to make sure you’re real and it’s not a public service announcement each week,” Coach Brian Kelly said. Ultimately, the audience will be the judge, as the series “A Season With South Bend” is set to premiere Tuesday at 10 p.m.