The HBO Sports Drama About the 70’s and 80’s “Showtime” Lakers Has Been Canceled After 1 Season.
Winning Time Loses
HBO’s drama about the Lakers Dynasty of the 70s and 80s has been canceled after just two seasons. The show has developed quite a loyal following over the past two seasons, but unfortunately, that following wasn’t enough. Despite good reviews from critics and viewers alike (85% Tomato Meter, 89% Audience Score for season 1, 79% Tomato Meter, 87% Audience Score for season 2), ratings dropped 30% from season 1 to season 2. Winning Time season 2 also released during the actors and writers strike this summer, on August 6th, leaving a show with already low ratings bone dry in terms of promotion. Even with Adam McKay’s name, style, prowess, and all the star power attached to the show, it could not capture fans like the original Showtime Lakers.
How Winning Time Lost Its Luster
From the beginning, Winning Time was a show partly about Hollywood controversy, and started with a good deal of it. Before a name was even attached to the series, Executive Producer Adam McKay and Will Ferrell had a falling out over the series. Ferrell was promised the role of Jim Buss, the Lakers owner during the Showtime Era, but McKay gave it to John C. Reilly instead. That controversy would have fit right in with the first season, as it asks, will this all work out? A head coach was thrown into fire, unhappy aging players, and a young star with giant expectations. Without any basketball knowledge, one would be able to tune in and experience a drama about winning and how it’s done. How to build something successful when everything around seems to be pointing in the opposite direction? The Lakers, in the dead center of Hollywood, were one big controversy and mystery. Any television fan loves the prospect of will they won’t they? Can they possibly overcome the odds? And at the end of Season 1, they do. They succeed, and they reach the mountaintop. That luster of this question, will they or won’t they, is answered. For hardcore basketball fans, this answer is obvious, but Winning Time’s goal wasn’t for hardcore basketball fans to get into it. They knew they would be. It was to introduce the building of a legendary team to a new group of people and to get them to stick with it. Unfortunately, with the Lakers winning their first title at the end of the first season, the luster attached to Winning Time began to tarnish, and along with barely any marketing or promotion, it was always going to be hard for this Hollywood story to survive.
What TV Will Be Missing
With Winning Time, fans got from HBO what they always do—prestige television with prestige performers along with it. With names on the show like Adam McKay, John C. Reilly, Adrien Brody, Jason Clarke, Tracy Letts, Gabby Hoffman, and Julianne Nicholson, this show had all the makings for good television. Based on the book from acclaimed sportswriter Jeff Pearlman, this show was prestige TV. It introduced fans to new stars as well, like Quincy Isaiah and Solomon Hughes, who played Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, respectively. Although it was only for a short time, the show developed a strong, loyal following that voiced their displeasure upon cancelation. That loyal following received a show with great writing, intriguing plotlines, and fantastic acting, from one of basketball’s most legendary eras.
Sports stories certainly are not few and far between. They are the craze of this country, but the media, for the large part, hasn’t put its camera in the face of the “Golden Era” or before it either. Before the media boom of the late 80s that captured Michael Jordan’s rise to fame and eventual dominance of the NBA and the sporting world, the NBA wasn’t the same monster it is today. Thanks to these players, coaches, and franchises covered in Winning Time, fans see what they have today. To finally have a documented history of probably the most important time of the sport, on HBO, nonetheless, is invaluable for newcomers and old fans alike. It tells the important story of why and how about pretty much all of basketball history. With Winning Times cancellation, the full history is not yet complete.
Is This Bad For TV?
It’s hard to not think about all the circumstances surrounding Winning Times cancellation, the WGA and SAG strike, the low ratings, but also the merger between HBO Max and Discovery Plus. The WGA and SAG strike was a need. The writers and actors of Winning Time and all TV and movies need to be fairly compensated for their work and to have assurances over their work. The strike was a result of HBO and big companies like it not wanting to share their piece of the pie, so the lack of marketing and promotion for this show is on them. It’s also very unfortunate that a show so rich in history and talent was unable to command the attention of audiences. Obviously, promotion had something to do with it, but the numbers from the beginning were always a bit low. The HBO and Discovery merger didn’t help, with the new catalog of shows from Discovery mixing with HBO’s already huge array of choices doesn’t help keep an expensive TV show alive that is struggling for viewers. Winning Times cancellation, as with most cancellations, is an unfortunate part of an ugly business, and TV is worse off for it. Especially because the story wasn’t complete, there was so much more story to tell, and the second season suffered because of it. It is wrapped up untidily, and ends on a loss for the Los Angeles Lakers franchise.
With Winning Times’ untimely end, viewers lost a good television show with promise. Winning Time, with more time, could have succeeded. Maybe it would’ve needed a season or two more to find its footing, and with so much more story left to tell, it’s hard to argue against it. The real meat and bones of the story of the Los Angeles Lakers come after their finals loss to the Boston Celtics, not before it. But for now, that story will stay in Pearlman’s book, untold on the screen. Unfortunately, the real-life success of the Los Angeles Lakers hurts the show’s appeal. The hero immediately won! And Winning Time tried its best to not let that affect the drama moving forward, but for viewers, it wasn’t enough, and Winning Time ended on a loss.
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (2023) Official HBO Season 2 Trailer