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HBO’s WINNING TIME Hears Its Final Buzzer Losing the Chance for Season 3

by Jef Dinsmore
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WinningTime_FinalPics3Game over. WINNING TIME: THE RISE OF THE LAKERS DYNASTY advances no further in the game and ends on a odd rebound play. The biggest call against the series was the sagging ratings and a lack of sensationalism surrounding the HBO series. Face it, Season One of the series did take off at the height of March Madness 2022 when basketball was on people’s minds. This season it was facing off the bigger challenger which was the industry strikes.  

Then there were the numbers. HBO, under the scrutiny of David Zaslav these days (yeah, we know Casey Bloys is the head HBO programmer), pays big attention to the numbers, both the budgets & the ratings. And when shows just aren’t cutting it, they must go. In fact, Francesca Orsi, another HBO programmer, warned of that process in a Deadline interview a while back. She stated, “Each show has a job to do, given the price tag that we give to it, and there’s a viewership. component, and there’s a critical response element to it and, of course, the buzz nature of a show. It’s those elements that we are always keeping in mind and discussing relative to whether or not a show will continue. That factors in for Perry Mason, for Winning Time, for instance, for Gilded Age, so we have to play everything out and see how well they do.” Result – PERRY MASON and now WINNING TIME couldn’t ‘do it’. But we’ve got THE GILDED AGE, which could. Then, Jeff Pearlman, author of WINNING TIME’s source material, “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” warned us to keep watching or the series was done. WINNING TIME just couldn’t maintain the numbers, losing more than half of its viewership to follow it into its sophomore season.  

WinningTime_FinalPics2-300x207Followers of the show though, were left with an abrupt end which they tried to smooth over with a tacked-on scene at the end. The season was to end with the scene of Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah), in the shower stall, sulking in defeat against the Boston Celtics after the 1984 NBA Finals. But the series couldn’t end that way, so expecting cancellation the show added a small moment with owner Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) talking with his daughter, Jeanie Buss (Hadley Robinson), about one day taking over the team because they will rebound from this big loss, just you wait and see. That is followed by a montage of the real-life characters and what they went on to do in their careers. 

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WINNING TIME: THE RISE OF THE LAKERS DYNASTY in the end was a tough scrapper struggling against the numbers to be a standout drama at HBO. Though viewers did not get to replay the glory of the Showtime-era Lakers in full, it was a blast to have it branded an HBO Original series.

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