Adam McKay’s latest television series is upon us in the form of HBO series “Winning Time: THe Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” from co-creators Max Borenstein (“Worth,” “Godzilla vs. Kong”) and Jim Hecht. As he did previously with “Succession,” McKay directed the show’s pilot episode and enlisted some of his frequent collaborators for help, including current “Don’t Look Up” Oscar nominees editor Hank Corwin and composer Nicholas Brittell.
Based on “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s” by Jeff Pearlman, the series focuses on the Los Angeles Lakers during the early days of the team’s 1980s dynasty, which saw the team win five NBA championships. The show features an ensemble cast including the likes of John C. Reilly (“Chicago”), Jason Clarke (“Mudbound”), Gaby Hoffmann (“Transparent”), Molly Gordon (“Shiva Baby”), Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”), Sally Field (“Lincoln”), Rob Morgan (“Don’t Look Up), and Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), as well as newcomers Quincy Isaiah (as Earvin “Magic” Johnson) and Solomon Hughes (as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
With “Winning Time” set to premiere Sunday night on HBO and HBO Max, the first batch of critics’ reviews have been released, most of which are generally positive albeit with some mixed feelings aimed towards the show’s familiarity.
“There’s so much to like that sports fans will no doubt take an immediate shine to ‘Winning Time’. It’s the non-sports fans HBO should be worried about, because there’s likely little crossover appeal”, Kaitlin Thomas of TV Guide wrote in her review for the show which she scored a 7.3/10.
Meanwhile, IndieWire’s Ben Travers was overall pleased with “Winning Time,” writing, “Like gawking fans, ‘Winning Time’ is often content to just watch the Lakers chase titles we already know they’ll win. But once it starts considering all ‘the happy’ that’s sacrificed along the way, those stakes make for a game worth watching.”
However, The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg was frustrated with the show’s lack of nuance, writing, “There’s not enough depth there to transform the series into more than a rich snapshot of Los Angeles and the sporting world at a particular moment”.
Variety critic Daniel D’Addario was definitely not too keen on the show, however, penning a mostly negative review. “What’s revealed to us is usually either banal (the idea that the act of love is like a sport because both have rhythm) or a data-dump that would be better revealed in another way. The soupcon of prurience poured over the top feels — in a way HBO programming rarely does these days — like an attention-getting stand-in for good ideas,” he wrote.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, Noel Murray of The A.V. Club wrote a highly positive review, noting the show “isn’t heavy or preachy. It mostly shifts between affectionate, wonky, and playfully ironic.”
That sentiment was echoed by Decider’s Josh Sorokach, who wrote the “breakneck pace and flashy mix of genre-bending elements combine to craft a series that’s difficult to look away from and impossible to ignore.”
“Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” premieres Sunday.
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