SHOWTIME’S THE FRANCHISE: PREVIEW RECAP

Premium cable network Showtime aired a 30-minute preview of the second season of The Franchise tonight before it’s boxing telecast with this year’s subject being the Miami Marlins. The Franchise debuted last season and followed the San Francisco Giants while they tried to defend their 2010 World Series title.

The Marlins were an excellent choice for season two, as they had many story lines of interest going into the season from the new ballpark to the free agent signings (Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buerhle) and even a new name (no more Florida Marlins).

But as if that weren’t enough, their new manager, Ozzie Guillen, provided all the drama that the network could have asked for with his pro-Fidel Castro comments that earned him a five-game suspension just as the season was getting underway.

The 30-minute episode seems jam-packed with interesting subjects as all the items listed above are explored in detail. Guillen, pre-Castro controversey, addresses the team and owner Jeffrey Loria informs him afterward that he got off 97 F-bombs during his speech. The addition of Reyes brought some uncertainty for Hanley Ramirez and the tight relationship between the two is shown to outweigh any discomfort over Ramirez being moved to third base against his will.

Loria, club president David Samson and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest are all featured prominently in the aftermath of Guillen’s controversial Castro comments. The press conference that Guillen held after flying back to Miami is covered in detail, including footage of the manager breaking down after walking off the podium.

The Franchise is Showtime’s answer to HBO’s Hard Knocks. While HBO’s football series is a more raw look at an NFL team during training camp, The Franchise is more polished and less in-your-face with the vulgarity than their premium cable counterpart. The human interest stories on Hard Knocks are there but much of the drama has to do with competition in camp for positions on the roster. Showtime’s coverage of the Giants last year explored many human interests that went beyond the ballpark. That’s probably a reflection of the differences between the two sports.

The Franchise launches weekly on Showtime starting June 11.

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