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Review Of ‘The Franchise: A Season With The San Francisco Giants’

One of the major bummers from this NFL lockout is the impact it’s had on the HBO series Hard Knocks. Specifically, the lockout and a modified training camp schedule may cancel the show for 2011. And regardless of how people want different points of view every year, HBO could cover the Jets or the Cowboys or the Lions or the Browns every year, and I would still be a huge fan. It’s just compelling as all get out.

However, instead of HBO and football, Showtime and baseball are here for six weeks to fill the void in your heart that requires documentary-style, behind-the-scenes footage from a sports franchise with a program obviously titled “The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants.”

A preview episode aired a few months ago, which I missed, but I have been looking forward to the premiere for a while now. After the hour was over last night, I had one word to describe my feelings on the debut episode:

Meh.

I mean, it reminded me of a movie franchise that you already know is going to be made into a trilogy or more. The first film is rather boring because time must be spent developing the characters, taking away from the action. So a lot of things were glossed over just to get the viewer acclimated with what they’ll be seeing for the next five weeks. Injuries to Pablo Sandoval, Andres Torres and, of course, Buster Posey were mentioned. As was the sprained foot of Barry Zito, who does yoga in the episode and makes you honestly believe that he is quite high on some of that good shit whenever he opens his mouth.

There are the early season woes; the offensive droughts; Ryan Vogelsong’s journey from out of the league to All-Star; meetings full of clichés between Bruce Bochy and the Giants’ brass. All in all, pretty standard fare. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some very entertaining moments. Actually, the show displayed some great heart and feeling.

We got to see Bochy tell rookie Brandon Belt that he had made the team. With Belt clearly emotional and trying to stop the run of tears, Bochy asked Belt what you would expect every veteran manager to ask a rookie who had just seen a dream realized: “You need a beer? Grab a beer.”

Actually, you got the feeling that the whole Giants coaching staff would be a lot of fun to hang with. Bochy said they drink wine after every win. After every loss? Just beer. He also said that the next day’s starting lineup usually comes to him after three or four glasses of vino.

We got to see Jeremy Affeldt visit Bryan Stow’s family and hear the audio of what he said to Bryan in the hospital.

The hardships of being away from your family for 3-4 months every year is brought forth through Affeldt and Matt Cain. Both of them are married men with young children. After a 12-day road trip in April, Affeldt and Cain returned home to the welcoming arms of their wife and kids. With this providing the background, I did my best Brandon Belt imitation.

Affeldt, Belt and Brian Wilson visit Ground Zero. There is a great shot from behind them as they look out toward the construction site.

We watched with the Giants’ clubhouse as Aubrey Huff showed off his dance moves on MLB Network. A good laugh was had by all as Huff showed his fanciest footwork, which basically resembles a Rock’em Sock’em Robot with a small amount of lateral movement. My favorite part of the scene: Posey, one of the youngest players on the team, sitting in the back by his locker and reading a newspaper. Keep hope alive, Buster.

All that with hardly a mention of Tim Lincecum. Yet, it is Wilson who is the obvious star, the scene-stealer. You might be sick of his antics with the beard and whatnot, but he makes for some great television.

After he raised the team’s championship banner up the flagpole at AT&T Park: “Thank God it’s not upside  down.”

On how he found out that Osama Bin Laden had been killed: “I was watching CSI: Miami. And then I figured out the ending, so I changed it to President Obama addressing America. I gave a big a fist pump for America. Then I went to bed.”

Wilson’s best moment came as the credits rolled, and it’s impossible for me to do it comedic justice without a video to link. Wilson was asked how he thinks the show’s editors should edit his interviews and his story, obviously trying to bait Wilson into giving them a classic answer. And he followed through. I am not going to transcribe his response because it wouldn’t catch the brilliance of it. You’ll just have to watch the episode somewhere. But you’ll have a new-found fondness for the color sepia and violin music.

Next week’s episode looks like it focuses on the All-Star Game and a lot more of Wilson. Yet, I don’t think I’m a fan of “Got heeem!

With the introductions pretty much out of the way, I think this show will get better with a lot more baseball stuff that the common fan doesn’t get to see on a daily basis.

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