Ever since I began sharing living quarters with Mr. IScreen, there's been a distinct change in the kind of material viewed on our main TV.
When I lived alone, I rarely watched sports, let alone shows about sports. But, since I started living with a man, certain shows began creeping onto our DVR. Shows like HBO's "Real Sports," and "Hard Knocks," and Showtime's recent "Full Color Football." To my surprise, I kind of liked these shows. Because really, they aren't about sports. They're about people. They're about people with hopes, dreams, flaws and failings. They're about people who have achieved extraordinary things and/or encounter devastating, tragic setbacks.
Like any good TV program, these shows get beneath the surface of their subject matter to the universal humanity underneath. That's also true of ESPN's ongoing series "30 for 30," which began showing earlier this year.
The occasional series consists of documentaries about important sports stories of the past 30 years, each helmed by a different director. Barry Levinson directed Oct. 13's rousing "The Band That Wouldn't Die," about the Baltimore Colts Marching Band, and Peter Berg directed the series' first entry "Kings Ransom," about the trade of Wayne Gretzky to the L.A. Kings. Other documentaries that have aired so far include the tragic "Muhammad and Larry" and the entertaining, if poignant "Small Potatoes: Who Killed the USFL?"
Even if you're familiar with most of the stories (I, for one, was not), the "30 for 30" shows take a closer look at them, and tell them from a fresh perspective. The series has been on hiatus for a while, but returns on Saturday with "The U," a two-hour documentary about the University of Miami Hurricanes and their reinvention in the 1980s, after coach Howard Schnellenberger scoured Miami's ghettos to recruit predominantly black players to what was previous a mostly white school.
Directed by Billy Corben (whose 2006 doc "Cocaine Cowboys" is another favorite of Mr. IScreen), the documentary takes a probing, funny and fascinating look at race, class, politics and, of course, football. At two hours, "The U" is a bit overlong (all of the other shows have been only an hour in length), but the story it tells is worth the time.
Plus, it's probably for the best that this entry is meatier than the others, as it will be the last "30 for 30" to air until March. If you've seen the other "30 for 30" episodes, you'll want to catch this one, and if you haven't seen the others, you should start checking them out.
After all, they're not really about sports. They're about the people behind them.
"The U" airs Saturday at 9 p.m.
You can view a trailer for "The U" here.