The appeal of this brash, made-for-TV exercise in nostalgia is directly proportionate to viewers' fond memories of the birth of Monday Night Football, an innovation in prime-time sports programming. Back in 1970, third-place network ABC needed something to give them an edge against NBC and ABC's Monday-night lineups. The front-running networks pass on Pete Rozelle's brainchild football broadcasts on Monday evenings clearing the way for prescient producer Roone Arledge (John Heard) to persuade ABC CEO Leonard Goldenson (Eli Wallach) to test the novel idea. Before long, NBC and CBS honchos are kicking themselves and trying to lure away ABC's newly popular on-camera personalities. Although the control booth resembled a war zone, the banter between retired gridiron star Don Meredith (Brad Beyer) and pugnacious commentator Howard Cosell (John Turturro) galvanized an untapped macho market. And when telegenic Frank Gifford (Kevin Anderson) becomes the third member of the team, the real fireworks began: Pretty boy Gifford's on-air gaffes divided the forgiving Meredith and the critical Cosell. Caught in the crossfire, the paranoid Cosell felt victimized by a jock-ocracy that chortled over his lack of athletic experience. As if these tantrums weren't damaging enough, the program's director, Chet Forte (Nicholas Turturro), was nearly murdered over gambling debts. But despite the infighting, viewer response to the chemistry between the on-air commentators drove ratings through the roof. Easy money temporarily drew lazy-bones Meredith to Hollywood; know-it-all Cosell got his own TV variety show how long could these prima donnas stay cooped up together? The answer: Long enough for Monday night football to become a tradition. But without the presence of Cosell, the man America loved to hate, the magic proved hard to recapture. Ernest R. Dickerson's fondly acerbic look back, buoyed by Turturro's uncanny portrayal of Cosell (light years ahead of Jon Voight's caricature in ALI) does a commendable job of conveying the Zeitgeist of another era. But while Dickerson and screenwriter Bill Carter effectively satirize the TV network power structure, they never manage to elicit sympathy for their antagonistic protagonists.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: The appeal of this brash, made-for-TV exercise in nostalgia is directly proportionate to viewers' fond memories of the birth of Monday Night Football, an innovation in prime-time sports programming. Back in 1970, third-place network ABC needed something to… (more)