HBO 24/7 Red Wings-Maple Leafs Ep. 1: Boredom comes to Hockeytown (Review)
The Detroit Red Wings seem nice.
That’s one of those compliments you pay when you’re at a loss to say anything else. They were just there in Episode 1 of “HBO 24/7 Red Wings Maple Leafs: Road To The NHL Winter Classic.” (Hell of a Scrabble score, that title.) It’s the most milquetoast group of players the producers have had to edit around, and you can feel them scrambling to find any connective thread or compelling narrative from the Red Wings, to the point where they resorted to clichés about Detroit’s bankruptcy to fill in this emotional blank.
In contrast, the scenes in Episode 1 that feature the Toronto Maple Leafs feel very HBO: Big stars doing interesting things, big personalities featured in compelling segments and Randy Carlyle dropping F-bombs.
One team comes off natural and unguarded. The other team was the Detroit Red Wings.
Did it look incredible? Of course. Did it sound incredible? Two words: Liev Schreiber.
Was it as compelling as previous editions? Keeping in mind how impossibly high the bar is set for this series by fanboys like yours truly, it was the most tedious and unfocused episode of the run. But that’s mostly because one team was giving us HBO and the other team was producing at an NHL Network level.
Coming up, a recap, some clips and images in our Episode 1 recap, including some superlatives.
And here … we … go.
This Week on 24/7
My first concern with Series 3 of “24/7” was the first image I saw: Kids with hockey gear running to the frozen pond or the community rink or who cares.
It’s the most tired hockey cliché to begin with, and it becomes unbearable when the outdoor games arrive because it’s used every. Single. Time.
The first image of Capitals/Penguins? Dirty laundry. A brilliant, sly nod to the behind-the-scenes access.
The first image of Flyers/Rangers: A series of black-and-white shots of the players, showing every scar and crease in their faces. The Liev narration? "The game engraves its way onto the body, and envelopes itself around the soul. Insistently. Excruciatingly. Completely. Hockey becomes them." Chills.
The first image of Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Children we don't know wearing Shop NHL gear, skating in slow motion. Snore.
We transition from cliché to cliché, as the “dreaming the impossible” children leave and the “heroes of a bankrupt city” theme is introduced for Detroit. A children’s choir sings “The Star Spangled Banner.” Bane shows up and blows up the Joe. (Just kidding, it was actually Mike Ilitch, to help speed the new arena construction.)
Now we’re in Toronto for the cliché hat trick, as we’re told hockey is their national pastime in Canada and the children’s choir sings “O Canada” and didja know the Red Wings win all the time and Toronto hasn’t since the 1960s?
We hit the opening. Not a single image of Phil Kessel.
Detroit’s up first, with Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” once again reminding us of the city’s plight.
There’s a lot of scene setting here, but it was the narrative equivalent of throwing a plate of linguini against the wall to see what sticks. It’s Mike Babcock no wait it’s Jonas Gustavsson no wait it’s Jimmy Howard no wait it’s Dan Cleary no wait its Datsyuk and Zetterberg being injured. And make sure you don't end up caring about this segment, they played Florida. (Yeah, I know, division rivals…)