CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The Television Critics Association began its winter press tour this week in which the various broadcast and cable networks talk about their upcoming plans to the nation's top critics and entertainment reporters.
Here's a breakdown of the highlights of ESPN's presentation (via press release):
ESPN TO PRODUCE THIRD ORIGINAL MOVIE "3: THE DALE EARNHARDT STORY" TO PREMIERE SUMMER 2004
NETWORK UNVEILS MOVIE PROJECTS CURRENTLY IN DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING "HUSTLE: THE PETE ROSE STORY"
FRANK DEFORD, BUD GREENSPAN TO WRITE AND PRODUCE FUTURE ESPN PROJECTS
Continuing its long-term commitment to provide quality original sports entertainment programming, ESPN today announced the start of production of its third original, made-for-television movie, "3: The Dale Earnhardt Story," an ESPN Original Entertainment (EOE) production based on the storied life and career of the late auto racing legend. The movie is set to premiere late summer 2004. In addition, ESPN announced an ambitious new slate of original compelling movie projects currently in development for 2004-2005.
Orly Adelson of Orly Adelson Productions ("The Truth About Jane," The Junction Boys"), who serves as executive producer of ESPN�s critically acclaimed dramatic series "Playmakers," will also serve as executive producer of "3." Russell Mulcahy ("Skin," "Queer as Folk," "Ricochet") will direct from a screenplay by TV writer-producer Robert Eisele ("Resurrection Blvd.").
"Earnhardt�s untimely and tragic death in the final lap at the 2001 Daytona 500 was one of sports� most tragic days," said Ron Semiao, ESPN senior vice president, ESPN Original Entertainment. "His death not only altered the auto racing landscape but introduced a new generation of sports fans to his legacy. �3� will explore his rise to dominance and the many reasons why there may never be another one like him."
FUTURE MOVIE PROJECTS
EOE�s new movie projects range in subject matter from Pete Rose to Roger Bannister to the West Point Scandal of 1951 and will feature the storytelling talents of Frank DeFord and the production expertise of filmmaker Bud Greenspan.
"Clearly movies and entertainment projects have successfully expanded ESPN's reach and are now an intrinsic leg of our programming mix, along with events and sports news," said Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production. "With this slate of movies in development, led by Earnhardt�s tale of triumph and tragedy, ESPN is committing to an aggressive schedule of quality movies tackling some of sports' most compelling subjects."
Following is a sample of some of the network�s upcoming movie projects currently in development:
"Hustle: The Pete Rose Story" - is an original screenplay by Christian Darren ("Count Three and Pray," and "Six Bullets from Now") and is in the final stages of development. "Rose" will be executive produced by Orly Adelson;
"Four Minutes"- is based on Roger Bannister�s breaking of the four-minute mile in 1953. Award-winning journalist, author and sports commentator Frank DeFord was recently hired by ESPN to write the script. The movie will be produced by Gerry Abrams ("Nuremberg") and acclaimed Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan;
"October Men"- is based on the book by renowned baseball author Roger Kahn -- best known for his classic "The Boys Of Summer." The adaptation will be an in-depth account of two of the most memorable summers in baseball history, 1977 and 1978 - the years the "Bronx Zoo" New York Yankees won consecutive World Series. Jerry Harrison will serve as executive producer;
"The Bob Delaney Story"- is based on the life of NBA referee Bob Delaney, who 25 years ago was an undercover agent infiltrating the New Jersey mob. ESPN has acquired the rights to his life story;
"West Point Scandal"- is based on a Sports Illustrated article by Frank DeFord on the 1951 Army football team cribbing scandal. ESPN has acquired the rights to that article.