50 Cent’s preferred mode of transportation is a Segway. Cornrows are a questionable look when you’re balding and have grandchildren. Boxers get paid too much.
These are just a few of the invaluable nuggets I’ve picked up over the past year from watching HBO Sports’s boxing reality series “24/7.” Premiering last spring during the weeks running up to the WBC title bout between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr., the debut season of “24/7” thoroughly documented the lives of the two fighters and their families/entourages/rapper friends as they prepared for boxing’s biggest fight in years. Even though the fight “24/7” previewed ended up being a boring, glorified sparring session between two dudes who clearly didn’t want to get punched in the face for fear of not being able to go out after the fight, the buildup generated by the show made it seem like much more than the lazy contest it was.
So when “Curb Your Enthusiasm” ended its current run two weeks ago with one of the better season finales in recent memory, I wasn’t at all disappointed to see one of my favorite shows go away – possibly permanently – knowing a new season of “24/7” was on deck. With Mayweather’s first fight since picking apart De La Hoya coming up on Dec. 8 against Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton, “24/7” is once again chronicling the preparations of each fighter and doing so in a way only HBO could.
The first thing that strikes me about “24/7” is its production quality – though that’s not really a bombshell with HBO’s stamp on the credits. But the detail of the production is surprising considering episodes air on Sunday night and incorporate material from deep into the previous week. Each episode looks like it could have taken months to polish with artful shots, one of the best musical scores on television and solid narration from Liev Schreiber (“Scream”), who has oddly morphed into the Pavarotti of premium-cable-sports-doc narration, as unsettling as that is to admit. Each half-hour episode is made in just a week’s time.
But like basically all HBO programming, the real draw to “24/7” is its characters. In “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7,” Mayweather emerged as one of the least likeable pro-athletes at work and one of the most insecure people on the planet. What kind of person goes to the gym after 2 a.m. just so he can say he’s training while his opponents are sleeping? He’s also frequently documented counting money, staring directly into the camera while training and yelling “this is America” during nonsensical rants because he’s probably seen the “American Gangster” trailer one too many times.
It’s clear Mayweather wants to be boxing’s villain, but it’s even clearer that he flaunts his wealth and constantly runs his mouth because he’s got serious daddy issues. (For the record, Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., is certifiably insane – we’re talking bat-shit-fucking crazy. He even offered to train De La Hoya in the fight against his son for the right price.) In the debut of “Mayweather/Hatton 24/7” two weeks ago, a shaken Mayweather Jr. discussed how his dad beat him as a child, interspersed with shots of a cackling Mayweather Sr., rambling about god-knows-what in some diner.
And while De La Hoya was the reluctant option to get behind in the debut season of “24/7” because he’s a boring has-been, Ricky Hatton offers a far more likeable alternative and is the perfect foil to Mayweather’s obscene garishness. Hatton, who splits his time between the small, public gym he trains in and his father’s pub in England, is more interested in playing darts and putting away pints than talking about how awesome he is. “24/7” does an excellent job of developing these “characters,” and it’s the reason why I shelled out for the pay-per-view last May and will do it again on Dec. 8.
And that’s precisely what makes “24/7” problematic. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the show is an elaborate infomercial: This thing is made to sell a pay-per-view special. There’s a reason “24/7” only exists in the weeks running up to HBO’s biggest pay-per-view events, and it’s because it’s one of the most extensive promotional vehicles ever unleashed on television.
Yet I don’t really mind what HBO is doing, and this is coming from someone who once wrote a column about how “The Office” was being overrun with product placement – something creator Greg Daniels has since ended. Perhaps I’m forgiving HBO because it isn’t badgering viewers with ads for the pay-per-view, but it’s not exactly hiding it either.
“24/7” may be an elaborate tool to sell me something I definitely don’t need, but it’s also one of the best half-hours of TV right now, regardless of what label you put on it. And sure, maybe I’ve been brainwashed into spending way too much money on one fight that was a dud and another that very well may be, but if $55 is the price of admission for “24/7” and a potentially good fight, I’ll gladly oblige.
I just hope the “24/7” franchise doesn’t branch out to any more pay-per-view events. My bankroll can’t handle “Shaquille O’Neal’s Celebrity Birthday Roast – Part Deux.”
– Passman is a vanity whore. You should see the chocolate this kid eats. Tell him to save his money at email@example.com.