Tuning into Travel Channels new show, NFL Road Tested: Cleveland Browns, I was expecting the quality that we have come to expect from the typical NFL branded shows - Hard Knocks on HBO, Inside The NFL on Showtime, or any of the Sunday morning NFL preview shows.
What makes these shows so successful is the precision camera work that captures the raw emotion of these athletes as they practice, play, succeed, and fail on and off the field.
Whether it’s a slow motion shot of the ball flying through the air or hearing a 350 pound rookie sob like a baby after getting cut, we as viewers are accustom to the intimate side of NFL branded shows.
NFL Road Tested: Cleveland Browns has none of this. They tout it as an inside look and what they mean is a look inside the organization of the Cleveland Browns. From the owner to the guy who scrapes the footballs (literally) to the guy who shines shoes in the locker room, the cameras capture the complete monotony of every day life.
Episode one follows new owner Jimmy Haslam as he meets and greets fans, then the guy who shines shoes in the locker room, then the PR guy, then the guy who scuffs up the balls and then Phil Dawson, the kicker, as he looks at his shoes and scuffed up balls.
While it’s moderately interesting to learn about these things, if this is what the Travel Channel rolls out to a national audience in the premiere episode, I can’t imagine who they are going to follow in episode 13? The guy who holds the ladder for the guy who changes the lights in the men’s bathroom?!
Here is why the show won’t work; it’s not produced by the NFL. The NFL has some of the best crews in the business shooting the games, meetings, and practices and they don’t have to pay for a dime of the footage. They own the footage to the games, etc.
Anyone else producing a show about the NFL has to license the footage from the NFL. That can be insanely costly when you are talking about a half an hour times 13 episodes. In one shot, the Travel Channel crews actually get a great shot of the NFL films crews in front of them. That’s the point. The NFL is always in front. Everyone else is behind their cameras and it shows.
So, Travel Channel produces the show on the cheap and tries to cover everything but football which makes it a show about people who are paid to be behind the scenes and in the shadows. Exciting? Not even a little bit. There are no high stakes. There is no pressure. There is no drama. Just people calmly going about their days doing their jobs.
This is not a show about football, it is a show about the people who work around the players. It’s a show about the behind the scenes of the front office, the people working the score board, and, if we're lucky, the concession stands!
There's more to the show than meets the eye, like how it made it on the air in the first place. NFL Road Tested: Cleveland Browns is a case of who you know, not what you know. Several years ago, Travel Channel development executive Danny Schwartz was a producer at RIVR Media in Knoxville, Tennessee, a company owned by Brown's owner Jimmy Haslam’s wife Dee Haslam. Schwartz left RIVR and applied to Travel with a reference from Dee Haslam.
Cut to 2012, Dee Haslam comes calling to Travel Channel and her former employee about a show that has nothing to do with “travel” but does have the sexy appeal of drawing in a new audience who love the NFL.
Ta da...an awful TV show is born. Haslam is making a show about her husband with a network that knows nothing about football and a production company that makes design and make over shows.
You can see the result because NFL Road Tested: Cleveland Browns is about as exciting as watching paint dry.
We tried to contact Schwartz for comment, but never received a call back.
You can’t blame Haslam or any of the Haslam clan. This is a 30-minute commercial for their team on a network starving for some attention. It’s a great business move. A “real” sports network would more than likely have passed on an inside look at shoe shining. The Travel Channel is the last call network willing to go home with anyone to feel loved.
At a time of year when most of the networks are airing re-runs and people are looking for new shows to keep them entertained, NFL Road Tested: Cleveland Browns isn’t worth the time.
If you are looking for interesting shows about the NFL, stick to the NFL Network, Showtime, HBO or the episode of the Brady Bunch when Joe Namath plays catch with Bobby. All of those are better choices than NFL Road Tested: Cleveland Browns.