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Playmaking ESPN Gets Spike Lee's 'Game'

8/24/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

Filmmaker Spike Lee is slated to work on a series pilot for ESPN based on his feature film He Got Game, officials at the sports network said last week.

Executive vice president of programming and production Mark Shapiro discussed the potential Lee project that's in the hopper during a press conference call on the network's first dramatic series, Playmakers.

Playmakers, a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of a fictional pro football team, debuts this Tuesday, Aug. 26. Shapiro told reporters ESPN's other scripted show in the works is the one based on He Got Game.

"We are working out some details with Spike Lee, who is going to pen a pilot script, an extension of his He Got Game
feature … and that could also launch either next summer or early fall [2004] depending on the scripts and if the pilot came out to what we expect," Shapiro said.

"From a series point, that's where we are," he added. "At this point, we're looking at just a pilot for next year with Spike, because we're getting pretty late in the process here."

Ultimately, if Playmakers
does well in the ratings and is renewed for next year, Shapiro said he would like to move it to the fall, during the football season, and have the Lee series run in the summer.

Last week, ESPN also revealed that Playmakers
would premiere with no commercial interruptions. While it won't have commercial breaks, the debut episode will be exclusively sponsored by Universal Pictures upcoming film The Rundown, which stars The Rock and Sean William Scott.

A special abbreviated edition of Outside the Lines With Bob Ley
will follow the 48-minute premiere episode. In a Playmakers-related storyline, the 12-minute Outside the Lines
edition will present stories of real-life players who have caused serious injuries on the football field.

Playmakers
does contain nudity, but will air in a relatively early time slot, 9 p.m. EST and 6 p.m. on the West Coast, with repeats the same night at 10 p.m. EST and midnight.

Asked about that scheduling, Shapiro said that ESPN believes 9 p.m. is when Playmakers
has the best opportunity to succeed. He noted that the series is rated TVMA, for mature audiences, and that ESPN has stressed that the show is for adults only.

"We don't intend to be gratuitous in the nudity," Shapiro said. "We have to be sure we're not just showing skin to win."

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