|Created by||John Eisendrath|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Original language(s)||American English|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||11|
|Running time||60 Minutes (including commercials)|
|Original run||August 26 – November 11, 2003|
Playmakers is an American television series that aired on ESPN from August 26, 2003 to November 11, 2003. It depicted the lives of the Cougars, a fictional professional football team in an unidentified city. The show starred Omar Gooding, Marcello Thedford, Christopher Wiehl, Jason Matthew Smith, Russell Hornsby, and Tony Denison. The show, which ran eleven episodes, was the first original drama series created by ESPN. Although the ratings were very high for ESPN—Playmakers was the highest-rated show on the network other than its Sunday night NFL and Saturday college football games—ESPN eventually canceled the series under pressure from the National Football League, who disliked the accurate portrayal of the negative aspects of its players' lives off the field.
The show followed the lives of various members of an ensemble cast who portray the players and personnel on a fictional American football team, the Cougars, in a fictional league (referred to in the series as "The League") during the regular season.
Many of these segments are prefaced by an internal monologue in the format of a character narrating in his head.
- Omar Gooding as Demetrius Harris, #39 - A rookie running back from Colorado.
- Marcello Thedford as Kelvin "The Buffalo" James, #60 - A fourth year offensive tackle from Oklahoma State.
- Christopher Wiehl as Derek McConnell, #11 - A fourth year quarterback from Louisville.
- Jason Matthew Smith as Eric Olczyk, #54 - A fifth year middle linebacker from Penn State.
- Russell Hornsby as Leon Taylor, #33 - A ninth year running back from USC.
- Anthony John Denison as Coach George - The head coach in his ninth season with the team.
- Stephen Bogaert - Phil Chambers
- Bruce Gray - Gene Wilbanks, the team's owner
- Phillip Jarrett - Coach Rudman
- Karen LeBlanc - Robin Taylor, Leon's wife
- Thea Andrews - Samantha Lovett
- Dan Petronijevic - Thad Guerwicz, a wide receiver who is a closeted homosexual
- Kevin Jubinville - Dr. Gatewood
- Sasha Roiz - Stephen Lyles
- Gabriel Hogan - Guard Dog Fredericks
- Tacquira LaTouche - Herself
- Frank Chiesurin - David, Guerwicz's boyfriend
- Laura Jordan - August
- K. C. Collins - Ron Martin
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|01||"Game Day"||Scott Brazil||John Eisendrath||August 26, 2003|
|The Cougars are 2-3 and it's six hours to kick-off. Leon Taylor, back from injured reserve, plans to retake the running back throne from Demetrius Harris. "D.H." will not slow down for anyone. Eric Olczyk can't get over his hit that paralyzed a player and Coach George is depending on a psychiatrist to get Olczyk's head back in the game. Fresh from a night of partying, DH and his teammate Kelvin "Buffalo" James are late heading to the stadium. At game time, it's unclear who will take the field.|
|02||"The Piss Man"||T.J. Scott||John Eisendrath||September 2, 2003|
|The league drug-testing official visits the Cougars in the second episode of Playmakers, and DH gets pissed off that he's on the list. Guard Dog tempts Leon with a way to get his mojo back. Olczyk continues to struggle with the ramifications of the devastating hit he made. Speaking of pain, quarterback Derek McConnell sucks down anti-inflammatories like candy. The team doctor is concerned about McConnell's health. It's all part of the effort to keep personal problems from interfering with the game. Guard Dog gets caught and DH goes through a terrible procedure, involving injecting clean urine into his own bladder, to not get caught.|
|03||"The Choice"||Brad Turner||Stephen Hootstein||September 9, 2003|
|Two of the Cougars are tackling some big decisions. A man is shot outside a club, forcing DH to decide where his loyalties lie—with the team or with his posse. Meanwhile, Leon gets a chance to be traded to another team, but his wife Robin isn't sold on the idea of uprooting their lives. Their marriage begins to suffer.|
|04||"The Choice Part II"||Bruce McDonald||Peter Egan||September 16, 2003|
|The Cougars' team owner Wilbanks pressures the young, star running back DH to change his statement about the shooting at the nightclub after new evidence surfaces. Meanwhile, linebacker Olczyk meets and pursues a romantic relationship with Beth who has surprise news about his father. Also, the rift grows between veteran running back Leon and his wife, Robin, after he refuses to get counseling.|
|05||"Halftime"||John Fawcett||Edwin Eisendrath||September 23, 2003|
|The Cougars have been ravaged in the first half. They are plagued with injuries. Coach George and the medical staff must patch up the pieces for the second half. Leon faces a potentially career-ending knee injury in which a player missed a block and resulting in Leon's injury. As Leon is awaiting the results from the x-ray on his knee he realizes that Robin spent the night at Eric's place. The argument escalates into Leon punching Eric in the face several times. Leon and Eric make amends after clarifying their earlier discussion. Guerwitcz (Dan Petronijevic) gives Harris his Saint Christopher medal in an attempt to help him begin leaving his habit behind, and recites the Lord's Prayer before the team returns to the field.|
|06||"Man in Motion"||Terry Ingram||Michael Angeli||September 30, 2003|
|Coach George lectures the team about selling "the fake"; football is all about deception. Speaking of deception, DH's drug abuse comes to a head when Wilbanks sends him to detox. Viewers learn Guerwitcz's closely guarded secret. Samantha returns to dig up dirt about a domestic abuse rumor involving Leon. McConnell arranges a night out for the boys. And Olczyk's romantic interest in Beth resurfaces.|
|07||"Talk Radio"||Ken Girotti||Charles D. Holland||October 7, 2003|
|Leon and Robin's decision to go public with their domestic abuse incident leads to legal problems for Leon and a possible suspension. Guerwitcz struggles to maintain a double life. DH must make a charity appearance to cheer up a terminally ill young boy. Coach George finally sees a doctor. McConnell treads on dangerous ground with Wilbanks' daughter.|
|08||"Down and Distance"||John Bell||Craig Sweeny||October 14, 2003|
|Olczyk prepares to face his nemesis, the league's star quarterback who routinely scrambles his way past linebackers to rushing touchdowns. Leon tries to resolve his legal issues to continue playing on the team. Coach George gets his test results while McConnell's romantic interlude comes back to haunt him. Guerwitcz struggles with whether to tell his teammates he is gay.|
|09||"The Outing"||Chris Grismer||Peter Egan, Stephen Hootsein and Craig Sweeny||October 28, 2003|
|Guerwitcz makes an attempt to dodge a rumor that one of the players is gay by asking August to marry him. But his partner David (Frank Chiesurin) has had enough and outs him to the team, putting Guerwitcz's future with the Cougars in question. Meanwhile, tensions build between Olczyk and Leon over Olczyk's in-season contract negotiations.|
|10||"Tenth of a Second"||Stephen Williams||Michael Angeli||November 4, 2003|
|Leon learns that Wilbanks is not renewing his contract, so he puts himself through a combination of athletic drills to prove to Coach George that he's still got it. DH's reunion with his older brother, Big E (rapper Snoop Dogg), leads to trouble when Big E learns the truth about Cal's crime.|
|11||"Week 17"||T.J. Scott||John Eisendrath||November 11, 2003|
|Leon plans for retirement by auditioning for a sportscaster job. Buffalo's weight issues affect his chances of playing. Now that DH is back on top, how far can he flaunt his playmaker ways? After Olczyk invites Beth to move in, he must decide how to handle the surprise of Jenna's pregnancy.|
Hidden Pasts: Each character has some skeletons in his closet. For instance, throughout the show Leon Taylor is portrayed as a veteran and likeable protagonist, getting the audience to sympathize with him, while at the same time they portray DH in an antagonistic light. This is interesting because both have some major problems in their past, yet Leon's seem to almost overshadow DH's. As a teenager Leon beat up his stepfather badly in retaliation to his stepfather beating his mother that the man had cranial bleeding and had to go to the hospital. It's also revealed Leon has a daughter that Robyn doesn't know about. Throughout the show we see how Leon gets physical not only with Robyn when he pushes her, but with the Coach as he slams him up against the wall, DH when he punches him, and Olcyzk when he punches him too.
The fact that they all have a hidden past is universal, but Playmakers tries to focus on who they have become after all of it. Olcyzk has problems with his father and the death of his brother, DH grew up in a life of crime and lost both his parents, Guerrwitz is secretly homosexual and has to find ways to hide it, and Buffalo and McConnel both have kids out of wedlock whom they view as "arrangements".
Friendship: Many of the protagonists share close bonds, including Taylor and Olcyzk, as well as DH and Buffalo.
Strength: Being a show about football, strength is something very important to these characters. Not only physical strength, but moral strength, and emotional strength. Each character has something on their shoulders that they have to fight with. Olcyzk paralyzed Corey in a dirty hit and is having real problems communicating with his father, McConnel has to constantly pop pills and get special treatment for all the damage his body is taking, Leon must overcome his own past and problems with Robyn and the team, DH struggles to fight "the grip" of drugs and decide if he should be loyal to his gangster friends, Guerrwitz must find a way to lie to his girlfriend to hide the fact he's gay and then show moral strength when shown the video tape of when he was buying drugs for DH, Coach dealing with his cancer, as well many other scenarios.
- In Canada, the show was broadcast on the Showcase network.
- In Pakistan, the show is broadcast on Geo TV.
- In the UK, the show was originally aired on FX.
- In Denmark, the show was broadcast on the TV2 ZULU who owned the license to NFL in Denmark at the time.
- In Australia, the show is televised on ESPN.
- In Poland, the show is broadcast on AXN.
- In Italy, the show is broadcast on FX.
- In Israel, the show was broadcast on 'yesWeekend' and syndicated on 'yesSTARS'.
- In Romania, the show is broadcast on AXN.
- In Brazil, the show was broadcast on Fox
- In Mexico, the show is broadcast on FX.
- In Portugal, the show is broadcast by FX
- Won AFI TV Award, Top TV Series (2003)
- Won GLAAD Media Award, Outstanding Drama Series (2004)
- Nominated CSC Award, Best Cinematography in TV Series (2004)
- Nominated DGC Craft Award, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing - Television Series (2004)
- Sandomir, Richard (February 5, 2004). "PRO FOOTBALL; Citing N.F.L., ESPN Cancels 'Playmakers'". New York Times. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
- "Decade in review: 10 worst sports shows". Sports Media Watch. 15 December 2009. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
- Movie/TV helmets