The Last Dance (TV series)

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The Last Dance
The Last Dance 2020.jpg
Promotional poster
GenreTelevision documentary[1]
Miniseries
Directed byJason Hehir[2]
Composer(s)Thomas Caffey
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes10
Production
Producer(s)
Cinematography
  • Thomas McCallum
  • Vincent Guglielmina
  • Michael Winik
  • Peter Winik
Editor(s)
  • Chad Beck
  • Devin Concannon
  • Abhay Sofsky
  • Ben Sozanski
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running timeapprox. 50 minutes
Production company(s)
Release
Original network
Original releaseApril 19 (2020-04-19) –
May 17, 2020 (2020-05-17)

The Last Dance is a 2020 American sports documentary miniseries co-produced by ESPN Films and Netflix. Directed by Jason Hehir, the series revolves around the career of Michael Jordan, with particular focus on his last season with the Chicago Bulls. The series features exclusive footage from a film crew that had an all-access pass to the Bulls, as well as interviews of many NBA personalities including Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and Phil Jackson.

The series aired on ESPN from April 19 to May 17, 2020 in the United States, while its episodes were released on Netflix internationally the day after their US airings. It received critical acclaim, with praise for its directing and editing.

Synopsis[edit]

The docu-series gives an account of Michael Jordan's career and the Chicago Bulls, packed with never-before aired footage from the 1997–98 Bulls season, his final season with the team.[3]

Interviews[edit]

This is the list of the 90 persons interviewed for the documentary, ordered by air time.[4]

Episodes[edit]

Episodes of The Last Dance
No.TitleDirected byOriginal air dateU.S. viewers
(millions)
1"Episode I"Jason HehirApril 19, 2020 (2020-04-19)[5]5.73[6]
Flashbacks chronicle Michael Jordan's college and early NBA days. The Bulls make a preseason trip to Paris amid tension with GM Jerry Krause.
2"Episode II"Jason HehirApril 19, 2020 (2020-04-19)[5]5.12[6]
Scottie Pippen rises to become one of the NBA's best players. An injury early in Jordan's career shows distrust with Bulls management.
3"Episode III"Jason HehirApril 26, 2020 (2020-04-26)[5]5.31[7]
Dennis Rodman's attitude and energy help the team win, but bring the drama off the court. The Bulls struggle to overcome the Pistons in the late '80s.
4"Episode IV"Jason HehirApril 26, 2020 (2020-04-26)[5]4.86[7]
Phil Jackson's unique philosophy and demeanor take the Bulls to the next level. The team finally gets past Detroit and earns a shot at an NBA title.
5"Episode V"Jason HehirMay 3, 2020 (2020-05-03)[5]4.91[8]
From Air Jordan and Be Like Mike to the 1992 NBA Finals and the Olympic dream team, Michael becomes a global cultural icon unlike any other.
6"Episode VI"Jason HehirMay 3, 2020 (2020-05-03)[5]4.44[8]
A revealing book and scrutiny of his gambling put a dent in Michael's reputation, but he remains focused on winning a third straight title in 1993.
7"Episode VII"Jason HehirMay 10, 2020 (2020-05-10)[5]4.41[9]
Crushed by the death of his father, a mentally exhausted Michael retires in 1993 – to play baseball. The Bulls move on with Scottie in the lead role.
8"Episode VIII"Jason HehirMay 10, 2020 (2020-05-10)[5]4.16[9]
Michael's return energizes the Bulls, the city and the NBA, but a playoff loss in 1995 fuels him to work harder than ever to get back on top.
9"Episode IX"Jason HehirMay 17, 2020 (2020-05-17)[5]4.95[10]
The Bulls face stiff challenges to their reign in 1997 against Utah and in 1998 versus Indiana. Role player Steve Kerr makes his mark on the dynasty.
10"Episode X"Jason HehirMay 17, 2020 (2020-05-17)[5]4.52[10]
Battered and exhausted, the Bulls conclude their "Last Dance" with a sixth championship. Michael, Phil, and others reflect on the end of their dynasty.

Production and release[edit]

The series features both interviews and never-released footage from the 1997–98 NBA season. Over 500 hours of all-access footage was filmed and used to create the 10 part documentary series. According to Adam Silver (now NBA Commissioner, but then the head of NBA Entertainment), Jordan allowed the filming with the agreement that the footage would only be used with his direct permission. After many years, and many refusals from Jordan, he agreed in 2016 to a documentary proposal from Mike Tollin.[11]

ESPN and Netflix announced their joint production of the 10-part documentary series in May 2018,[3] with the first official trailer being released on December 25, 2018.[12][13] The release date was pushed back to June 2020 after another trailer was released in December 2019.[14][15] However, because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN published the final trailer on March 31, 2020 and expedited the premiere to April 19, 2020, releasing the following statement:[5]

As society navigates this time without live sports, viewers are still looking to the sports world to escape and enjoy a collective experience. We've heard the calls from fans asking us to move up the release date for this series, and we’re happy to announce that we’ve been able to accelerate the production schedule to do just that. This project celebrates one of the greatest players and dynasties ever, and we hope it can serve as a unifying entertainment experience to fill the role that sports often play in our lives, telling a story that will captivate everyone, not just sports fans.

The series was released weekly from April 19, 2020 to May 17, 2020, with two episodes airing each Sunday.[5] Outside of the United States, the episodes were released on Netflix the day after their ESPN airing.[5] ESPN2 aired a censored version of the documentary alongside the ESPN broadcast.[16]

The fifth episode is dedicated to Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020.[17]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds an approval rating of 96% based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 8.7/10. The website's critics consensus reads: "A compelling and comprehensive portrait of one of basketball's great teams, The Last Dance's blend of archival footage and candid interviews confirms there's nobody quite like Mike or the team he led to victory."[18] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the series a score of 91 out of 100 based on 12 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[19]

Writing for Consequence of Sound, Robert Daniels gave The Last Dance a perfect score, calling the series "beautifully composed and edited together" and a "pulsating celebration of greatness."[20] Similarly, Alex Pattle of The Independent praised director Jason Hehir, writing that "Hehir's fear of being formulaic fosters a compelling freshness, and his ability to subtly segue between tones ensures Jordan's auras of magnetism and intensity are highlighted at the appropriate moments",[21] while Brian Lowry of CNN gave the series five stars out of five, saying that "it's a very, very deep dive, but for fans who will eat this stuff up, it hits all the right notes."[22]

Chicago Sun-Times's Richard Roeper gave the film three and a half stars out of four, writing that "while some might question whether even one of the great team sports dynasties of all time merits such a lengthy treatment, if anything each episode left me wanting more. Not only were the Bulls a team for the ages, they also gave us a sports soap opera for the ages."[23] Daniel Finberg of The Hollywood Reporter gave the series a positive review, writing that "it's a tremendously engaging, ridiculously fun assemblage of spectacular basketball footage and reasonably introspective interviews with almost everybody you'd hope to hear from on the subject."[24] Writing for The New York Times, Wesley Morris wrote that "Hehir has this trick where any time someone says something debatable or controversial or simply worthy of running by [Michael] Jordan, he hands him an iPad and makes him watch what was said. And every time Hehir does it, Jordan turns the reaction into gold. He's an incredulous Zeus in these moments, lightning bolts falling from his toga as he laughs, zapping lesser gods."[25]

Conversely, filmmaker Ken Burns criticized Michael Jordan's involvement in the production of the series, saying that "if you are there influencing the very fact of it getting made, it means that certain aspects that you don't necessarily want in aren't going to be in [...] and that's not the way you do good journalism." Specifically, Burns pointed to Jordan's production company, Jump 23, being listed as a partner in the series.[26]

Response from the basketball community[edit]

While the series drew positive reactions from many current NBA players,[27] several players featured in the documentary were critical of how they were portrayed. Scottie Pippen was reportedly "wounded and disappointed" by his characterization, though he did not make any public remarks during the documentary's airing.[28] Horace Grant expressed a belief that the documentary was edited to favor Jordan, remarking that the series was "entertaining, but we know [...] that about 90% of it [was] BS in terms of the realness of it"; he also denied Jordan's accusation that Grant was the source for The Jordan Rules and agreed that Pippen was portrayed unfairly.[29] Craig Hodges, who was not interviewed for the documentary, was "bothered" by Jordan's comments about the team's use of cocaine during the 1980s, remarking, "I was thinking about the brothers who [were on the team] with you who have to explain [what happened] to their families".[30][31]

US ratings[edit]

The Last Dance : U.S. viewers per episode (millions)
Ratings for episodes of The Last Dance
No. Title Air date Timeslot (ET) Rating
(18–49)
Viewers
(millions)
DVR
(18–49)
DVR viewers
(millions)
Total
(18–49)
Total viewers
(millions)
Ref(s)
1 "Episode I" April 19, 2020 Sunday 9:00 p.m. 2.58 5.733 0.63 1.512 3.21 7.245 [6]
2 "Episode II" April 19, 2020 Sunday 10:00 p.m. 2.29 5.106 0.73 1.621 3.02 6.727 [6]
3 "Episode III" April 26, 2020 Sunday 9:00 p.m. 2.31 5.313 0.80 1.676 3.11 6.989 [7]
4 "Episode IV" April 26, 2020 Sunday 10:00 p.m. 2.14 4.862 0.93 2.039 3.07 6.901 [7]
5 "Episode V" May 3, 2020 Sunday 9:00 p.m. 2.06 4.906 0.76 1.781 2.82 6.687 [8]
6 "Episode VI" May 3, 2020 Sunday 10:00 p.m. 1.88 4.436 0.86 1.996 2.74 6.432 [8]
7 "Episode VII" May 10, 2020 Sunday 9:00 p.m. 1.89 4.411 0.88 1.882 2.77 6.293 [9]
8 "Episode VIII" May 10, 2020 Sunday 10:00 p.m. 1.79 4.164 1.01 2.229 2.80 6.393 [9]
9 "Episode IX" May 17, 2020 Sunday 9:00 p.m. 2.04 4.948 TBD TBD TBD TBD [10]
10 "Episode X" May 17, 2020 Sunday 10:00 p.m. 1.85 4.520 TBD TBD TBD TBD [10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rosenthal, Phil (August 15, 2019). "ESPN offers a peek at their '30 for 30' documentary on Dennis Rodman: 'A much more complex and nuanced picture emerges'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on December 2, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  2. ^ Chavez, Chris (December 24, 2019). "ESPN's Latest Trailer for 'The Last Dance' Features Michael Jordan, Bulls Legends, President Obama". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on February 9, 2020. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  3. ^ a b Christie, Jennifer (May 18, 2018). "ESPN Films, Netflix Announce Multi-Part Documentary The Last Dance featuring Michael Jordan" (Press release). New York, New York: ESPN. Archived from the original on November 21, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  4. ^ "Who got the most air time in the Michael Jordan documentary?". HoopsHype. May 19, 2020. Archived from the original on May 21, 2020. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "'The Last Dance' documentary set to air April 19 on ESPN". NBA.com. March 31, 2020. Archived from the original on March 31, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Pucci, Douglas (April 29, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'Disney Family Singalong' Leads All Unscripted Offerings in Raw Lifts". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on April 29, 2020. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d Pucci, Douglas (May 8, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'Will & Grace' Series Finale Tops All Comedy Telecasts in Overall Raw Gains". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on May 9, 2020. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d Pucci, Douglas (May 15, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'Blue Bloods' Final Two Episodes of its Tenth Season Lead in Raw Viewer Gains for Each Respective Week". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on May 16, 2020. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d Pucci, Douglas (May 19, 2020). "Live+7 Weekly Ratings: 'The Rookie' Tops the Week's Season Finale Telecasts in Raw Adults 18-49 Gains, More Than Doubling its Same-Day Demo Delivery". Programming Insider. Archived from the original on May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 24, 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d Metcalf, Mitch (May 19, 2020). "SHOWBUZZDAILY'S Top 150 Sunday Cable Originals & Network Finals 5.17.2020". Showbuzz Daily. Archived from the original on May 19, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  11. ^ Shelburne, Ramona (April 18, 2020). "An all-access Michael Jordan documentary? How 'The Last Dance' was made possible". Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved April 20, 2020.
  12. ^ Espinosa, Joshua (December 25, 2018). "Here's the Thrilling New Trailer for ESPN's Michael Jordan Documentary 'The Last Dance'". Complex. Archived from the original on December 27, 2018. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  13. ^ @ESPNNBA (December 25, 2018). "Cannot. Wait" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  14. ^ Tigg, FNR (December 24, 2019). "Latest Trailer for Michael Jordan Doc 'The Last Dance' Features Barack Obama, Nas and More". Complex. Archived from the original on December 25, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  15. ^ "ESPN Documentary 'The Last Dance' About Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, Gets a New Trailer". Maxim. December 24, 2019. Archived from the original on December 28, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  16. ^ Steinberg, Brian (April 15, 2020). "ESPN Plans Two Versions of Much-Anticipated Michael Jordan Documentary (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on April 21, 2020. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  17. ^ Kasabian, Paul (May 2, 2020). "'The Last Dance' Episode 5 Will Be Dedicated to Kobe Bryant". Bleacher Report. Archived from the original on May 2, 2020. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  18. ^ "The Last Dance (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  19. ^ "The Last Dance (2020)". Metacritic. CBS. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  20. ^ Daniels, Robert (April 18, 2020). "TV Review: Michael Jordan Takes No Prisoners in ESPN's Incredible Docuseries The Last Dance". Consequence of Sound. Archived from the original on April 22, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  21. ^ Pattle, Alex (April 20, 2020). "The Last Dance: Michael Jordan documentary is an enthralling piece of television". The Independent. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  22. ^ Lowry, Brian (April 17, 2020). "'The Last Dance' hits the right notes with its look back at Michael Jordan and the Bulls". CNN. Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  23. ^ Roeper, Richard (April 15, 2020). "'The Last Dance' captures the dominance and the drama of '90s Bulls dynasty". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on April 15, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  24. ^ Finberg, Daniel (April 14, 2020). "'The Last Dance': TV Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on April 15, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  25. ^ Morris, Wesley (April 19, 2020). "In 'The Last Dance', Michael Jordan and the Bulls Still Dominate". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 19, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  26. ^ Moreau, Jordan (April 30, 2020). "Ken Burns Slams Michael Jordan Doc 'Last Dance': 'Not the Way You Do Good Journalism'". Variety. Archived from the original on May 1, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  27. ^ Cancian, Dan (April 20, 2020). "'The Last Dance': Best Twitter Reactions as NBA Players Praise 'Fantastic' Michael Jordan ESPN Documentary". Newsweek. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  28. ^ MacMullan, Jackie (May 7, 2020). "Dennis Rodman defends Scottie Pippen from 'Last Dance' criticism". ESPN. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  29. ^ "'Lie, lie, lie': Former Jordan teammate gives withering assessment of The Last Dance". The Guardian. May 19, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  30. ^ Aviles, Gwen (May 6, 2020). "Michael Jordan's former teammate slams the basketball star's 'cocaine circus' comments in 'The Last Dance'". NBC News. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  31. ^ "Craig Hodges blasts Michael Jordan for cocaine comments in 'The Last Dance'". Chicago Sun-Times. May 6, 2020. Retrieved May 20, 2020.

External links[edit]