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Original Issue

Making the Show

With unparalleled access to the Marlins, Showtime's The Franchise goes deep

After an errant throw by Marlins third baseman Hanley Ramirez allowed a runner to reach base in a 5--3 win over the Nationals on May 28, Miami pitcher Carlos Zambrano gestured toward Ramirez with his glove. From afar, Zambrano—notorious for his volatile temper—could have been saying anything, but thanks to the unprecedented placement of a microphone on the starting pitcher (the first time a team has allowed a hurler to be miked) he can clearly be heard to say encouragingly, "I got you!"

That sort of access is the latest innovation in the second season of The Franchise, a joint effort of MLB Productions and Showtime whose original incarnation last year featured the Giants and won a National Sports Emmy for Outstanding Edited Sports Series. This time the show documents the debut season of the rebranded Miami Marlins.

No program in the genre—which includes HBO's Hard Knocks and 24/7—films all season. The Franchise's greatest asset and greatest challenge is the voluminous footage that must be edited down to fit each week's 30-minute episode, which must be winnowed down from some 300 hours of raw film.

The camera crews try to be "stealthy and strategic in how we gather this content," executive producer David Gavant says, so that the players and coaches can relax. Much of the video is recorded with nonintrusive handheld DSLR cameras and sometimes even with mobile phones. "We kind of forget they're here," Marlins closer Heath Bell says.

The Franchise has been embedded with the Marlins since new manager Ozzie Guillen's first meeting of spring training and has captured a catalog of rarely seen moments: Cameras are behind closed doors for a May meeting between Guillen and a struggling Bell and follow shortstop Jose Reyes—the former Mets All-Star who signed a six-year, $106 million deal with Miami last December—from his Long Island home to his first game as a visitor at Citi Field.

The show's hourlong July 11 debut will set up such backstories so they are at its disposal once it begins airing weekly. Events from weekend games could be included in Wednesday's show and will be interspersed with relevant prepackaged personal stories. A film crew accompanied Juan Carlos Oviedo—the reliever formerly known as Leo Nu√±ez—to the Dominican Republic while he waited for a visa issue to be resolved. The filmmakers will be prepared for his return to the team on July 23, around the airdate of the third episode.

Whether or not the fourth-place Marlins will have ascended the standings by then, The Franchise is designed to be compelling television.


"I like working on it."


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