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Part II: '24/7' will push producers to their limits

by Dan Rosen /
NEW YORK -- No matter how much footage of the Penguins and Capitals that HBO's cameras capture in a week for the upcoming "24/7" reality TV series, it means nothing unless there are producers capable enough to put it all together and melt it down in to a 45-50 minute episode.

In Bentley Weiner and Scott Boggins, HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg feels he has a dynamic duo. Imagine Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin on the same team, and that's what Greenburg believes HBO has in Weiner and Boggins.

Weiner will head up the team that will, starting this weekend, embed itself with the Penguins. Boggins will be the leader of the team that will follow the Capitals. Greenburg will be the overseer, advisor and final voice for both of them.

The production of "24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic" is a grind. Sleep comes at a premium as they look to put out four stirring, Emmy-worthy episodes, starting with the debut, at 10 p.m. ET on Dec. 15.

"Cameras have to keep rolling close to 24 hours a day because you never know when the next great story is going to unfold, and if you don't have that camera on it then you've lost it forever and you can't put it in the show. So, no, you can't rest." -- Ross Greenburg, HBO Sports president on 24/7 Penguins-Capitals 

In the second installment of a three-part Q&A with Greenburg, he talks about the challenges that go into making what we'll see on the air possible. How important to the success of the show is the fact that everything is real and current, that it's not derived and it's not from six months ago? We're looking at it now, and what we see in Episode 1 could have happened the morning of Episode 1?

I think it's very important that people know what we're doing on a daily basis to put this show together. We do turn this around within seven days and we feel like the immediacy is what the American public really wants out of "24/7." That is what makes it special. It is a tough, tough show to pull off, though. I mean, we're shuttling footage in from Washington and Pittsburgh, or wherever they might be around the country, on a moment-to-moment basis, taking it into edit rooms, turning it around, putting clips of two, three or four minutes together and assembling a show on the run over a seven-day period not even knowing what we're getting. It's like building an airplane in flight, and that's exciting. It's exciting to our producers. Bentley Weiner and Scott Boggins will be grinding it out in those edit rooms with a lot of pressure. We'll be delivering that last tape for air sometimes an hour before it airs starting Dec. 15 for four weeks. That's tough to pull off, but yet we love it. We love the intensity and we know the public really wants to see a good show top to bottom and couldn't care less how tough it is to put together. You kind of answered the next question, but the hours of footage you're going to get per week -- you said back in September when the show was announced that it's 100 hours. Do Bentley and Scott have to sit there and go through 50 each?

Greenburg: No, not all of it, but they have screeners and a lot of the PAs (production assistants) on board will be screening a ton of footage, weeding out what's the gem that we have from a Pittsburgh or Washington on a daily, moment-to-moment basis. They'll be getting reports from producers in Washington and Pittsburgh as to getting that wonderful moment, that wonderful scene in the locker room, in the meeting room or in the trainers room. So we're going to have that ongoing kind of dialogue with our people in the field, and what happens is once those 100 hours come in, you have to comb it down to 45 to 50 minutes. That's the tricky part. And do it in a storytelling, flowing fashion that makes sense. Don't forget that we're following two teams. This isn't one team -- we're following two teams so we have to cross-cut from one team to the other during that 45 minutes and back again to kind of weave the story. That's the thing, they get all this film, this footage, and then they have to make it a story. You can't just put it together and say, "Here." You have to make it a story and have a plot to it. Is that, other than the editing part, the great challenge for the producers?

Absolutely the challenge. I mean, we have a lot of meetings now as to what's developing with the two teams as we've seen. Pittsburgh is on a 9-0-1 run, but they started out a little shaky and they had a little trouble in the goal. We're going to kind of look at these individual stories that surround either position play, team or player, and figure out where the gems are and where we need to focus our attention for both Washington and Pittsburgh. But as time goes on, they just materialize. You just have to have your eye open for a good story and it'll just kind of happen on its own." Can the producers on-site ever say, "OK, we've got enough?" Can they say that, or do you just keep going until the buzzer rings?

No. Cameras have to keep rolling close to 24 hours a day because you never know when the next great story is going to unfold, and if you don't have that camera on it then you've lost it forever and you can't put it in the show. So, no, you can't rest. You just can't. It's not in the formula for how we mix the show together. It takes a lot of diligence on the part of these producers to just make sure we're on it every second of the day. The players tend to ignore us after a while. It's interesting because they don't even notice the cameras. We spent four or five days in each camp already doing some intense shooting, what we call our master shoots, and by now, to be honest with you, when we hit on a daily basis in the first part of December, they're going to forget we're even there. Believe it or not the players tend to kind of say, 'Oh, here comes that camera again,' and just slough it off and go about their daily business. That's when we get our best stuff. Do you ever want a guy to just play to the camera? In the preview there is Alex Ovechkin looking straight into the camera. Do you want them playing to the camera sometimes?

Sometimes. I mean, I think it's fun if they're doing it because they want to do it. They'll never be prompted by our producers to do it, but on a daily basis they know we're there, so sometimes they'll get a little frisky, and we like frisky. It makes for good television.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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