The excitement that surrounded HBO‘s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” during its first season seems to have waned in its second installment. While the series, which chronicles the ascent of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, garnered critical acclaim and strong ratings initially, its season 2 premiere witnessed a significant drop in viewership. Despite maintaining positive reviews, the show’s viewership decreased by 30% compared to its first season, with only 629,000 viewers tuning in for the new season’s debut.
This unexpected decline is noteworthy, especially considering the upward trend typically seen in season premieres of popular HBO shows. For instance, “The White Lotus” saw a remarkable 63% increase in viewership between its season 1 and season 2 premieres, while “Succession” experienced a 10% increase between its season 3 and season 4 debuts.
One potential factor contributing to the drop in ratings could be the criticisms leveled against the show. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a prominent figure from the Lakers team of the 1980s, criticized the first season of “Winning Time” for its inaccuracies and shallow character portrayals. Abdul-Jabbar lamented that the characters were reduced to one-dimensional traits, resembling “Lego Hans Solo [sic] resembl[ing] Harrison Ford.” The former Lakers GM, Jerry West, also expressed discontent, stating that his portrayal on the show falsely depicted him as an “out-of-control, intoxicated rage-aholic.”
Another possible explanation for the decline in ratings is the shift in focus away from John C. Reilly, who was a central figure in the first season. Reilly’s reduced role in season 2 may have deterred some fans who considered him integral to the show’s appeal. Rolling Stone echoed this sentiment in their critique of the show’s return.
However, it’s important to note that the situation might evolve as the season progresses. Previous seasons of other HBO shows have seen similar initial drops in viewership, only to rebound in subsequent episodes. The showrunner of “Winning Time,” Max Borenstein, remains optimistic about the season’s material, which delves deeper into the personal lives of key figures such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jerry Buss.
Borenstein believes that the engaging character developments and compelling storylines in season 2 will resonate with viewers. He highlighted the exploration of Magic Johnson’s new fatherhood, Kareem’s approach to parenting, and Jerry Buss’s efforts to become the father he never had. As the season unfolds, fans will have the opportunity to connect with these narratives and determine whether the show can regain its initial momentum.
While the decline in viewership is an unexpected setback, the show’s potential to mount a comeback remains a possibility. As audiences engage with the evolving stories of the Lakers’ dynasty, only time will reveal whether “Winning Time” can recapture the magic that once captivated its viewers.