When ‘The Wonder Years’ Meets ‘Sportscenter’: A Conversation With Kevin Jakubowski, Creator of ‘Play By Play’
Posted on Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 by Blake Harris
If you liked The Wonder Years or The Sandlot — if you yearn for nostalgic tales told with humor, heart, and wit — then brace yourselves for the wistful joy of Kevin Jakubowski’s excellent new series Play by Play.
Set in the ’90s, Play by Play centers on a 14-year-old wannabe athlete named Pete Hickey (played by Reid Miller) and his herculean quest to find relevance as a freshman in high school. For anyone who’s survived high school, this challenge is all too familiar; but there’s one thing — even more powerful than living in his older brother’s shadow or his younger’s sister warpath — that put Pete’s journey into perilous territory: his freshman class is the school’s first to welcome girls. Which means that every sophomore, junior and senior at his school — all dudes — are gunning for the girls in his grade (and all too happy to take down Pete Hickey in the process).
Unlike most first-person narrated coming of age stories, Play by Play was created with a twist: the narrator (who, as with shows like The Wonder Years or The Goldbergs, is unseen) is a present day anchor on Sportscenter; so the narrative on screen — the trials and tribulations of young Pete Hickey — is presented in a way that feels like highlights to a sports game.
The show, which premieres today on Go90 (Verizon’s freely available streaming service) is ambitious, endearing and consistently clever. Which is probably why Play by Play has already been picked up for a 2nd and 3rd season.
To learn more about how this show got made, I sat down with creator Kevin Jakubowski to discuss how Play by Play came to be. We also talked about the blacklist script that launched his career (The Assassination of a High School President), his script-turned-novel about the magic of Nintendo (8-Bit Christmas) and how a sport called Hurling changed the trajectory of his life…