With March Madness now underway, let’s look at three TV series focusing on high school basketball coaches.
Decades will host 43 hours of The White Shadow this weekend.
This 1978-1981 CBS drama starred Ken Howard as the white coach of a largely black, inner city high school basketball team. Over the course of three seasons and 54 episodes, the kids, with names like Morris Thorpe (Kevin Hooks), “Hollywood” Hayward (Thomas Carter) and “Salami” Pettrino (Timothy Van Patten), encountered, per Wikipedia, a wide range of usual teenage – but not, at the time, television – problems. These included illicit drug use, child abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, gambling, prostitution, sexual orientation issues, and physical and mental disabilities.
The Decades binge – from noon ET, Saturday, March 20, through 7 am, Monday, March 22 — will start with The White Shadow’s pilot, which garnered a directing Emmy for former child star Jackie Cooper (a nine-year-old Oscar nominee for 1931’s The Champ).
In the episode, injured Chicago Bulls forward Kevin Reeves (Howard) is forced to retire and gets offered the coaching job in Southern Los Angeles by a former college teammate (Ed Bernard), who’s now the school’s principal.
You can stream the first 25 episodes of The White Shadow free at Uncle Earl’s Classic TV Channel.
You can find the complete Decades White Shadows weekend schedule at decades.com/binge, and find your local Decades channel number – either free over-the-air via antenna, or on cable — on the network’s Where to Watch page.
But what about The Waverly Wonders?
While very few TV series have centered on basketball – whether high school, college or pro — another high school basketball show also premiered in the fall of 1978, but was already gone by the time of The White Shadow’s November debut. NBC’s The Waverly Wonders – a comedy starring recently retired football star Joe Namath as a washed-up pro basketball player now coaching a hapless high school team (but a fairly progressive one – its best player is a girl) – was cancelled after airing just a handful of episodes.
The Waverly Wonders is not streaming anywhere.
Big Shot is coming soon.
Disney+ subscribers can stream the upcoming series, Big Shot. The 10-episode dramedy, debuting Friday, April 16, stars John Stamos as a fired temperamental college basketball coach who gets hired to coach at a private girls’ high school. Be prepared for a fish-out-of-water show a la Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso.
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