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ESPN's '30 for 30' offers profile on Lance Armstrong

Posted 5/22/20

By Kevin McDonough

"30 for 30" (9 p.m. Sunday, ESPN, TV-MA) offers "Lance," a two-part series (concluding Sunday, May 31) profile that offers frank interviews with disgraced Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. The makers of "Lance" get right …

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ESPN's '30 for 30' offers profile on Lance Armstrong

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

"30 for 30" (9 p.m. Sunday, ESPN, TV-MA) offers "Lance," a two-part series (concluding Sunday, May 31) profile that offers frank interviews with disgraced Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. The makers of "Lance" get right down to business, asking Armstrong and his colleagues when they began illegal doping, and pinning Armstrong down on the details of his settlement of a lawsuit with the post office, one of many entities that felt defrauded by his cheating.

While the details of his rise and fall are relatively well known, "Lance" is best appreciated as an examination of the kind of personality that emerges from early sports stardom. Not good at traditional sports, Armstrong quickly excelled at swimming and then triathlons before focusing on cycling.

Is the single-minded focus required to become an elite athlete at odds with the aims of becoming a well-rounded individual? One person after another comes forward in "Lance" to extoll the subject's excellence and at the same time describe his selfish obnoxiousness. During his interviews, he comes across as frank and often charming. Journalists interviewed here warn viewers from the get-go that he will do anything to bend the narrative in his favor.

An interesting subplot emerges when young Lance becomes an international competitor in what is largely considered a European sport. There's something amusing about watching his brash young team relocate from Texas to Italy's Lake Como, a posh resort for the well-heeled.

Cycling experts offer an interesting analysis of how each European country produces champions that reflect national traits, from the methodical discipline of the Germans to the stylish hauteur of the French. Americans, and not just Armstrong, are simply considered "weird" for having rejected such "American" sports as football and basketball to compete on a European field.

Lance Armstrong is not easy to like, but "Lance" delivers. It's a character study that lives up to its billing.

• ABC repeats the first two installments of the ESPN documentary miniseries "The Last Dance" (Saturday 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., TV-14), recalling the drama of the Chicago Bulls 1997-98 season as the team attempted to win a sixth NBA title in the span of eight years. The series recalls how much Michael Jordan dominated coverage of the game and his place in society and pop culture, and profiles the supporting "cast" of players, including the durable Scottie Pippen, the "colorful" Dennis Rodman and coach Phil Jackson, whose description of the season gives the series its title.

Given the absence of live competition, "The Last Dance" has become more of an item for the sports pages than a mere television column.

• The 2019 horror satire "Ready or Not" (8 p.m. Saturday, HBO) turns the Hallmark movie on its head. A pretty bride (Samara Weaving) marries into a wealthy family who appear to be living the dream.

Only this Cinderella discovers one weird catch: The family follows a tradition of hunting down one member of the wedding party with medieval weaponry. And she's drawn the wrong card.

A critical hit that earned many times its modest budget, "Ready" was hailed as a horrific take on the wealthy at their worst.

With so many real examples of greed and inequality, why manufacture something so monumentally contrived?

The same could be said of "Snowpiercer."

• Gary Sinise hosts the 31st annual broadcast of the National Memorial Day Concert (8 p.m. Sunday, PBS, TV-PG, check local listings), featuring appearances by Gen. Colin Powell, Cynthia Erivo, Renee Fleming, Sam Elliott, Laurence Fishburne, Trace Adkins, Mary McCormack, Esai Morales, CeCe Winans, Kelli O'Hara and the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jack Everly.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the traditional live concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol will not be held.

SATURDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

• The voices of Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet and Louis C.K. animate the 2016 comedy "The Secret Life of Pets" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).

• A husband owns up to killing his pregnant wife and two children in the 2020 shocker "Chris Watts: Confessions of a Killer" (8 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).

• A methodical writer falls for the surfer dude next door in the 2017 romance "Love at the Shore" (9 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G).

SUNDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS

NASCAR Cup Series (6 p.m., Fox).

• "60 Minutes" has been pre-empted for the 1997 epic "Titanic" (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

"Vice" (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-14) investigates COVID-19's impact on an isolated Iran.

• Jackie thinks she has a lead on "Hightown" (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).

• Layton uses his status as detective to help the cause on "Snowpiercer" (8 p.m., TNT, TV-MA).

• Konstantin feels the pressure on "Killing Eve" (9 p.m., AMC, BBC America, TV-14).

• An encounter with an old classmate rattles Dominick on "I Know This Much Is True" (9 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

• Lyn shirks her duties on "Vida" (9 p.m., Stars, TV-MA).

• A vacation ruined on "Insecure" (10 p.m., HBO, TV-MA).

• The investigation takes a new turn on "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" (10 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).

CULT CHOICE

Does "Caddyshack" (8 p.m. Saturday, IFC, TV-MA) explain everything? Many supporters of the current president feel that they supported a rebellious upstart like Rodney Dangerfield's character, a rule-breaking shock to the system. His detractors believe that those same people have actually elected Ted Knight's character, an entitled, country-club elitist, a bully and a cheat. Those who identify with Bill Murray's character probably didn't vote at all. The Chevy Chase demographic is probably up for grabs.

SATURDAY SERIES

Kidnappers seize Murdoc's son on "MacGyver" (8 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * One step at a time on "Flirty Dancing" (8 p.m., Fox, r, TV-PG) * A teen escapes her captors on "Magnum P.I." (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) * Suitors vie to be considered daddy material on "Labor of Love" (9 p.m., Fox, r, TV-14) * "48 Hours" (10 p.m., CBS) * A vintage helping of "Saturday Night Live" (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14) * Los Angeles faces a possible missile attack on "The Rookie" (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14).

SUNDAY SERIES

"Little Big Shots" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-G) * "Celebrity Family Feud" (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) * A woman discovers her family's legacy on "DC's Stargirl" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG) * "The Wall" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) * "Press Your Luck" (9 p.m., ABC, r, TV-PG) * Dreamer goes above and beyond on "Supergirl" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) * "Match Game" (10 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14).

© 2020, United Feature Syndicate