July 27, 2011 – Tim Kenneally, The Wrap.com

EPSN Announces Fall Documentary Film Slate

Beginning Tuesday, September 27 at 8 p.m., ESPN Films will air seven documentary films under its “30 for 30” banner on consecutive Tuesdays, on topics ranging from boxer Chuck Wepner, the inspiration behind the “Rocky” films, to former Boston Celtics player Chris Herren, who spiraled into addiction during his playing career….”Unguarded,” meanwhile, will chronicle Herren’s struggle toward sobriety, after hitting rock-bottom. Though Herren has written a book on the subject, “Basketball Junkie: A Memoir,” the former NBA player says that this project (debuting October 18) will differ in that it will focus on his period of recovery. (Herren noted during the panel that he is approaching his third year of sobriety.)

“When Jon came along and we talked about doing this documentary, I was more interested in shedding light on addiction and shedding light on the recovery process,” Herren noted. “To me, that’s the beauty of it.”

ESPN films’ documentary slate will also include “Catching Hell” (September 27.); “Renee” (October 4); the Morgan Spurlock-directed “The Dotted Line” (October 18); “Charismatic” (November 1); and “Roll Tide/War Eagle” (November 8).

The ESPN panel also unveiled the new original series “Rise Up,” which travels to four cash-strapped schools in order to provide much-needed aid to their athletic programs.

Though NBC aired a similar program, “School Pride,” last year, ESPN executive producer, content development Joan Lynch said that “Rise Up” will take a more multi-faceted approach, focusing on the physical benefits of athletic programs.

“I think the biggest difference between our program and what NBC did is that they were more aligned with the cosmetic,” Lynch said. “ESPN does nutrition, injury prevention — it is very specific to athletic and the physical education side and the movement side.”

The series’ host, ESPN college football analyst Chris Spielman, noted that a robust athletics program also has the ripple effect of boosting morale among the student body.

“School pride still means something,” Spielman said of the students they worked with on the series. When a renovation project is undertaken, the students “sign their names to their school; they all want to do well, they all want the opportunity to participate in sports.”

The four-episode “Rise Up,” which chronicles the renovation campaigns of athletic programs at schools in Boston, Seattle, Wellston, Ohio, and Chicago, premieres on Tuesday, September 13 at 7 p.m., and will continue on Tuesdays at 7 through October 4.