When it comes to pop culture phenomenons, so much of it is about being in the right place at the right time. The smash hit Netflix series Tiger King, for example, benefited tremendously from perfect timing when it landed on the streaming service just as millions around the world were sheltering in place amid the coronavirus outbreak.
ESPN likewise saw an opportunity with their upcoming docuseries, The Last Dance, about Michael Jordan and the 1997-1998 Chicago Bulls. It was originally set to air in early June during the NBA Finals, but after fans mobilized on social media to move up the premier date — with a little nudge from LeBron James — the producers opted for a much earlier release.
Of course, that wasn’t without its obstacles. Director Jason Hehir and his production crew had only completed three of the 10 episodes at the time, and the quarantine presented a logistical nightmare as they were forced to conduct editorial meetings via Zoom and edit the episodes in five different locations, sharing their work with one another via Vimeo.
According to Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times, they’re still in the process of finishing up the final two episodes.
Hehir believed he could finish the final episode by mid-May, so airing one episode per week for 10 weeks was discussed before the decision was made to premiere on April 19 and close on May 17, with two episodes airing every Sunday.
Contrary to the usual practice of having an entire series complete before it debuts, work on episode 9 was finished Friday and the final is scheduled to be done by May 10, as viewers watch episodes 7 and 8.
So far, the first four episodes have been a mega-hit with fans as the series offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at the iconic figures that comprised one of the most compelling sports teams of all-time, in the process managing to rekindle some bitter and long-simmering rivalries between the Bulls and Pistons of the era.
With six more episodes still to come and so much story left to tell, there’s plenty to look forward to, and Hehir has assured us that there’s a number of surprises in store. Editing on the fly like this probably isn’t the most ideal way to finish a project like this, but through the first two weeks of the event, it’s been an unmitigated success.