ESPN’s ‘We the Fans’ Falls Flat

Dec 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears fans hold a line of towels tied together during the first half against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears fans hold a line of towels tied together during the first half against the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports /

ESPN’s multipart documentary, We the Fans, concluded recently and the results were mediocre at best.

When ESPN first announced the eight-part ‘We the Fans’ documentary that would chronicle the 2016 Chicago Bears season through the eyes of the fans from section 250, I was intrigued. I was curious about how they would capture the rabidness that some fans have for their team and I was curious if the show would focus more on the fans’ lives or more on their fandom.

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The show focused largely around Mike Schaefer and his pending marriage to his fiance and the Tounsel family and their generational love of the Bears. There were other characters along the way, but without question, these were the two focal points of the series.

When you hear about how reality television is made, you hear about all the times producers have scenes get re-done and how they purposely stir the pot to try to make compelling television. People complain that they want their reality television to be, well, reality. But the truth is, reality is boring.

Watching fans struggle through a 3-13 season just isn’t compelling television. The show quickly became a bad homework assignment. The episodes were dull and dry and there just wasn’t much to the “drama” of the fans’ lives.

I don’t want to come across ripping the characters. Life is dull. People’s day-to-day lives just aren’t compelling. If there was a reality show based on my life, it would be canceled before the first episode finished airing.

The most interesting character on the show was probably Terry Miller, the show’s narrator who also happens to be the beer man for section 250. The show briefly went into Miller’s background, but he told the other’s stories instead of his own. This was one of many mistakes the show made.

The pinnacle of the series was the wedding show featuring Schaefer and his fiance/wife. Schaefer inexplicably agreed to a wedding in late October and it fell on the same day of game 6 of the NLCS. They tried to create drama about whether or not the wedding would be a success up against the Cubs’ game, but like anything else in the series, it fell flat as well.

ESPN kept the ratings for We the Fans pretty quiet, largely because they probably weren’t very good. The social media buzz about the show was largely nonexistent, but anyone who did bother to respond, didn’t have anything really positive to say.

The final episode of the season was a special one-hour reunion episode hosted by Sarah Spain. It was filmed very recently because the show discussed the drafting of Mitchell Trubisky. There wasn’t enough action in the first seven episodes to warrant a reunion show and the reunion show bottomed out the series.

The show ended a week ago, but I’m only now getting around to reviewing the series because the show was that difficult to get through every episode. There were so many things I could have been doing, but choosing to watch “We the Fans” makes you re-evaluate your life, that’s for sure. When I paused the final episode about 10 minutes in only to find out it was a one-hour special (every other episode was 30 minutes), it took a lot of intestinal fortitude to stick with it until the end.

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But I made it through the final episode and the previous seven so you don’t have to. You can catch up with “We the Fans” episodes on the ESPN app, but it certainly isn’t worth your time to do so. ESPN hasn’t made any announcements about whether or not they will continue the “We the Fans” series in another city, but after watching the first season with a team that’s near and dear to my heart, I can confidently say that I will not watch any future seasons of this show (if there are any).

The idea sounded good on paper, but the execution failed. There is only so much television producers can do when their content isn’t compelling. But being that they didn’t announce this show until well after the season ended, the producers would have been smart to pull the plug. It was a noble effort, ESPN, but it’s time to end this poorly executed documentary series and not subject people to another season in 2018.