Roddick may have his own TV show!
I know it's ATP, but this is pretty exicting news!
The Tour To Present Roddick's Reality TV
Photo By Susan Mullane By Richard Pagliaro
Reality television is coming to the ATP Tour. If you always wanted to experience life as a professional tennis player, but lacked the world-ranking necessary to compete on the circuit, you can exchange your racquet for a remote and join top-ranked Andy Roddick, Brian Vahaly and the world's top doubles team, the Bryan Brothers, to gain a glimpse of life on the Tour.
"The Tour" is a proposed new reality television series which follow the highs and lows of Roddick as he strives to sustain his prominent place at the top of tennis. The show will contrast Roddick's lifestyle and experiences on the road with those of 82nd-ranked Brian Vahaly and the top-ranked doubles twins Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.
Created by Craig H. Shepherd, who is the producer of the current NBC/Bravo hit series "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy", the show has already signed the four players as its principal participants and is seeking a distribution deal with network television.
"Andy Roddick is in the center of the latest athlete-as-rock star phenomena," Shepherd told Tennis Week.com in an interview today. "Go to a tennis match today and you see actresses like Minnie Driver, Tara Reid, musicians, models, politicians and media moguls. Tennis players have jumped off the sports pages and into the gossip columns. Look at Andy Roddick's life this week: he's practicing for the Masters Cup, rehearsing for Saturday Night Live eight hours a day, he's going to do a charity event for his mother and then he comes back to perform on Saturday Night Live. He's young, he's good looking, he's the best in the world at his profession, he's already accomplished more than most of us will accomplish in our lifetimes and he's only 21 years old."
The show starts shooting next May at Roland Garros and will follow Roddick, Vahaly and the Bryan Brothers in their journey from the French Open in Paris through their entire summer tournament schedule culminating with Roddick's defense of his U.S. Open championship in New York next summer. Shepherd, who will be on the road with the players, plans to shoot hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes footage and distill it into 12 or 13 one-hour episodes for the series.
"The Tour is essentially about life and the human element and drama inherent in the lives of these players," Shepherd said. "Reality television does this: it makes something out of nothing. A show like 'Survivor', for instance, creates obstacles for players. Our show makes something out of something: the drama, the challenge, the obstacles are already there. They're inherent in the competition of tennis and we will follow these players through each tournament and see how they handle the pressure, the fame, the demands on their time and the loneliness of life on the road. There is the tension and drama every day of competing on the ATP Tour: you win, you make money, you make your career better and go on. You lose, your salary stops and you go home."
Roddick's rise to the No. 1 ranking followed his first career Grand Slam championship at the U.S. Open in September, but the idea for the show came a year ago before Roddick's big break through. Shepherd created the concept for the show spontaneously while watching Roddick's 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Juan Ignacio Chela in the fourth round of the 2002 U.S. Open. In one of the most riveting rallies of the tournament, Roddick ran down several deep drives from Chela before finally fighting through to win the point. As the crowd exploded in appreciation of Roddick's efforts, the young American dropped his racquet to the court, raised his arms in triumph then leaped into the crowd where he spent several seconds high-fiving enthusiastic fans.
It was a single point in a tennis match, but it was the point when the power of a performance brought player and crowd together as one that struck Shepherd as inspirational.
"The one thing that did it for me was the 2002 U.S. Open, there was a long, exciting point that really got the crowd into it and when Andy finally won this point, he dropped his racquet and went into the crowd and gave the people in the crowd a high five," Shepherd said. "It just immediately struck me here's one instance when a guy single-handedly brought the crowd into this match more than any tennis player had done by his actions that were saying: 'You know what? We're all in this together. I'm playing my heart out for you and you're getting excited and it's all about us in this together.' It was incredible."
Since that match Roddick has exhibited cross-over appeal that has seen the Boca Raton resident transform himself from a tennis player to a pop culture figure who has graced the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, appeared on TV sitcoms, continued his relationship with actress/singer Mandy Moore and will become the first tennis player to host Saturday Night Live since Chris Evert this Saturday.
"Andy is already bringing tennis into a new arena and he's becoming a pop culture icon whether he wants to be one or not," Shepherd said. "The Tour will show how Andy Roddick is positioned in the media, how he handles the pressure of celebrity, fame and the choices he makes when everyone wants a piece of you. We'll see how he makes decisions and how those decisions impact his tennis career: the more popular he becomes the more demand on his time and the less time he has for tennis. This is a guy on the verge of making $30 to $50 million in endorsements the next three to give years. How do you manage that type of career and that type of responsibility at such a young age?"
The 36-year-old Shepherd has extensive experience in sports. A self-taught tennis player, Shepherd played point guard for the NYU basketball team, which played several games in Manhattan's Madison Square Garden. A former financial analyst for CBS Sports, Shepherd attended NYU's prestigious film school and began his career producing feature films, including "Edge of Seventeen". Shepherd said Roddick does not have creative control over the show's content, which gives the producers the right to select the footage that will air in the series and creates the possibility of candid moments that made such reality shows as "The Osbournes" so popular.
"I'm totally amped for this show," Roddick said in a statement. "I'm just this guy who happens to play tennis, but my life has become this circus. It's a wild ride, and I've given The Tour producers total access — except my bedroom — sorry, I have to draw the line somewhere."
Though Roddick's status as the world's premier player gives him top billing, Shepherd says a strength of the show will be in the contrast it presents in the public and private lifestyles of Roddick, Vahaly and the Bryan brothers. All four players are friends and Roddick has been close to the Bryans for years.
"The series will compare and contrast the lives and situations of the No. 1 player in the world, Andy Roddick, with a mid-level player like Vahaly," Shepherd said. "Brian Vahaly is a college-educated, likeable character who is sort of the everyman of the tour. The choices and pressures he faces are different from Roddick. And the Bryan brothers have an interesting dynamic as identical twins. I have twin sisters and I have seen first hand what they go through: they need to perform together on the court as a unit, but off the court they have their own identities and can sometimes want to kill each other. So each of these four guys has an interesting story and offers something unique. And we set all this human drama against some of the most scenic and beautiful settings in the world from Paris to London to New York. We're very excited about it."
Excitement isn't one of the feelings television programmers typically feel toward tennis in recent years. When it comes to generating significant television ratings, tennis has been more American Idle than American Idol as Roger Federer's victory over Mark Philippoussis in this year's Wimbledon final produced the lowest overnight rating in history and ratings for the U.S. Open final between Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters plummeted 52 percent from the previous year when Serena Williams beat older sister Venus. In the bottom-line business of television, numbers play a primary part in programming, and that ratings rise when American stars — particularly Agassi, Roddick and the Williams sisters — play.
Shepherd says he's not concerned with tennis' inability to register resounding ratings. Stressing "The Tour" is a show about the people who play tennis rather than a tennis show, Shepherd believes the show's success will be based on the drama inherent in sport.
"This is not a tennis show and I'm not trying to create a savior show to increase tennis viewership," Shepherd said. "This show is not just for people who watch tennis because they already watch it. This show is for people who don't necessarily watch tennis. I liken 'The Tour' to the NBC show 'The Restaurant' in that that show had nothing to do with food, it had to do with the drama and human conflict of creating a business. The Tour has little to do with tennis per se, it's based on the human tension, the excitement, the joy, the pain, the disappointment and the drama with participating on the ATP Tour. The visibility is higher, the stakes are greater, the rewards are larger and the failures are much more public."