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Archive for Saturday, April 21, 2012

‘Franchise’ steps up to plate

April 21, 2012

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Showtime airs a sneak preview of “The Franchise” (8 p.m.). The second season officially starts on July 11. This year, the half-hour documentary series will maintain a season-long focus on the owners, players, coaches and manager of the Miami Marlins. The team sports a new stadium, a new name (it was formerly the Florida Marlins), several marquee players (including ex-Mets shortstop Jose Reyes) and the colorful and opinionated Ozzie Guillen, who is in his first season as the team’s manager.

Guillen is to “The Franchise” what New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was to HBO’s preseason football series “Hard Knocks” a few seasons back. Both men are profanity-spewing, headline-generating machines. And it’s never quite clear if either man is an inspiration or a distraction to his team.

Guillen runs into a media buzzsaw before the first half-hour of “Franchise” concludes. After Time magazine quoted Guillen as saying he “loves” Fidel Castro and admires him for clinging to power, the manager discovers that he has touched — perhaps tap-danced — on the third rail of South Florida politics. When local leaders and horrified Cuban exiles called for his head, the Marlins decided to suspend him for five games.

Everyone quickly learned that there are limits to the practice of controversy-as-publicity. And we were all reminded that more than 50 years after the Cuban Revolution (depicted most recently on the Starz retro series “Magic City”), a nuanced public conversation about Castro and Cuba remains all but impossible.

Today’s other highlights

• BBC America celebrates Earth Day with a weekend-long marathon of “Planet Earth” (5 a.m. Saturday to 8 p.m. Sunday).

• John Walsh hosts a two-hour “America’s Most Wanted” (7 p.m., Fox) special.

• Daniel Radcliffe hosts “Saturday Night Live” (10:30 p.m., NBC), featuring musical guest Lana Del Rey.

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