Big Ten Network's "Scarlet & Gray Days: Inside Ohio State Training Camp" is no more, but what a run it was.
While the show failed to provide the hardcore, insider's look perhaps some would've liked to see, the show did unquestionably dish out plenty of net positives to Buckeye/college football faithful, the network, and even the Ohio State football program.
With mere hours to go before actual flesh and blood college is back in our lives several days a week each week until January, the timing is appropriate to have a quick post mortem of sorts. Let's take a look at the wins "Scarlet & Gray Days" delivered and better appreciate the hour and a half of college football methadone that kept us sated until kickoff this evening.
S&GD fed football hungry fans appetites -- at the most opportune time
College football's offseason is long and grueling. Even in the wake of being able to shell out hundreds of dollars on national championship memorabilia and rewatch the Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon games on DVR all spring/summer, Sept. 7 couldn't get here fast enough.
Enter a weekly, highly stylized 30-minute glimpse into the football team we've all been waiting to see take the field again.
With storylines a plenty, even without the kind of insider caliber information we've been spoiled with from HBO's "Hard Knocks", we were still able to have a narrative arc from the premiere involving some of the personalities behind the team to last night's finale, which showcased the Buckeyes getting one step closer to trying to avenge one of college football in 2014's most embarrassing losses.
While the real thing it wasn't, it was still appointment viewers for Buckeye faithful. And the numbers more than dictate it.
Per the network, the first two episodes of the short run miniseries set the ratings on fire:
Scarlet and Gray Days: Inside Ohio State Training Camp is the highest-rated August original programming in BTN history, according to Nielsen metered market data*. The Scarlet and Gray Days premiere on Aug. 19 set the BTN record, only to be eclipsed by the second episode which debuted Aug. 26 and saw a 19 percent increase in viewership.
More wildly yet, the network nearly doubled its initial run ratings with a second airing of the debut episode just days later.
There's no questioning the demand for college football in general is at or near an all-time high, and while those around the state of Ohio likely drove Nelson eyeballs, the morbid curiosity factor and thirst for football's return, even amongst divisional/conference rivals, probably didn't hurt.
We've long known BTN's "The Journey"'s to be great television, but a more targeted aim helped take things to the next level.
The show taught BTN how to showcase a single school like champs
The development of the series from a "get to know you" with current Buckeyes to a masterfully sculpted blend of cinematography/voice overs was a joy to digest.
Though probably the least happened plot wise in the show's third and final episode, there was unquestionably no better episode to look at.
The episode's cold open, discussing the importance of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry to the Buckeyes, was arguably the single best sequence of camera shots/narration in the series' run. If you're a cable subscriber with BTN2Go access, you owe it to yourself to dial that up 12 weeks from now.
We've beat the drum from day one that this wasn't "Hard Knocks" -- nor should BTN necessarily try to reverse engineer its magic -- but by the end of three episodes, the production crew behind the Big Ten's answer had come into a storytelling voice all their own.
If there was any single downside to the growth experienced from Ep. 1 to Ep. 3, it's that there's not an Episode 4 and that the previous three weren't an hour in length. And it's certainly good to have those kind of problems.
If we're being honest, it also provided Ohio State an extremely not-so-subtle marketing/recruiting coup
ESPN's own stab at showcasing the Buckeyes' training camp three seasons ago probably provided a broader audience, but never has 30 minute intervals of TV been more setup to give the OSU recruiting think tank ammunition than "Scarlet & Gray Days" was.
By no means shot as state television/propaganda, David Trichel's Ohio State athletic department video crew's probably already making super cuts of the slow motion College Football Playoff Trophy in front of OSU's water fountain, splicing in highlights and J.K. Simmons voice overs, and getting it out to recruits' inboxes.
Even from a sheer standpoint of being able to tell prospective student athletes "did you watch our TV show last week?", the defending national champions got another added advantage they probably didn't need -- but that's likely why Urban Meyer was open to showcasing Braxton Miller running fly sweeps in the first place.
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Probably the other biggest downside from the hour and a half of TV we all consumed, is the odds of the Big Ten showing like favoritism Ohio State's way again decrease exponentially. Even a difficult/improbable second consecutive national title wouldn't clinch such an arrangement, especially with a made-for-TV khaki spokesperson operating 200 miles north of Columbus.
Whether we're fortunate enough to get a second season or not, we can all agree what we witnessed was greatness in the making -- from a television perspective, at bare minimum. Now we wait and see if the football team showcased lives up to that billing as well.