The Dope Show: Showtime eyes TV series about baseball doping

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The next great pay-cable villain?

The next great pay-cable villain?

Performance-enhancing drugs in baseball have been a huge story around the national pastime for the past 15 years, from Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds in the 1990s and early 2000s to the never-ending Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun dramas of today.

But through all that, there hasn’t ever really been a major fictional representation of this phenomenon, aside from a few ripped-from-the-headlines Law & Order episodes, and that proposed movie adaptation of the Bonds expose “Game of Shadows” never got off the ground. 

Now, we’re finally going to get that, with a proposed Showtime TV series called Dope. According to Deadline, the in-development series is pitched as  “an hourlong drama about the business of performance-enhancing drugs for athletes and the doctor who popularized it in South Florida.” Ray Donovan‘s David Hollander is writing, with Michael Costigan listed as a producer; a pair of journalists associated with the Biogenesis case- Gus Garcia-Roberts and Tim Elfink- are listed as consultants.

This is the type of show that, if done right, could be incredible, but if done wrong, insufferable. While often treated with finger-wagging moralism, baseball’s drug history is actually unbelievably colorful and even hilarious. In the BALCO case of the early 2000s, you had characters like the mercurial slugger Barry Bonds, the musician-turned-drug supplier Victor Conte, and the overzealous IRS investigator Jeff Novitsky.

The more recent Biogenesis case gave us the much-hated athlete A-Rod, along with a large cast of small-time Miami criminals, and likely wrongdoing by baseball’s own investigators, who almost certainly knowingly purchased stolen documents. Then there was the part where an investigator supposedly slept with a female witness…

In the best case, Dope will amount to The Wire for sports- a look at all sides of baseball’s drug war, with memorable, multifaceted characters from all sides, whether athletes, league investigators, drug suppliers or other South Florida underworld types. Worst case, it’s a straightforward procedural, following old-school cops as they use whatever means necessary to bring down greedy, cheating athletes. The involvement of the journalists- including Garcia-Roberts, who broke the story about the stolen documents- indicate that hopefully it’ll look more like the former than the latter.

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