It was a sign of how far we’ve come since the 1990s when, after finishing the first two episodes of The Last Dance – a much-anticipated Netflix/ESPN limited TV series about Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls – I told my husband, “O, i-play mo na yung susunod” (Play the next episode) and he replied, “Walang susunod, next week pa” (There’s no next episode, wait until next week), I was momentarily taken aback.
What? In this age of Netflix’s autoplay-the-next-episode and real-time news feeds, they’re making us wait*?
But wait we did. It evoked faint memories of other, small intervals of anticipation:
… minutes, for Donita Rose to play my request on MTV Most Wanted (there was no YouTube replay option back then, I either heard the song or didn’t),
… hours, for my favourite cable channel cartoons those early Saturday mornings (no alarm clock needed!),
… years, for the next Harry Potter book to emerge from J.K. Rowling’s imagination (excruciating, when I devoured the latest instalment in mere days).
I’m not a basketball fan, by the way. Unlike my husband, a.k.a. Hub, who watched the series like it was a ‘greatest hits’ reel. The Shot, The Flu Game, The Shrug, The Last Shot – he’d seen them all before.
But The Last Dance remained a compelling watch, especially for me seeing most of the behind-the-scenes dynamics and winning shots with fresh eyes. Jordan’s career followed the classic storytelling arc – a solid beginning (a hungry and talented athlete eager to win the NBA championships), crises in the middle (Jordan’s father’s murder, his alleged gambling controversies, tensions with Krause as team GM), and the final redemption (winning his last NBA season proving all the naysayers wrong).
There were moments in the series that left me emotional – that scene where Jordan bawled on the floor after winning a Father’s Day game following his dad’s death felt so raw, I felt like I — along with the rest of the world — shouldn’t be watching. It felt so personal.
All the elements of a good TV drama, right?
The Last Dance, for me, will forever be linked to our early days in partial ‘lockdown’ here in Singapore. The last episode aired two weeks shy of the circuit breaker period ending.
We couldn’t step outside. Working from home and managing home-based learning for our kid blended the days and weeks into each other, though I recognise the privilege of having these options.
Hub and I needed a break and The Last Dance was a welcome distraction. It was a good feeling to have something to look forward to every Monday that was not related to what was going on in the ‘real’ world.
The world the series inhabited couldn’t be further apart from today – the 1990s vs. the 2020s – and the nostalgia of looking at images from my childhood was jarring, to say the least. I can’t think of anyone nowadays who can unite people across cultures the way Michael Jordan did in his heyday (maybe Tom Hanks?).
These days the world seems to be breaking apart at the seams, with no redemption arc in sight.
Think critically dear readers,
* Strange as it may be, I’ve only ever consumed TV series once all the episodes are out. Game of Thrones, WestWorld, The Wire – you name it, I only watched when the season was done. Not a good strategy if you want to avoid spoilers though.