Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
ESPN on Wednesday announced during the first day of the Television Critics Association’s summer confab that it will air seven more new documentaries this fall on the heels of the sports giant’s successful 30 for 30 series that drew critical raves and serious viewership numbers when it aired last year. Among the titles revealed this morning were Morgan Spurlock’s The Dotted Line, Jonathan Hock’s Unguarded and Mike Tollin’s The Real Rocky. The docs will air Tuesdays beginning Sept. 27 and join another new doc-based series, Rise Up, which looks at the impact of renovated sports facilities on four high schools and their communities and begins Sept. 13.
As part of it’s new doc slate, ESPN trotted out former heavyweight punching bag Chuck Wepner — aka The Bayonne Bleeder — to meet the media at the Beverly Hilton. Now 72, Wepner was seen to be positively thriving some 36 years after shocking the world by going 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali, knocking him down and nearly pulling off a monumental upset. Now, Wepner’s unlikely life has spawned The Real Rocky, which speaks to how it was Wepner’s underdog tale that spawned the Rocky franchise and spurred Wepner to successfully sue Sly Stallone for exploiting his story without compensation; he ultimately won a settlement. But Wepner was hardly in a pugnacious mood this morning, instead regaling critics with stories from his 147-fight career and telling one questioner, “You must be living underneath a rock, sir, to not know I’m the inspiration for Rocky.” Wepner also elaborated on how his fragile facial skin would require 336 stitches over his boxing career, and how he was actually confident heading into his fight with Ali despite going in as a 40-1 underdog. “The day before the fight, I took my wife out shopping and bought her a powder-blue negligée, because I told her, ‘You need to look right when you sleep with the heavyweight champion of the world.’ The night I lost, my wife is sitting on the edge of the bed in the negligée and she asks, ‘So, am I going to Ali’s room or what?’ ”