The sport that exploded in popularity in recent years has the entertainment industry sniffing around for audience interest.
Thursday night on CBS and the Paramount+ streaming outlet comes the debut of “Pickled,” a celebrity sports competition where a number of luminaries will compete in the paddle game for the homelessness charity, Comic Relief. It will be hosted by late-night gabber Stephen Colbert, as 16 noteworthy types will team up and battle for the trophy dubbed “The Golden Gerkin.”
Pickleball, which saw a remarkable explosion during the pandemic, has been in existence for nearly 60 years. It was invented in Bainbridge, Washington, in 1965 by U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard, and his friends. For decades it remained mostly a regional game, specific to that state and spreading, for some reason, to Hawaii. But gradually the sport gained enough interest that by 1984, we began to see the formation of the USA Pickleball Organization.
There is a professional team circuit as well, one that is garnering big-name involvement. Currently, Major League Pickleball features 12 teams, with four expansion franchises expected to be added next season. Tom Brady has just been announced as a co-owner of one of the new teams, with LeBron James featured with other NBA stars, as well as Drew Brees as an investor with one of the other, new franchises.
This swelling interest now has Hollywood looking into things, as well. Along with the CBS competition tonight, there are a number of upcoming documentaries that feature the sport. One already in the works is being helmed by Hollywood producer Randall Emmit (“The Irishman”, “Lone Survivor”), himself an avowed player of the game. Slated with a budget of $1 million, his doc has been filming at a variety of professional tournaments, as well as featuring interviews with founders and players of the game.
Another film was announced in October, to be made by the production company of director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”, “Hancock”). His Film 45 company will produce a documentary that will also track the current leagues, as well as trace the growth into a professional sport.
Per intel about the project, the as yet untitled documentary will use access to pickleball’s top leagues, events, players and celebrity fans to “examine the professionalization and commodification” of the sport, one that exploded in popularity amid the pandemic and continues its rise.
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) October 12, 2022
Tonight’s CBS competition is a two-hour event and will kick off with a national anthem duet by Kenny Loggins and Colbert, and will have a halftime show, with a synergy promotion made with Claussen Pickles. The lineup of stars competing will be: Jimmie Allen, Murray Bartlett, Dierks Bentley, Jaime Camil, Will Ferrell, Max Greenfield, Luis Guzman, Phil Keoghan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tig Notaro, June Diane Raphael, Kelly Rowland, Paul Scheer, Aisha Tyler, and Emma Watson.
As of yet, what is lacking on the horizon is a major motion picture. It seems a stretch that anything approaching a drama could be made, as there seems to be a lack of heavy theme attached to the game This is a sport begging for a treatment like “Dodgeball: An Underdog Story.” However, if things deliver high ratings and profitable results, it is only a matter of time before a Pickleball script will find its way onto the famed Black List of hot, under-the-radar screenplays.