The Fab Five, the latest production from ESPN Films which aired Sunday night, earned a 2.1 rating to become ESPN’s highest rated documentary, according to the Nielsen Company. The two-hour review of the famed University of Michigan basketball team of the early 1990s topped two of the “30 for 30” films which each posted a 1.8 rating: Pony Exce$$ (aired Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, focusing on SMU football of the 1980s) and The U (aired December 12, 2009, a look at the rise and fall of the University of Miami football team in the 1980s and ‘90s).
“The Fab Five captured the essence of the ESPN Films’ mission as we launch a new series of documentaries following the excellence established by the acclaimed ’30 for 30’ initiative,” said Keith Clinkscales, ESPN senior vice president, ESPN Enterprises. “Our director Jason Hehir, capably worked with our own Jalen Rose and Executive producer Connor Schell’s team to deliver an unfiltered look at the team that changed college basketball forever.”
The Fab Five – which followed Bracketology, an analysis of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brackets, at 9 p.m. ET – was seen by an average of 2,088,000 households and 2,746,000 viewers (P2+), topping both categories among ESPN documentaries. Pony Excess had been seen by an average of 1,843,000 homes and 2,517,000 viewers, the previous ESPN high marks for documentaries.
The Fab Five was reaired at 11 p.m. on ESPN2. Between the two time slots, more than 11 million people watched part of the movie.
One of the films’ executive producers was ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose and his production company, Three Tier Entertainment. Rose, who played for six teams in a 13-year NBA career, was one of five classmates on the team, along with Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson and Chris Webber. The group entered Michigan together and started as a unit for two years (1992 and 1993), taking Michigan to back-to-back NCAA championship games. Known for their style and swagger, along with their excellent play, the Fab Five became one of the most famous – and infamous – teams in college basketball history as the team’s record was tarnished years later by charges of improprieties involving college boosters.
“Through high-quality production and storytelling, we have established a real connection with sports fans,” said Connor Schell, executive producer, ESPN Films. “The Fab Five is the latest example of the increased commitment to differentiated, original programming by ESPN Films.”