‘Clipped’ Is a Juicy Sports Docudrama

“Clipped,” which begins Tuesday, on Hulu, is the latest gossipy sports docudrama, this time about the scandal surrounding Donald Sterling, the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers who was banned from the N.B.A. for life in 2014 after recordings of him making racist comments became public. Remember? The lady who wore the face visor?

I’m not sure if “Clipped” hopes you know the details of this story or hopes you don’t, but vague familiarity is baked into its very being: The show itself seems familiar because of the glut of sports shows that followed in the documentary and scripted footsteps of “O.J.: Made in America” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” and basketball stories in particular had a surge after “The Last Dance,” including the recent, similar “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.” Sports-related series aside, “Clipped” also resembles fellow mildly prestigious podcast-to-TV shows like “Gaslit” or “The Dropout,” and it has a similar behind-the-headlines premise to “Pam & Tommy.” (“Clipped” is based on the ESPN 30 for 30 podcast “The Sterling Affairs.”)

“This story has a girl, a tape, sports, racism, money,” says a crisis public relations manager in Episode 5. “There is something in it for everyone.” Fair enough! “Clipped” does indeed have those things going for it, as well as strong, anchoring performances from Laurence Fishburne as Coach Doc Rivers, Cleopatra Coleman as V. Stiviano, Ed O’Neill as Sterling and Jacki Weaver as Shelly Sterling.

At the show’s highs, you can practically hear a coach reminding his players to focus on the fundamentals: voice, stakes, heightening, details. It nails those aspects (and in some cases fingernails them — manicures get a lot of screen time), giving everything an admirable, almost hygienic momentum. The characters here are either smart, savvy, gifted or cruel, and they say what they mean. That’s a rarity in current dramas, lending “Clipped” a refreshing clarity. But it can also ring a little immature, and what the show gains in aerodynamics it loses in nuance and texture.

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