Winning Time is just a whirlwind of benign energy. I might not know a point guard from Right Guard, a power forward from a Power Ranger, or a center from a centre, but the vibrant machismo of Winning Time manages to transcend that language barrier.
Perhaps what is most notable and welcome about “Winning Time” is its sheer sense of fun. ... While too many dramas today take viewers for granted with self-indulgent, drawn-out storytelling, through its first four episodes, “Winning Time” smartly builds each episode to a cliffhanger crescendo that, even with full, one-hour running times, leaves viewers wanting more.
For all the off-the-court shenanigans, “Winning Time” is primarily about the basketball, and the writers display a keen knowledge of the game whenever McKinney, West, Westhead, Riley, et al., are strategizing. As for practice and game sequences, the actors are convincing enough, with considerable assists from camera angles that make them appear NBA-sized and slick editing that no doubt compensated for shortcomings.
Like gawking fans, “Winning Time” is often content to just watch the Lakers chase titles we already know they’ll win. But once it starts considering all “the happy” that’s sacrificed along the way, those stakes make for a game worth watching.
The coaching catastrophes offer a compelling throughline to the otherwise limpingly paced season, cohering the massive ensemble and complementing the show’s know-it-all earnestness with its can-you-believe-this raconteurism. ... But for my tastes, McKay has entered, with “Winning Time,” an Aaron Sorkin-esque level of directorial obtrusiveness, where a filmmaker’s tics and indulgences keep calling attention to themselves, distracting from the narrative at hand rather than amplifying it.
So awful is Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty that this is the conclusion of my review, and I’ve barely mentioned that its gameplay action is monotonous and phony (it’s all alley-oops and fancy passes), its inter-squad squabbling is pedestrian, and its season-long narrative is distended to such a laughable degree that, after eight episodes, it finishes without even getting to the 1980 NBA Playoffs!