ESPN launched its subscription streaming service ESPN+ back in April of this year. Now the company will feed its fledgling streamer the type of compelling docuseries that all streaming services crave.
Enhanced is a six episode docuseries that explores the world of modern sports training, technology, recovery, and other sports sciences from acclaimed documentarian and ESPN 30 for 30 alum Alex Gibney via his Jigsaw Productions imprint. All six episodes will premiere on ESPN+ on Monday, July 16.
“We’ve been talking to Alex for years about making something like Enhanced– an edgy, forward-looking collection about the limits of the human body – and are so grateful to have worked with him and the talented roster of directors on this docuseries,” Vice President of ESPN Films and Original Content Libby Geist said via release. “It’s a fresh new format for ESPN Films and we are continuing to push our own storytelling boundaries as our projects take on different forms.”
The six episodes of Enhanced will cover six different aspects of modern (sometimes terrifyingly dystopian) sports science and be directed by six different directors.
“Skill” comes from Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and explores the old argument of nature vs. nurture. “Algorithm Wars” is directed by Jesse Stewart and checks in on the analytical revolution that transformed baseball a decade ago. “Mind Gurus” is directed by Paul Taublieb and examines modern mental training techniques. “Power” from Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi covers steroid use. “Endurance” from Paul Taublieb will try to determine the human body’s limits. Alison Klayman’s “Recovery” will deal with…well, recovery.
The concept of six directors tackling six related topics is similar to the strategy Gibney deployed with the Netflix docuseries Dirty Money. Dirty Money dealt with corruption and greed in six different forms, with six different perspectives behind the camera, all curated and produced by Gibney.
Gibeny is best known for feature documentaries like Enron: The Smartest Guysin the Room and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. He’s no stranger to the sports world having directed ESPN’s second ever 30 for 30 documentary film Catching Hell, which detailed the tribulations of cursed Cubs fan Steve Bartman.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the will to win – often at any cost – as well as the scientific and ethical issues surrounding the attempts to push the body beyond natural limits,” Gibney said in a statement.” But in Enhanced, there was also an opportunity to look beyond doping and changing the contours of the body to attempts to change the architecture of the mind in order to increase performance.
“Ever since Catching Hell, I have been talking to Libby, Connor (Schell) and the folks at ESPN Films about doing something on this. And since the beginning of The Armstrong Lie, Dan Coyle and I have been getting together for beers (the original enhancement drug at the Tour de France) to bat around these ideas. I’m delighted that ESPN gave me and the team the opportunity to explore.”
Stacey Offman, Brad Herbert, Issac Bolden, and Rich Perello will executive produce the series alongside Gibney. The episodes will feature interviews with sports figures such as Portland Trail Blazers basketball player C.J. McCollum, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, New York Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances, Seattle Reign soccer players Megan Rapinoe and Bevery Yanez, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and others.