Greatness Code proves Apple TV+ is in the relationship business [Apple TV+ review]

By

Greatness Code
What is the code for greatness? No one in the documentary series Greatness Code is going to tell you.
Photo: Apple TV+

There’s a reason this review only has one image in it: Apple TV+ doesn’t have any more press pictures for this show. Why? Because why should it? This paper-thin passel of hagiographies isn’t worth promoting.

Greatness Code, which debuts July 10, isn’t a show so much as it’s an investment in the big star athletes being interviewed. To say no to the project would have meant scuttling potential relationships with some of the biggest names in sports. But to admit it’s worth your time seems a bridge too far.

Greatness Code review

Gotham Chopra is a name you’ll know for one of two reasons: You’re either a diehard consumer of sports media (not actual sport events, sports media — an important distinction) or you’ve done a lot of research into the facts of the criminal cases around pop singer Michael Jackson. Chopra’s gone on at length about his role as adviser to both Jackson and Kobe Bryant, about whom he directed a documentary in 2015. Chopra fought hard to insert himself into these late superstars’ legacies, and now he’s back with this desperately inessential series on some other famous people.

Chopra serves as something of a fixer for famous personalities. Like a Scientologist, he seems to exist to tell rich and famous people that they deserve their money. Short-form docuseries Greatness Code serves as a cheerleading session for the likes of basketball great LeBron James, surfer Kelly Slater and runner Usain Bolt, among others. I mean, it’s in the show’s name: These people have the code for greatness, so of course they deserve their wealth. How else to explain it?

A sports show that’s not about sports

Chopra started a media company called Religion of Sports with football pros Tom Brady and Michael Strahan a few years ago to do stuff like this. Would it shock you to learn that Brady, a famous Republican donor, is among the athletes interviewed who possess the code of greatness?

Chopra directs the interview segments while Lauren Fisher provides animation to replay famous moments from these athletes’ professional careers. No episode runs longer than 10 minutes, and visual reference points to brands like Sprite, Gatorade, Puma and Lamborghini show up everywhere. There isn’t a word about practical technique, but there’s plenty of time to court sponsors.

The show might not be so insidious if you learned anything at all over its seven meager episodes. But if there’s a secret to becoming a good athlete, the interviewees do a good job hiding it. The closest we get is when soccer player Alex Morgan thinks hard about what makes her so good and comes back with an armful of absolutely meaningless platitudes about sportsmanship.

“Earning something, the ultimate professional, being ready for whatever’s thrown at me … When you get into that state of flow everything feels easy,” Morgan says. Cue a big animated sign over an animated soccer field that says “EASY” in huge letters. See? It’s easy when you get into a state of flow. You could do that, too, if only you had the greatness code. But you don’t. She does. And that’s why life is easy for her.

If there’s anything but money and the potential for more money at play in Greatness Code, it soared over my head like a football. Watch it, don’t watch it, it doesn’t matter at all. Apple TV+ needed to get a handshake deal with Chopra and Brady. You, the viewer, didn’t factor into this at all.

Rated: TV-PG

Watch on: Apple TV+ (subscription required)

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.