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When the “Winning Time” Clipped prestige HBO mini-series was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers. it seemed like it would be a matter of time before the other team in the City of Angels got in on the action. Regrettably, the most fascinating recent narrative about Los Angeles Clippers mostly happened off the court. After years of accusing his players as if they were his personal property, Donald Sterling, who has been running Clippers since 1981, realized how flawed he was when in April 2014 a recording emerged showing him vehemently attacking his assistant/mistress V. Stiviano for being too friendly to black people (especially Magic Johnson). 

This scandal might have caused not only the Warriors throwing out LA Clippers from that year’s post-season but also started an argument about a game where white owners amass millions of dollars from primarily black player’s ingenuity. It is fertile ground for a drama series and FX’s Clipped offers some exciting ways to approach telling a complicated story about privilege, race, wealth and fame. Not all of them work—another part of this story gets more spotlight than necessary and while an entire episode flashback is ambitious it takes more than it can chew. Nevertheless, “Clipped” is full of great performances and snappy dialogue which shows that this true story is riddled with society-shaping dynamics.

The story follows three characters’ perspective; however none belongs to Donald Sterling. Sure enough Ed O’Neill (a star of Modern Family) does get to say some stuffs as an irritable old man who never really thought much about where he stood in sports slang. The picture painted here represents Sterling as a narrow-minded troll who entered into ownership just because he has money to afford it and enjoys its privileges and respectability attached thereto rather than for any love towards basketball per se. Yet these creators did not dwell long on such unnuanced character as one part of this story was unnuanced (and so was the real person). Sterling was a pig and should probably have been thrown off his perch of privilege years before he screamed on CNN that Magic Johnson had AIDS. His story is not that interesting, though.

The views from which we see the Sterling saga are those of coach Doc Rivers (Laurence Fishburne), Stiviano (Cleopatra Coleman) and Shelley, Sterling’s wife (Jacki Weaver) as the show contends she set all these events in motion by trying to wipe out Stiviano’s part in her husband’s life, thereby even suing her to get back properties received from their liaison. Naturally, Doc’s story is the most interesting, a former Clipper who was brought in to coach the team at the start of the 2013-2014 season after his success in Boston only to stumble into one of the biggest sports stories of the year. In his acting as Rivers’, Laurence Fishburne impeccably assumes an air of soft intelligence typical for a guy without whom it is impossible to find and lead men.

Certainly, the team’s players in that Clippers’ 2014 must have a say too. Indeed, the NBA enthusiasts will be anxious to overhear players’ dialogues concerning how to approach this situation; including Austin Scott as Blake Griffin, Charlie McElveen as JJ Redick, J. Alphonse Nicholson as Chris Paul and Sheldon Bailey especially as DeAndre Jordan who is shown struggling with the decision of whether or not he even wanted to be part of playoffs anymore. Strong performances are turned in by several members of the supporting cast including “Billions” vet Kelly AuCoin as Sterling’s right-hand man Andy Roeser, Corbin Bernsen as Shelley’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell, “Mad Men” vet Rich Sommer as beleaguered PR guy Seth Burton, Harriet Sansom Harris as Justine, Shelley’s ally – which one can also easily relate with. Great Clifton Davis plays Elgin Baylor, LeVar Burton portrays himself and apparently counsels Doc in their high-priced apartment building’s sauna.

If all these sounds like too much for six episodes miniseries it is because ‘Clipped’ does what few TV shows do in this era of seasons that nearly always drag on for far too long. Here there are many memorable characters and ideas that go beyond merely recalling what people remember about the Sterling drama but give us new aspects of its participants. Coleman’s take on Stiviano is very interesting particularly because she doesn’t portray her like a vengeful gold digger instead she tries to get into mind of a really weird lady that wore a face-covering visor when she talked to the media seeming not wanting to be recognized but simply desperate for some fame like Kim Kardashian.I don’t think Coleman entirely understands Stiviano although this effort never becomes boring at any moment. The trio of troublemakers in “Clipped”—Donald, Shelley, and Stiviano—are all presented as creatures of the L.A. fame circuit, with the Sterlings unwilling to leave it and V. desperate to join it. Donald Sterling’s potential dementia plays an inevitable role. Still, the show is careful not to let him off the hook while also thankfully recognizing that his ouster from the NBA didn’t solve all the racism in the Association.

The only major flaw with “Clipped” is how much time they spend spinning around several of these same drainpipes involving her Shelley by Weaver. While this is a strong portrayal, it does not have as much interesting angle on this story as writers are making us believe since they dedicate so much time to it. More time spent in the locker room or dealing with people like AuCoin and Sommer’s characters who help keep alive Sterling empire might have given a better balance towards such kind of thing. Alternatively, there was never any story that these Sterlings did not think they were at its core; hence, maybe afterall, their being so for one last time makes sense.

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