In many ways, ESPN+ has been viewed as a test for the Disney-branded streaming service set to arrive in 2019. While the deluge of live sports programming that’s been a selling point make that comparison a bit harder, there is something to be said for the other exclusive content that’s debuted on the platform along with archived programming (namely the entire 30 for 30 library). The latest produced exclusively to make its way to ESPN+ is Enhanced — a docu-series from Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney. If this program is any indication of what we can expect in terms of quality from the Disney service, consider my hopes as high as ever.
Enhanced is a six-part series that looks at a lot of big questions involving sports, athleticism, and the human body. This includes exploring the age-old “nature vs. nurture” arguments, diving into new technologies being developed to improve performance, and much more. While that premise could easily make for a dense and laborious watch, the show proves extremely interesting, engaging, and thought-provoking.
I’ll admit that I figured this would be the case once I saw Gibney’s name attached to the project. In addition to directing 30 for 30s like Catching Hell, Gibney is also behind one of my all-time favorite documentaries, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Just as Enron was a film that required viewers to grasp various accounting practices and jargon in order to appreciate the payoff, Enhanced makes the necessary science similarly palatable and worth your time. Incidentally, one could also find a connection to Enron in the way the latest docu-series dares to “ask why.”
Something else I should note about Enhanced is that, despite what the title might lead you to assume, the series has little to do with the various doping scandals that have plagued Major League Baseball, cycling, the Olympics, and other sports institutions for years now. In fact, as Gibney explains, this series was “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.” For my money, the docu-series is better for this decision as other documentaries have already covered cheating and doping to full effect.
With the entire 30 for 30 library on tap (along with some exclusive entries such as The Last Days of Knight) and now programming like Enhanced, ESPN+ is proving to be a powerhouse for, as I’d like to call it, non-sports sports programming. That said, it’s hard to say for sure how big of an impact these documentaries and docu-series are having on subscriptions. All I can hope is that ESPN+ continues to host outstanding projects like Enhanced and that the Disney-branded service follows suit.
All six episodes of Enhanced are now streaming exclusively on ESPN+.