TV Review – “Peyton’s Places: Lights! Camera! Football” on ESPN+

Peyton Manning is one of the greatest and most famous football players of all-time. He has hosted Saturday Night Live, appeared in countless commercials and, oh yeah, won a couple of Super Bowls. Now, he’s hosting his own series on ESPN+.

The second season of Peyton’s Places is in full swing and it follows the NFL great around the country as he explores the history of the National Football League, one piece at a time. The seventh episode operates a bit differently from most of this season, as it doesn’t focus on one guest or really even one topic.

The episode opens with Peyton bringing longtime NFL analyst and quarterback Ron Jaworski to the Thomas Edison laboratory in West Orange, NJ. Peyton explains that they are there to take a look at some of Edison’s inventions that changed the game of football.

After a brief walk around the laboratory, during which Jaworski showcases his severe lack of acting talent, they arrive at Edison’s film camera. Peyton explains that this invention led to game film and turning quarterbacks into stars. The episode gets ahead of itself a bit as it jumps to an interview with James Van Der Beek about movie quarterbacks before returning to Jaworski to talk about game film.

Manning recaps Jaworski’s career a bit, from his playing days to his time at ESPN breaking down game film. The two sit down to discuss what they love about watching game film. In probably the funniest moment of the episode, Peyton brings up Hall of Fame coach Sid Gillman as someone who loved watching film more than anyone. He points out his look of ecstasy as we see a completely stoic Gillman staring into the camera.

Manning and Jaworski talk about watching film on the old Kodak Analyst and having to splice together the film when it would rip as they were watching it. They also talk about taking notes while watching film, which Jaworski points out he still has in his basement at home.

They then get into a conversation about Jaworski’s nickname: “Jaws.” They of course talk a but about the classic film of the same name, but Jaworski explains that the nickname actually came from his old neighbor and former NBA player and coach Doug Collins. The name had nothing to do with the beloved film, but Collins actually gave him the nickname Jaws because he was always talking.

Peyton and Jaws finally get to take a look at the oldest football game film in the world on Edison’s Kinetoscope. The film is from a college game between Princeton and Yale in 1903. It’s a lot of fun to actually be able to see this footage, even if there isn’t actually a whole lot to see. Peyton and Jaws provide some very entertaining commentary on the game and how much football has changed in the last 117 years.

They then break down some of Jaworski’s career as an analyst, looking first at some of his older work before getting all the way up to Jaws talking about Peyton in his time with the Denver Broncos. Peyton points out that, at the time, Jaws probably didn’t think people would be interested in watching someone break down game film. He then explains that he’s learned that people will watch anything on TV and breaks the fourth wall as he looks directly into the camera. The two then take their signature selfie and Peyton breaks it down like game film, point out Jaworski’s fake smile.


Peyton then goes from New Jersey to Hollywood to sit down with Van Der Beek to talk about quarterbacks in movies. Van Der Beek starred as quarterback Jon Moxon in the high school football movie Varsity Blues.  The actor points out that the criteria for playing a great on screen quarterback is simply a great stunt double.

Manning and Van Der Beek look through some classic football movies and focus in on the quarterbacks. They go through films like Number One, The Longest Yard, Necessary Roughness, Point Break, The Replacements and Heaven Can Wait.

Van Der Beek talks about getting the role of Moxon in Varsity Blues. He explains that, when he was in the parking lot at the screen test, he saw the director and producer driving up. Someone had a football and he immediately asked to start playing catch so they could see him throw.

Peyton asks about the playbook that was created for the movie and Van Der Beek explains that they had a football coordinator for the film who broke everything down into Xs and Os. They then look through some highlights from the film and Van Der Beek points out when it is him in the shot and when it’s his double taking the punishment form the defense.

Van Der Beek talks about his double being Peter Gardiere and Peyton immediately shows off his endless football knowledge, identifying him as a Texas quarterback. Van Der Beek explains that Gardiere was both his double and his football coach for the film.

This is another interesting and entertaining episode of Peyton’s Places. It’s certainly different from the formula this second season has been following thus far but it’s nice to break that mold every once in a while. It’s also nice when the show can bring on a guest from the world of football and one from a completely different world. That brings a little something for everyone to enjoy, whether they’re a football fan or not, and that’s where this show really succeeds.

Peyton’s Places is available now on ESPN+. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $5.99 a month and can cancel at any time.

Mike Mack
Mack is the Editorial Director for Marvel and ESPN content and he has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed "nerd."