Peacock's 2021 Documentary Series on Atlanta 1996 Is Slightly Effective
A Quick TV Review
Paired with Sisters of '96, released similarly on Peacock in 2021 ahead of the delayed Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, The '96 Effect aims to celebrate the powerful moment in sports, particularly women's sports, that the Atlanta 1996 Games provided.
For its part, The '96 Effect offers a look at Team USA's successes in women's gymnastics, basketball, soccer, and softball in Atlanta, buoyed by quick soundbites from an impressive roster of stars from then - gymnasts Shannon Miller, Amanda Borden, and Dominique Dawes, basketball players Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, and Dawn Staley, soccer stars Mia Hamm, Shannon MacMillan, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Briana Scurry, and Kristine Lilly, and softball-ers Dot Richardson, Lisa Fernandez, and Laura Berg. A theme of mutual admiration is certainly conveyed, as one team's success was noted by the others as motivation.
The '96 Effect does a good job reiterating the confluence of events that set up the Atlanta Games as the 'women's Games'. Coming 24 years after the passage of the 'Title IX' federal law that ensured equal access to sports for women in education, these were the first Games that featured women in the United States who had 'grown up' with that increased access, lending an air of competitiveness to the teams. As well, these were the first Olympics to feature both women's soccer and women's softball - luckily for the U.S., two sports where a Team USA victory was not unlikely. And, oh yeah, sports mega-marketer Nike signed its first women athletes in 1995, providing a platform of visibility just ahead of the Games not seen before.
From there, Team USA cemented an upward trajectory of dominance in all four sports, not to mention the launch of the WNBA and professional soccer.
That's all great! It's too bad then that The '96 Effect comes off much lighter than the athletes' impact. Perhaps splitting the production into three parts is probably the problem - with each chapter around only 25 minutes, there isn't enough in each to feel weight.
But on the plus side, it is fun to see the athletes comment on each other and relive 1996 for a moment. Those U.S. Games were a boon to women's sports awareness in this country. Hopefully, we'll be able to enjoy deeper looks of that in the future.