The network has ordered a handful of episodes of the program. The first episode for HBO was shot last week in Los Angeles at West Hollywood’s Barber Surgeons Guild and will air August 28th at 11 p.m.
It features James and Carter in conversations with rapper Snoop Dogg, as well as athletes: Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr., Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker and comic Jon Stewart.
“This show is real, it’s candid and it’s the essence of conversation,” James says. “And we know with social media and text being the way people communicate, the form of conversation, actually talking, is kind of lost art.”
Each episode will have a mix of celebs set in the barbershop for frank discussions about current events while cameras roll. The conversations will then be whittled down to 30-minute episodes.
“When I was a kid, being in barbershops meant listening to adults talk about sports, clothing, politics, music, everything happened in the shop,” says James. “It was so real and so candid; no one had a sense of, well I can’t be myself here. That’s how The Shop became an idea.”
James is expected to appear in at least the first three episodes of The Shop. HBO Sports has left the episode order vague given James’ other commitments, like playing in the NBA. For now, it is unclear when the second episode will air.
For HBO Sports, where the staple is live boxing, ‘The Shop’ is the latest effort to broaden its sports programming.
“Sports for us is really about a lens into socioeconomic, political, cultural issues and ideas around virtuosity in competition,” says Nelson.
It’s what is reflected in programs like the long-running investigative series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel as well as more recent efforts including Bill Simmons’ Andre the Giant documentary..
In a statement, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler characterized James as “a transcendent figure, not just in sports but in American culture. The Shop creates a vehicle to hear LeBron’s voice on a range of subjects that we know will be engaging and compelling.”
Randy Mims and Paul Rivera, who are among James and Carters’ business partners, first proposed the idea for The Shop. The first episode was filmed at a barbershop in Toronto during the 2016 NBA All-Star Game weekend with a second the following year when the All-Star Game was in New Orleans.
After that, conversations with HBO Sports began in earnest. (The New Orleans episode was optioned by ESPN as a one-off; it featured Charles Oakley, Draymond Green, Steve Stout, Rich Paul and 2 Chainz and his dog Tappy.)The HBO deal does not include the archive episodes, which are no longer available. New episodes will premiere on HBO and also be available on HBO Now, HBO Go and HBO’s on-demand and partner streaming sites.