SAN FRANCISCO – When documentary crews began trailing Barry Bonds for his ESPN reality TV show, the idea was to capture intimate behind-the-scenes moments of the slugger as he chased Hank Aaron's homer record.
But production took a hard turn last month, after two San Francisco Chronicle reporters detailed Bonds' alleged steroid use in their new book, "Game of Shadows," and Major League Baseball launched an investigation into accusations its top athletes, including Bonds, used performance-enhancing drugs, Joan Lynch, executive producer of ESPN Original Entertainment, said Monday.
Now, Tuesday's premiere will show a far different profile of Bonds — embroiled in scandal as he pursues one of baseball's most coveted milestones.
"We aggressively made sure the news was part of the show," Lynch said. "We really lucked out in our access to him at this time and his candor for him wanting to tell his story and wanting to have his say."
The show, called "Bonds on Bonds," will debut at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN2 and will offer weekly behind-the-scenes access this season to Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. He is 48 home runs away from breaking Aaron's career record of 755.
The show ignited fierce debate within ESPN over how to handle material revealed as news broke around Bonds with camera crews in tow, Lynch said.
Some executives were worried the network's business relationship with Bonds would create the appearance of a conflict of interest and would harm efforts to report fairly on him.
The entertainment division contracted production of the show to Tollin/Robbins Productions, an independent film company, which agreed to split profits with Bonds.
To maintain independence, the entertainment division will keep all show material secret from the news department until the air date to avoid the appearance of paying for access to Bonds, Lynch said.
"We had to draw a line in the sand," she said. "This is a well-produced show, but it's very balanced. We let the viewers decide for themselves."