Being Liverpool Review: TV Documentary Promises A Lot, Delivers Little
I wanted so much to love the first episode of “Being Liverpool,” but after watching it, I walked away from it feeling like I had just seen a lightweight, puff piece that taught me nothing new. Instead, it felt like a Hollywood wannabee show that was mostly constructed of laid-back interviews and back story that were pieced together to construct a story that showed me nothing new except for some behind-the-scenes walk-throughs of the homes of Liverpool players and manager Brendan Rodgers. And that was it.
Let me be clear. “Being Liverpool” is not a fly-on-the-wall documentary that will reveal any dirty laundry or show you anything that you don’t already know. It feels more like a carefully constructed documentary that promotes Liverpool Football Club. Yes, the laid-back interviews with manager Brendan Rodgers feature honest answers in regards to his expectations for the club and what it means to be in charge at Anfield. But I expected more. A lot more. Or, at least, something different than what was delivered.
First episodes are often difficult to judge since they often spend time telling the back story, or — like in pilot TV dramas or comedies — introducing the characters and setting the tone. The remaining five episodes of the documentary may be an improvement especially if they delve deeper into topics that are glossed over on the first episode.
“Being Liverpool” starts promisingly. The first few seconds of the episode takes viewers into the dressing room before the kick-off of Liverpool’s opening match of the 2012-13 season against West Bromwich Albion. Deep in the heart of the Hawthorns, with the sounds of the crowd wafting into the room, Rodgers gives a stirring speech in the center of the Liverpool staff and players who formed a circle around the Northern Irishman.
But just as the beginning of Liverpool’s 2012-13 Premier League campaign started with a lot of promise, but fell flat on its face after the losses against West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal, “Being Liverpool” does the same. It starts strong, providing us with rare footage of players and manager in the dressing room, but then falls into a warm-and-fuzzy puff piece that gives the back story of how Liverpool got to where they are today, introduces the viewer to the key characters (Gerrard, Leiva, Rodgers and others), as well as providing insight about Liverpool’s tour of North America.
It’s quite possible that the remaining five episodes of the story will delve deeper into polarizing topics, but so far, I’m not impressed. Dalglish’s exit from Liverpool was discussed in great detail in this first show, but were glossed over with relatively rosy interviews with people like John Henry, Tom Werner and Ian Ayre — essentially saying that Dalglish left on good terms and Dalglish knew it was part of the plan all along that a long-term manager would eventually be hired. Dalglish isn’t interviewed in the first episode, nor are there any behind-the-scenes footage of what was said between Dalglish and Fenway Sports Group when the Scot flew to Boston for post-season discussions. Nor is there any footage of what was said in the dressing room at the tail end of last season. I, for one, would have been particularly interested in seeing Dalglish’s reaction to Liverpool’s disappointing end to last season where they lost the FA Cup Final and lost to Fulham and Swansea. Instead, what we get is the cliche footage of Liverpool supporters biting their nails, shaking their heads and shouting their outrage in a Liverpool pub.
For my taste, there’s too much time spent in the first episode showing us the homes of Rodgers, Gerrard and Leiva. While it’s interesting to see how they live in the lap of luxury, it only serves to humanize these people — that they all love their family, and that have lives outside of soccer. Interesting, yes, but I would have either left that footage on the cutting room floor or introduced it later in the series. Instead, I would have preferred to find out more about the intricacies of Fenway Sports Group’s acquisition of Brendan Rodgers as a manager. Again, the chase to acquire him is glossed over, avoiding mention of other frontrunners Roberto Martinez and Andre Villas-Boas. I would have also liked to hear more about Liverpool’s current financial situation, and gotten an honest answer from the Fenway Sports Group regarding some of the mistakes they believed they’re made thus far at Liverpool.
What we get with “Being Liverpool” is an interesting PR piece that boosts the credibility of Rodgers and the Liverpool hierarchy, shares footage of Melwood and Liverpool footballers training there, players hanging out with each other and playing Monopoly outside of work, shows new signing Fabio Borini going through a medical exam, and shares a deep and forthright one-on-one training ground discussion between Rodgers and Liverpool youngster Jon Flanagan.
Rodgers also discusses Andy Carroll during the first episode, albeit his words are now out of date since the interview was conducted before Carroll joined West Ham United on loan.
“It’s going to take something incredible for [Andy Carroll] to leave [Liverpool] football club,” says Rodgers. The Liverpool manager went on to say that he believed that Carroll could adapt to a number of different footballing styles, and that he believed in Carroll.
Overall, “Being Liverpool” is interesting, watchable and gives a rare insight into a club that has built itself on Bill Shankly’s belief that the club shouldn’t air its dirty laundry in public, but should take care of issues behind closed doors. While “Being Liverpool” is touted as being “…The first time in football history [that] a global power opens its doors for unprecedented insider access,” the cozy relationship between FOX Sports and Liverpool (for making this TV series possible) ensures that the documentary has found a way of satisfying both sides — still keeping the dirty laundry behind closed-doors while managing to pry the doors open enough to give us a little glimpse into what life is really like inside a top flight football club.
For viewers in the United States, the first episode of “Being Liverpool” debuts Sunday, September 16 (full details here). Viewers in the United Kingdom will be able to watch the Liverpool documentary on Channel 5 beginning September 21.
Photo credits: FOX Soccer Communications.