If you are a fans of sports documentarie like, HBO’s Hard Knocks and Netflix’s Last Chance U, then I have another winner for you: Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die.
The show, which originally premiered in 2018, launched its second season earlier this month.
Spanning a total of 14 episodes (eight for the first season and six for the second season), Sunderland ‘Til I Die is a quick watch in the streaming world.
Most episodes range from 30 to 45 minutes but many seem to blaze by.
Like other sports documentaries it shows intereviews with both players and coaches. However, this show adds another layer by including interviews with executives, team staff and numerous fans.
The fans or supporters as they are called in soccer culture are almost exclusively season ticket holders. From the off we learn in season one that the team was relegated from the top level of English soccer, the Premiere League just prior to the show’s start.
In season one, they are playing in the second level of English Football, the Championship.
The cool thing about the show is how much it focuses on the supporters relationship to the team.
In fact, I appreciate seeing more than one scene of a local priest and congregation praying over the club and its success.
This is in reinforced when both fans and members of the club’s staff talk about the real-world economic impact the team’s successes and failures have on the city of Sunderland.
The heroes of the show are the fans. They want their team to be successful and hunger for a sense of relevance after a rough ten-year stretch.
Worldbuilding is key in the show just like a good novel. The people of Sunderland and those most attached to the club feel real. Nothing feels forced even though it is on some level reality TV.
As could be expected, some of the players come off less than great: including one who essentially says he’s there for the paycheck and doesn’t care if he ever plays.
Even though the show didn’t air live during the seasons it was filmed, it still holds a sense of suspense.
It makes you feel for the coaches and executives thrown into a seemingless lost cause brought on by poor financial decisions made by their predecessors.
Season two takes on a new view as the club get new owners who want nothing more than to be transparent in their approach to rebuilding the team. The results are sometimes cringeworthy and other times fascinating.
Overall, the show is a worthy watch.