Tuesday 7 November 2023

TV review: Sunderland Til I Die, Netflix (2020)

Most people reading this blog know I’m not a big fan of soccer but this show was great. It is a docuseries that is all about how an organisation works. Sporting clubs are a little different from most organisations in that people get involved voluntarily and spend money. For most organisations people get involved because they need to and earn money.

So there’s a difference in kind from, say, an organisation like Microsoft where you might work five days a week and earn a salary. But some things are the same. I particularly liked the dynamics between the new manager and the marketing person, a woman, because organisations are often about power imbalances. Because of this they’re more interesting, perhaps, to watch in second hand than to be a part of. 

I truly felt for the fans of Sunderland, a team in the northeast of England where ‘Vera’ is made. Because of my prior association with this region (I love ‘Vera’, the crime drama) ‘Sunderland Til I die’ was doubly engaging.

Now sport is highly suited to this sort of treatment because it’s naturally photogenic. You get shots of stadiums full of fans singing. You get shows of players on the field scoring goals. You get shots of people walking into offices following disappointment. There is a lot for a filmmaker to work with where, for example, Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ is mainly happening in the reader’s head among the thickets of syntax. So I agree that even sport can be interesting for the viewer, like me, who has no particular interest in sport. 

For this reason ‘Sunderland Til I Die’ can be recommended for anyone who’s worked in an office. In the show there are tons of shots of people walking around offices. The phone calls, the late-night meetings, the waiting for people to get in touch, the bad news received just on deadline, it’s all there but in addition you get the wonderful cut-ups of players on the fields, or practicing, or travelling on a bus to an away game. I loved this show with its goofy fans and their unfathomable obsessions. 

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