The Post’s Second Annual Off-Season Entertainment Guide
FC's preseason is well under way, but don't expect to see much of it. Reports thus far are that press has been excluded from training and that none of the preseason friendlies will be streamed. That means fans won't get their first chance to see the "new and improved" FC until the season opener against Austin on February 26. That’s a lot of time to kill, and a person cannot eat on transfer rumors alone.
Well, you’re in luck. Last year, I got rave reviews for my soccer movie guide, although some people couldn’t get past the fact that I had not actually seen any of those movies. Let it be known that I’m always willing to listen to reasonable criticism, so this year I’ve compiled a list of soccer-themed movies and TV shows to help you drown out the voices in your head.
And I promise, I’ve actually seen these.
Amazon’s All or Nothing
All or Nothing is an Amazon documentary series about the inner workings of a soccer team – think of it as a real-life Ted Lasso, with each season following a different team. So far, it has covered two Premier League teams: Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. (A third season, about a small team from a town called Woolwich, is coming this year.) Manchester City won the Premier League in its season on the show, whereas Tottenham
We’re probably better off not talking about what happened to Tottenham.
If you like Ted Lasso, then you’ll love The Sopranos: It’s about a working father who suffers from panic attacks and goes to therapy.
And if that’s not enough to entice you, there’s a big soccer connection:
That’s Furio, an enforcer from Italy who is a big fan of the Naples soccer team (or, as they say in Italian, Il Naples). Furio starts off as a loyal soldier, but he ends up getting in a jam when he falls in love with his boss’s wife. Mamma mia! Hijinks ensue.
The English Game
The English Game covers the struggles of a team of factory workers to become the first working-class team to win the FA Cup. It’s kind of like Ted Lasso, in the sense that it’s about a group of underdogs trying to overcome richer and better-equipped competition (OK, I admit that one’s a little bit of a stretch).
But the show’s not just about soccer. It follows the day-to-day lives of the working-class players as they struggle to make a living against a changing economy and unfair working conditions. On the other hand, we see the upper-class members of the opposing team achieve varying levels of awareness of how the world is different for members of different societal castes. You might say that the “English Game” refers not just to soccer, but also how the individual competes against the dueling forces of capitalism and class structures. (I invented this observation, by the way. If you have any thoughts about the double meaning of the series’ title you have to credit it to me.)
If you haven’t seen Mad Men, it’s kind of like Ted Lasso because it’s about a boss who is struggling with imposter syndrome. Don Draper, the Ted Lasso of the show, gets himself in and out of all kinds of entertaining jams, like the Korean War, two marriages, and a drunk driving accident. And he even has his own Nate, in the form of Pete Campbell, an arrogant young upstart who gets a little big for his loafers.
But what’s the soccer connection?
In season 5, British expat and agency partner Lane Pryce heads to a pub to watch England play in the World Cup Final. (You can tell that it’s fiction because England wins a trophy, which is a fun little thing to imagine.) Look how happy he is! That’s the face of a guy on top of the world, with nothing but great times ahead of him.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die
I’m not going to bother describing this show. It’s just here as a warning: Do not watch this if you are an FC Cincinnati fan.
You’re the Worst
You’re the Worst is kind of like if you built a show around Roy and Keely from Ted Lasso, in that it’s about a cranky Englishman (Jimmy) who ends up in a romance with a talented publicist with a weird name (Gretchen) who is just out of a relationship with a celebrity. The show is wall-to-wall laughter, and it’ll definitely not ever make you depressed about the overall emptiness of your consumption-based upper-middle-class life.
In the seventh episode of season one, titled “Equally Dead Inside,” Jimmy gets a soccer jersey from his estranged father. The gift causes Jimmy to reflect on the fact that he could never relate to his dad as a child, and that his dad still hasn’t said anything about the recent publication of Jimmy’s novel. Gretchen, turned off by Jimmy’s emotional vulnerability, tries to distract him with a threesome. Anyway, the gift of the jersey is the beginning of a multi-season arc about Jimmy coming to terms with his relationship with his family, which is really what sports are all about.
Another Round is a Danish film that won the Oscar last year for Best International Feature Film. In it, four high school teachers in a rut both personally and professionally perform an experiment: They try to see if their lives improve if they are just a little bit drunk all of the time. If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it’s kind of like Ted Lasso in that it’s about men trying to escape unfulfilling personal lives and also one of the characters is a soccer coach.
There’s also a very inspiring scene about how to deal with nerves before a test, which I think makes this movie one to watch with the whole family.
Succession follows the adventures of the Roy family (“Roy,” see, just like in Ted Lasso!) as they struggle for control of the future of the family business, which is kind of like NewsCorp meets Disney. And, just like in Ted Lasso, there are a lot of lessons about leadership and teamwork.
But I’m not recommending the show just because it’s exactly like Ted Lasso. There’s a pivotal soccer connection in Season 2 when Roman Roy, played by Kieran Culkin, buys his Scottish father a team as a birthday gift. The patriarch, Logan Roy, is a lifelong fan of Hibernian.
But which team did Roman buy? You’ll have to watch the show to find out!
So there you have it, folks, hopefully enough entertainment to get you through the season. And if you don’t want to watch any of these recommendations (or you’ve already seen them) at least you just burned however long it took you to read the article without focusing on your crippling anxiety, and that’s something, you know?