by Jack Howes
Being: Liverpool is not an example of an unnecessary use of a colon, but the first of a planned series of ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries on English clubs. Understandably, considering their wonderful history, tradition and the club’s American ownership, Liverpool are the first club to get this documentary treatment.
The trailers and previews have shown plenty of comic potential, continuing Liverpool’s infatuation with comedy after Kenny Dalglish’s satire How To Throw £120m Down The Toilet was an unexpected comedy success with football fans around the world last season. In the little snippets shown before the documentary was aired in the UK, we saw Jamie Carragher laughing during a meditation lesson, Brendan Rodgers having (with oddly dark, almost Ceaucescu style echoes) a portrait of himself in his own house and the news Rodgers’ daughter and his assistant Colin Pascoe’s son, a model for Holister, are dating.
The documentary itself is not as embarrassing as Liverpool fans would have feared. It’s geared for American audiences, meaning it has the façade of a sugary sweet, clichéd, fairly tame look at the club. This is understandable, as Liverpool are hardly going to let documentary makers film such things as managers getting the sack, intricate talk of tactics that will provide clues to opponents, or even the secrets behind Raheem Sterling’s Garrincha-like sexual prowess.
The documentary makers in turn are not going to want to burn bridges with a program which embarrasses the club the documentary was based on, in the way The Four Year Plan made fools of Flavio Briatore and QPR, or Going for a Fiver led to Leyton Orient being ridiculed and manager John Sitton going from a career in football into a career as a London taxi driver.
Off-season documentaries are planned to focus on other clubs in future seasons, similar to how American documentary Hard Knocks every season goes from NFL team to NFL team. So next season for example we may have Being: Chelsea or Being: Manchester City.
The program starts off with a team talk, Rodgers in the dressing room before the season opener against West Brom, talking about a ‘long journey’ and how great the fans are. Brendan is the star of the show. At the start “Silver shovel” is shown in BIG LETTERS because, as he himself explains, “I was born not with a silver spoon but a silver shovel”. His hiring is marked by the narrator saying “They found Brendan Rodgers” with almost Jesus like overtones.
The program is chock full of clichés. It really is cliché-tastic, from the constant images of Anfield, to the looming camera shot of a Bill Shankly quote, to the ‘poet’ who sits in a pub talking about Liverpool ‘being a religion’.“Managing Liverpool is a way of life”; “It’s not just about winning, it’s about winning on and off the pitch” Steven Gerrard, ‘one of the greatest English players in history’ incidentally, saying “Nothing’s more important than spending time with the kids” are a few select quotes. Brendan walking round the Anfield pitch on his own, wearing his suit, looking every inch the Liverpool manager he is, classic cliché material. The X Factor’s like a Ken Loach film in comparison to all this guff.
There are some phrases though which aren’t clichés but are oddly sinister. Brendan says near the end “Every player I see as my own son”. Er, right.
The documentary may have the façade of a glitzy, fairly harmless documentary on one of the world’s great football clubs but when you watch it carefully it’s surprisingly nasty and twisted. Rodgers comes in for the worst treatment. The start of the doc starts off with him talking about how hard his parents worked, how he was born with the aforementioned “Silver shovel” in his mouth, how he had to work extra hard because he had to retire as a player at a very young age due to injury.
This image of Rodgers is what the documentary makers are pretending to make. In reality though, they carry out a pretty good hatchet job. Mixed in with the talk of his upbringing and his hard work are shots of him driving an expensive Porsche, the swimming pool in his large house, the now almost legendary portrait of himself in his own house along with garbled cliché after garbled cliché coming from his mouth.
Brendan Rodgers (to quote the excellent @LeazesTerrace on Twitter) is Brent-dan Rodgers. He comes across as a hypocrite, a chancer and a bo***cks talker. These things may be true of him, but the program has certainly been edited to make it look that way.
Though Rodgers is the star of the show, the episode does focus on many of the players. Each episode will focus specially on different players, and in episode one Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Jon Flanagan get the special super-duper treatment. Gerrard is shown with his extremely cute children in his big pad. Lucas is shown playing Monopoly with ‘best friends’ Luis Suarez and Sebastien Coates. Suarez in this game of Monopoly at least doesn’t cheat or shout at the person in control of the game for getting Northumberland Avenue when he wanted Marylebone Station. Jon Flanagan is only given a few seconds of him spouting clichés to the camera and getting some advice on positioning from Rodgers on the training pitch.
Elsewhere, there are plenty of comedy touches. Chief executive Ian Ayre having a blood red telephone. Fabio Borini answering some of the blandest questions possible put to him by the club doctor when he signs for the club. The ‘relaxation and meditation’ class showing the players laughing at first, then lapsing into players struggling to balance and the cameras editing the action to make the players looking like they’re doing Nazi salutes. You then have players on their knees, in the position ‘known as the cat’ according to the woman running the class, when a player meows and everyone laughs at the top bantz.
Liverpool’s visit to the Boston Red Sox sees Dani Pacheco (known as the bloke Liverpool fans say should always be starting but who never does) with baseball in hand, asking a Red Sox player what the ball in his hand actually is. Then you have Charlie Adam, responding to another of the Red Sox players asking if’s played cricket says “No”, and asked if he plays soccer replies “Yes. Only football”.
Being: Liverpool isn’t revolutionary or particularly informative. It doesn’t have the access of say The Four Year Plan and is mostly eye candy for the cameras. It is made like a reality show rather than a true documentary, full of plastic glitz. Some of the editing, whether it’s fairly harmlessly showing Liverpool players clowning around when in a meditation class or more seriously making Rodgers to look like a sales rep who by hook, crook and cliché has managed to become manager of Liverpool, is laughably obvious.
Still, the program is fairly watchable, has enough material there to keep viewers interested for at least another episode or two and I imagine will be keenly watched by football fans across the globe.