A new sitcom from the writers of The Inbetweeners, Damon Beesley and Iain Morris, as with that series The First Team is a very masculine show where characters banter and insult each other and talk shit and there’s a slightly unpleasant element to it. The setting at least is perfect for such a thing as it’s all about a football team, where new signing Mattie (Jake Short) has just moved from an obscure American team in Kansas to the UK but fears there may have been a mistake as no one seems to know who he is.
The show uses Mattie as a way to introduce the way the club runs, from it’s arrogant owner Will Arnett who tediously boasts about buying a Jumbotron that’ll be bigger than the actual pitch, to chirpy but unrespected assistant coach Chris (Chris Geere), and the mysterious foreign manager Cesare (Paolo Sassanelli) who’s portrayed as a once great but now flailing manager who hasn’t won anything for the team in far too long. They even manage to get Gary Linekar and the Match of the Day team to make cameos but hopefully this won’t be a regular thing as their brief appearance proves they’re not exactly natural actors.
Then Matty gets to meet his teammates and what a motley crew they are, if the words motley crew make you think of rather thick bland types. Matty’s portrayed as a super smart individual with a real passion for the game but that doesn’t seem to apply to the rest, as dumb Playstation obsessive Jack (Jack McMullen) is remarkably stupid and Benji (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah) only seems to care about using his stardom to bed instagram influencers.
Apart from Mattie wondering if he really should be part of the club the main plot sees him slowly bond with Benji and Jack as they visit a cash and carry to help Jack overcome his fear of buying toilet paper in public, because as mentioned he’s slightly lacking when it comes to having smarts. If that doesn’t sound like the kind of thrilling and exciting storyline that you’d hoped to witness you’d be absolutely right, though it does have a vaguely amusing pay off when a couple of fans witness him buying enough rolls to last him his career and he ends up being taunted about it by the opposition’s fans during a game.
The other plotline is about Benji being pulled over by racist police officers who refuse to believe a black male could legitimately own a flash car, until they recognise Benji as playing for the local team, but his situation doesn’t improve when they learn he’s not insured to drive the car. He tries to bribe them with tickets which they accept but then still refuse to let him drive the car to the stadium, and here there’s an odd joke introduced about him not being able to take Uber’s as he pissed in to a bottle on a previous occasion, and there’s a callback to this at the end of the episode which doesn’t make it any funnier, indeed the opposite applies.
Otherwise we’re just given snippets of the lives of the players and it’s here that the show is finally sometimes funny, from the way fans treat the players (with how Mattie reacts to this being the show’s one genuine thoughtful moment) to the introduction of the one female character in the show, head of press Olivia Talbot (Tamla Kari) who’s nicely acerbic and though she tells Matty it’s her role to be his best friend she then instantly warns him “but one day I will stab you in the back”. While Talbot’s sporadically amusing it’s Mattie who gets most of the funniest lines, like his response to when Benji goes on about his Instagram date and talks about a night of “Mum-free sex”, and and a few comments concerning Jack’s unfurnished mansion made me vaguely smile, but largely it’s a weak affair, and the joke rate is surprisingly poor given that it’s a mainstream sitcom from two writers who have a hell of a lot of experience in the field.
There’s also some rather unpleasant toxic masculinity in the form of team twat Petey who’s rather angry to say the least and who grabs Mattie by the throat just for sitting in his seat, and later tries to hurt him again. From everything I’ve read about football they’re definitely downplaying the shittier aspects of being part of a major team but that still doesn’t mean it’s funny to see, and Morris and Beesley are starting to feel like one trick ponies as they’ve again produced a show about slightly rubbish men and the way they’re sometimes poorly treated by others.
Though we’re presumably meant to like Benji, Jack and Mattie only the latter is a vaguely appealing character, and a sitcom this light on laughs is odd to see. Also strange is the fact that they’ve got comedy heavyweights Will Arnett and Chris Geere onboard and yet do so very little with them, each getting one scene where the have a only slightly amusing bit of dialogue and then they’re instantly forgotten about. I’m guessing they’ll be a bigger part of the series as it continues but how many people will stick around to find is questionable given how bland a beginning this episode was.