Late last year we discovered the American Football documentary series All or Nothing on Amazon Prime. And as our review explained, it was a great series for new or lapsed fans to enjoy the stories behind the sport. It followed the Arizona Cardinals through the 2014/2015 season, and was enough to renew my interest in the sport of American handegg. Presumably it did pretty well (including winning an Emmy), as there’s now a follow -up. But does it fair as well in our All or Nothing Season 2 review?
All or Nothing Season 2:
As an NFL production, All or Nothing wasn’t exactly full of hard hitting shocks. But it revealed enough behind the scenes to feel like you were peeking behind the curtain a little bit.
For the second season, covering 2016, the NFL chose to focus on the Los Angeles Rams. Obviously the NFL wants to seem fair by covering more than one team. And the LA Rams was a logical choice as this was the year they returned to California after 20 years St Louis. Plus the team traded their draft picks to be able to make the first selection, with young Californian quarterback Jared Goff being signed up.
Fair, logical and pretty dramatic.
The problem is that great entertainment is rarely fairly, and often not entirely logical. The series is an almost exact copy of the first, with the LA Rams replacing the Arizona Cardinals. So once again, you’re introduced to a roster of players at various stages in their career, and a coaching team. And those new introductions mean that the continuing narration by Jon Hamm never goes deeper into the game than it did in the initial collapse.
So if you watched the original episodes, it feels a little like a replay. That’s not to say there aren’t equally fascinating stories with the Rams. Particularly the veteran quarterback Case Keenum making way for the young Jared Goff, and the struggles of the team in the face of a losing streak. It famously features coach Jeff Fisher starting the season declaring they won’t settle for 8-8, and ending up fired before the end of the year after a 4-9 losing streak.
But having started to care about the players you watched in Season 1, you now have to double that number for Season 2. And worst of all, there’s no look back at what happened since to the Cardinals. There’s no reference to the coach and players from the previous year, even when the Rams and Cardinals play against each other, and mention an ongoing rivalry.
How often does any television series repeat itself year after year with a different cast? Even quiz and talent shows generally try to continue with the same judges to provide an ongoing storyline with new contestants. But All or Nothing ignores that in favour of presumably creating a carbon copy for every team in the NFL. Which is fair and logical. But it’s also fumbling what could have been a great ongoing series as it makes it pointless to watch unless it happens to be your favourite team, or you immediately ditch it to stream every NFL game instead.
Like the LA Rams in the 2016 season, it seems like the early promise might be falling apart sooner than anyone expected. We’ll have to wait and see whether they take the same approach to the newly announced documentary series from the same team covering college football, and initially featuring the University of Michigan.
You can watch the first episode of each season for free, or start a 30-day trail of Amazon Prime to be able to see the lot.
Also published on Medium.