On Friday, Netflix released the first three episodes of its Juventus docuseries, First Team. The series will contain four episodes, with the fourth being released later this year, and was announced back in November. Details on the series were scarce at the time of the announcement, other than that it would “take viewers into the more intimate scenes of the players’ lives”.
This trailer, released last week, didn’t give us much more detail, but it did look and sound good.
Upon giving the three released episodes a watch this morning, I came away with two main opinions: “man, this series *looks* good,” and “this series really didn’t tell me a whole lot of anything.”
Juve’s on-field exploits seemed secondary to revealing more of the players’ off the pitch lives. And even then, the off the field stuff isn’t very in-depth: Gigi Buffon is old! Miralem Pjanic loves his son! Gonzalo Higuain trims his beard every 15 days, and doesn’t hate Napoli fans! Given the incredible access Netflix had (and the access *was* incredible, spending time with players in their cars, at their homes, on the training pitch, and at the stadium), I feel like they could have done a lot more than give viewers a brief glimpse into the lives of the players.
The star of the show is Buffon, who is featured prominently in all three episodes (as he should be, as Juve’s captain and the longest-serving player on the team). His future past this season comes up often, and there are all the makings of a (producer-generated) position battle between him and former Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny. Unfortunately, the first three episodes end right at the end of the Champions League group stage when Buffon was hurt, leaving plenty of uncertainty and unanswered questions going into the holiday period.
I also had a bit of a problem with the matches that were featured, as only three of the six Champions League games were discussed, and only…I would say seven of the club’s Serie A matches, not including their home win over AC Milan, or their shocking road loss to Sampdoria. I’m not sure if Netflix had restrictions on footage they could use from road grounds, or if they just couldn’t come up with a compelling storyline for either of those matches, or if something completely different resulted in their exclusion.
Whenever a player was featured in one way or another, you knew they were going to play some sort of role in whatever the next featured match was. We went to Federico Bernadeschi’s home, and then he was scoring in the final minutes of a Champions League win over Olympiakos. An interview with Higuain segued into him scoring the lone goal in a victory over his former club, Napoli. Pjanic was featured before he scored in Juve’s blowout win over Torino. I felt that it was a bit predictable at times – whenever we learned about a player, they were about to do *something*.
Some players were also curiously absent from feature segments, including Szczesny, Andrea Barzagli, and Mario Mandzukic. Maybe they’ll make appearances in the second half of the series, but it seemed a bit odd to me, especially given that Szczesny had plenty of air-time because of Buffon’s injury and that Mandzukic scored plenty of key goals in the highlights of matches shown.
Having said all of that, the cinematography of the series is incredible, and gorgeous landscape shots of Turin and Allianz Stadium are sprinkled throughout the three forty minute episodes. Subtitles are also prominent throughout the series, in case you’re bothered by that, given that nearly everyone interviewed speaks Italian.
Soccer fans, like myself, will likely end up a bit disappointed by the series because it focuses more on the human side of the beautiful game rather than the technical side. But the series does meet Netflix’s high standards for original programming, and will likely encourage any teams or leagues to work with Netflix in the future.