The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (season 2)

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (season 2)

Happy New Year and welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Back at the start of 2022 I reviewed the first season of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, now I open up the new year with a look back at season 2.

Key facts

Episodes 10

Released in 2022

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Lauren Graham, Brady Noon, Josh Duhamel, Maxwell Simkins, Swayam Bhatia

Synopsis When the Mighty Ducks are accidentally invited to an elite summer performance camp in California, they must try to find the balance between fitting in and having fun, while Evan Morrow finds his relationships tested as he looks to prove himself worthy of recognition from the camp’s creator and further his hockey career.

Review

“If season 1 has set the show up well, season 2 feels crucial right now for the longevity of the series.”

That’s how I finished my review of season 1 and look ahead to season 2. Season 1 did a great job of establishing the characters and the team, but the loss of Emilio Estevez (reportedly due to creative differences and a contract dispute) had me worried. Well my fears were proved true: this season lacked the Bombay/Ducks magic.

It very much felt like the writers knew that they wanted Estevez back too, as rather than just carry on by going into the next season, the show was put into a holding pattern by sending them away from Minnesota and to a summer camp in California, allowing them to conveniently explain away Bombay’s absence while leaving the door very much open for a season 3 return. But what it also did was press the reset button, as it went from the Ducks having just proved themselves as the top teamin the district to being the zeroes at the camp, while the characters also appeared to reset to a degree (at least those who appeared, some of the Ducks mysteriously disappeared with no explanation), with Evan once again trying to balance his friendships with the allure of playing for a better team to learn from a better head coach, Alex back to focusing on fun rather than hockey, while Sofi felt like about the only player who continued to progress from last season as she looked to build on her new freedom and reduced responsibility. Meanwhile, it felt like may of the other Ducks were just left for schtick as focus was given to new characters, notably Josh Duhamel’s Coach Cole, Naveen Paddock as Jace Cole and Connor DeWolfe (who you may know from his Tik Toks about his ADHD) as A.J. Lawrence and a host of other supporting characters who are likely to be one-and-done due to the summer cam setting.

Even more disappointing was the lack of historic Duck presence, surely again impacted by COVID affecting filming, as we were left with a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Fulton Reed and Dean Portman in the opening minutes of the first episode—honestly it was just thrown in there in such a way, my brain didn’t even click that the character with Fulton was Portman until their scene was already over! To make it worse, the series even feels like it is setting up another historic Ducks appearance towards the end of the season to get the new team firing, but it instead ends up with a random nobody telling and showing Alex how the Ducks found their own way to play. Maybe for an audience new to the series it works, but for someone who grew up on the trilogy of movies, this was disappointing.

However it wasn’t all negatives. The games of ice hockey were pretty good (on the rare occasions we got some), and there were some fun moments, while Rich Eisen being the commentator for the matches was a real highlight for me. But to me, the best bit of the series was the story of the Coles and the arc that father and son went on. Yes it was a bit ham-fisted at times and ace’s character grated for a little in the third quarter of the show, but everything ame good and we got a beautiful emotional resolution to their arc. I hope the pair do return in the future, though I’m not sure how it would work.

A few final thoughts on the series:

  • A quick scene that hinted at a potential missed romance for Nick felt completely out of place. I don’t know if I’m as oblivious as him, but I saw nothing during the 2 seasons that had hinted to that being a possibility.
  • The final 2 episodes saw the return of a character from season 1 that made no sense at all given that there is only meant to be a couple of months between the 2 series, and I don’t even understand the need for it as a new character would have worked equally well.

The Future

As of the time of writing, a third season has not been announced, but I would be shocked if Disney does not continue with this franchise at least for 1 more series.

And if it gets that chance, it needs to start moving forward. To me, this show needs Estevez to return, but if that can’t be worked out, the show needs to confidently move forward without him, and an ideal world then would probably see Joshua Jackson return as Charlie Conway to fill the Estevez/Duhamel spot, or at least see more inclusion of the historic Ducks.

The kids are at that perfect age to look at so many personal storylines. We’ve already had one romance within the team, and I think tha romance and sex and puberty could become even more prevalent in the stories as the players go through their teens, while they can also have other pressures associated with growing up in your teens. Similarly with a racially diverse cast and some LGBTQ+ relationships already set up, the show could also look to address important issues like racism and homophobia. But there is also an opportunity here to put the Ducks in a position that we have never really seen them in before: on the top of the pile; the hunted rather than the hunter. For this we would need to see an improvement in Alex’s character to become a better coach, bu could lead to some great situations, as wins would be expected now, but personal issues or on-ice issues (such as a return of Sofi’s knee injury) could cause the team to lose.

For me, there are enough opportunities for a season 3, especially considering the issues that the cast and crew had to contend with for season 2. But season 3 now feels like it could be make or break for the franchise.

What did you think of this series? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!


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Welcome To Wrexham

Welcome To Wrexham

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today, I will be looking at the series Welcome to Wrexham

Key facts

Released in 2022

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney, Humphrey Ker, Wrexham A.F.C.

Synopsis In September 2020, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney announced their intention to buy Wrexham A.F.C., a Welsh football (or soccer to the Yanks) club playing in the National League, the fifth tier of English football. This series follows the actors’ purchase of the club, before following them through the remainder of that season and the whole of the next one, as they look to earn promotion from the National League, where they have played since their relegation from League 2 at the end of the 2007/8 season.

Review

Sporting documentaries following a team through the year are growing in popularity following the success of series like Sunderland ‘Til I Die and Formula 1: Drive to Survive, and while Welcome to Wrexham is another in the growing list of these documentary series, it is not just that, and that is due to the main men: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

You may know Rob from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a comedy series which he created and co-developed and on which he serves as an executive producer, co-writer, and occasional director, while also playing the role of Ronald “Mac” McDonald. And Ryan Reynolds… well, enough said there. And their personalities are clearly on show throughout this series, as they will provide voice-over for the series, so even episodes that barely feature them in the story still benefit from their involvement and help to make this a series that will attract viewers who wouldn’t usually look at a sporting documentary like this. And yet while their influence on the series is huge, they don’t take over the show, allowing a number of people affiliated with the club—including manager Phil Parkinson, players, staff and local fans—to all have their own part in this show that is equally important.

And even more than that, Ryan and Rob have had the foresight to know that this show will bring in a lot of viewers, especially in the USA, who won’t understand soccer, british slang, the English football league structure or have ever heard of Wrexham, or even Wales for that matter! And so the show does a great job of explaining things like the league structure, promotion and relegation with quick, simple graphics and explanations that allow the uninitiated to get the info they need without taking too long and making die-hard fans mentally switch off, while they will also take the time to give American translations to certain British words to help avoid confusion, such as “pitch” and “quid”. But even as a Brit, these quick translation breaks don’t feel annoying as they fit the tone of the show, as we have 2 Americans who are new to soccer taking over the club, it just feels like part of their learning process, while the show actually still taught me in these moments by including the Welsh translation.

And this is what I really came to love as the show went on. It is clear that Rob and Ryan respect the community and don’t just see this as a way to earn some extra clout, and that comes through as we see Rob learning Welsh, while the Welsh translations being included lead to an episode mid-way through the series that puts the sporting narrative on hold and instead takes 30 minutes to teach the audience about Welsh history and culture. This show isn’t just gaining Wrexham A.F.C. more fans, it’s putting Wrexham and Wales on the world map.

Of course in all this, I haven’t really mentioned much about the sport side of things, and some die-hards may sometimes wish that we got a bit more of a sporting focus, but that is not the aim of this series, as it instead shows just what goes into owning a club, while I’m sure that season 2 may start to focus on the sporting side a little more now that the team and players have been introduced to the masses. But that is not to say that those stories are not there in season 1. We see the pressure Phil Parkinson is under after early struggles, we see the impact of star striker Paul Mullen, the loss of star defender Aaron Hayden and keeper Rob Lainton to injury. We see a cup run that ends in Wembley heartbreak and a league campaign that ends in crazy fashion. And yet we still have time to look at the role of hooliganism in football after an incident following a game, the role that football can have in male relationships, and even does a great job of finding the right tone to address one of the players going through the heartbreak of his son being stillborn.

This is a show not to be missed, and it says a lot that in a month where there were so many major shows coming out on streaming, I was equally excited for new episodes of this as I was for House of the Dragon and Andor, and more so than She-Hulk and Rings of Power—something that I would never have expected ahead of time as I am such a massive geek!

My highlight of the series: Phil Parkinson’s “enthusiasm counter” during his team talks.

What did you think of Welcome to Wrexham? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Man in the Arena

Man in the Arena

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today, I will be looking at the documentary series Man in the Arena

sport screen man in the arena tom brady

Key facts

Seasons 1

Episodes 9 (currently)

Status 1 more episode in production

Released in 2021

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Tom Brady

Synopsis A documentary series looking back through the career of Tom Brady, focusing on each of his Super Bowl seasons with the New England Patriots (with an episode planned for his Super Bowl run with Tampa Bay) looking at the iconic moments in Brady’s own words and with input from other people who played a key role.

Review

As someone who has paid some form of attention to the NFL since the mid-noughties and has closely followed the league since the 2009 season, a constant in the league has been Tom Brady. The undeniable GOAT, Brady’s achievements are incredible and deserve respect, but are made into an even better story when you remember that he was a sixth-round draft pick!

As such, I’ve always enjoyed documentaries about Brady, but this one still managed to leave me pleasantly surprised. While the name and poster would make you think it is all about Brady, the actual series feels on the whole more like a documentary about the Brady-era Patriots, with heavy focuses on some of the other influential players of the time, such as Drew Bledsoe, Willie McGinest, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, as well as input from some of the big names Brady faced in the Super Bowl (Michael Strahan and Richard Sherman). In fact, it is only really episode 7 that felt like it was really focused more on Brady, as it featured his family and looked back at a season during which his mother was going through treatment for cancer, while parts of episode 8 also focused on his relationship with the controversial Alex Guerrero.

Though I will admit that I haven’t seen many documentaries on the NFL, this one did a really good job of showing the psyche of the New England Patriots, which has been a key part of their success and ability to remain in playoff contention through multiple rebuilds. It really highlights an environment that certainly wouldn’t be right for every player, but pushes for success.

With such a long and high-profile career, there have been so many iconic moments, and it was great to hear Brady et al. talk about these, such as how time both times the Pats faced the Giants it looked like they had the win, only for a remarkable catch to help the Giants score on a late drive, and how history almost completed itself against the Seahawks. There was talk on the Tuck Rule, that comeback against Atlanta and those game-winning drives that earned Brady his early fame (including how one throw did not go as planned but worked out to their advantage), while also a moment where wife Gisele Bündchen inadvertently made headlines following the loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. There’s something great about the way that sportsmen can remember games and talk about them years later that I love to hear, and as such this documentary—interviews spliced in amongst game footage, sideline footage and footage from news reports/football shows—was perfect for me!

Of course, if you know your NFL history, you will know that there are also some controversies to cover in this time, with Spygate and Deflategate. In credit to the series, it does not shy away from these moments, and it does go into how the players felt and how it affected them. However, while it does talk about Brady’s suspension as part of Deflategate, I noticed that it brushed over the reason that he was suspended, while I can’t help question just how accurate these sections are considering Brady is an executive producer.

A few final thoughts on the series:

  • Of course a part of the Patriots success was down to the input of TE Aaron Hernandez. While some of the footage used shows a couple of his plays, and he occasionally features in sideline shots, it was noticeable to me that even as Brady talked about the 12-package they used with him and Gronk, Hernandez was never actually discussed by name.
  • I could have happily sat through a series where each episode focused on each season of Brady’s career rather than focusing on the Super Bowl runs, but many of the other seasons do get some kind of mention, while these are all the big talking points of Brady’s career, so I can understand why it was kept to this more condensed format.

The Future

As mentioned earlier, we are set to get one more episode which will focus on Brady’s move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their Super Bowl victory. And who knows, with Brady coming out of retirement, there’s always the chance of yet another episode being required later down the line.

What did you think of this series? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, but I will not be looking at the stradiotional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

2021 saw me revisiting the Mighty Ducks movies, and while I had some fun last week with a theoretical ranking of the movies’ 19 players, I also took the chance to binge the newest story in the Mighty Ducks franchise: the series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

sport screen mighty ducks game changers

Key facts

Seasons 1

Episodes 10

Status Active – renewed for season 2

Released in 2021

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Lauren Graham, Brady Noon, Emilio Estevez, Maxwell Simkins, Swayam Bhatia

Synopsis Now a hockey powerhouse, the Mighty Ducks junior team is selective about who makes the roster. After being cut and told he is wasting his time, 12-year-old Evan Morrow and his mother form a new team of underdogs with the help of original Ducks coach, Gordon Bombay, who has since become the despondent owner of a low level ice rink.

Review

Asa fan of the Mighty Ducks, this was one of the early announcements outside of Star Wars and the MC that got me excited about the potential of Disney+. So safe to say it was hard holding off for the best part of a year as I found time to go back over the movies and then find time for the series. But then like a tube of Pringles, once I popped, I couldn’t stop and I binged the show in just 3 sittings, and only that because  forced myself to take some time away from the TV!

While I enjoyed it, it certainly didn’t always feel like a Mighty Ducks story. The Ducks felt very different by being the bad guys of the team, and I will admit that this remained a bugbear of mine for pretty much the whole series, but I trusted in the writers and they addressed this in a way that I was happy with. Much of the familiarity came from Gordon Bombay, who was certainly a more cynical and weary character to begin with, but certainly still had that heart that helped us all fall in love with the movies previously. The Ducks feeling very much relies on nostalgia in this first series, most notably in an episode where 6 former players return, but all the pieces are there in a team of misfits who are playing hockey because they enjoy themselves and go on to be one of the top teams, so I feel that season 2 will feel more ingrained as part of the Ducks’ story as we are more familiar with the characters.

One thing that I really appreciated in the series was the time we had to get to know the characters, with the vast majority of our team fleshed out well in a way we would never have been able to get in a movie. We also saw the families behind the players, something that we never really got in the movies aside from Charlie’s mother, an this just allows for extra depth to some of the players, such as Sofi’s perfectionist parents. However on the whole I did find myself disappointed with the adults’ depictions in the series, as all of them other than Bombay seemed so over the top that it was unrealistic. I understand that this is considered a comedy-drama but even comedy requires some believability.

And sadly one of the least believable things was also for me the most frustrating: the character of Alex Morrow. I don’t put this down to Lauren Graham’s performance, but instead how she was written. She was far too much of a worrier as a mother and coach, and while her character did get some growth in the way that she dealt with her job and her boss (who also happened to be the mother of 2 of the Ducks) I never felt that we saw any signs of her really growing as a capable coach. To me, this needs to be one of the big areas addressed going into season 2.

The other issue that I did have was just how little hockey we got at times. A big staple of the Mighty Ducks movies has been what they do on the ice in games, but it sometimes felt like we were going a couple of episodes without any games, only for a quick scene or montage of gametime, perhaps a slightly longer run of episodes would have given us a bit more of a balance and more time to see the fun on-ice antics.

All in all, a strong first season that I think has given the series every chance for success.

A few final thoughts on the series:

  • While the Hawks now being one of the worst teams has a certain irony about it, I can’t help wonder why the team’s colour scheme has completely changed
  • There was something set up in the initial episode of the show that was shown a couple of ties in the following episodes before being dropped without any mention, only for it to become a key plot point in the final episode (I won’t say what so as not to spoil for anyone who hasn’t watched, but for those who have, it relates to Sofi). I feel that his could have been handled through the series a little better, but again I think this was hampered by how much of the hockey laterin the season was just shown in a couple of montages

The Future

The season has ended in a way that sets the show up nicely for season 2, but the loss of Emilio Estevez has me seriously worried, especially given Alex Morrow seems nowhere near ready to coach the team on her own, so we now either need to create a narrative for how she became competent over 1 offseason or find a reason to bring in a new coach who will blend with the classic Ducks way. A former Duck would be ideal—and Charlie Conway would be the prime candidate—but there is no guarantee that Joshua Jackson or any of the other former Ducks actors would be available to take on such a role. Similarly, we now need to find a reason to write Bombay out while likely still using the Ice Palace, which is always going to feel a little contrived as it was not expected. And that will potentially hurt the show’s longevity, as if we don’t feel that this team are the Ducks we love without Gordon Bombay and we have to rely on a cameo or 2 per season, then many of the longtime Ducks fans may fly away.

Beyond that, I think we need to see an expanded roster for the team this year, which can work easy enough given how well most of the team have already been established. I got a feeling in the final episode of the series that Ruby was feeling a little iffy on some of the coaching decisions made, and with her mum’s closeness to Alex growing, a change of teams wouldn’t feel off, while I would also expect maybe 1 or 2 completely new characters to add to the roster.

If the show can keep things going, it has a great chance to follow the team over the next couple of years and all the challenges that brings with it. Puberty is an obvious one, an we already have the creation of 2 couples in season 1, while it would also be easy enough to bring in an LGBT romance within the team from what has been set up in season 1, especially as Nick having 2 mothers is already normalising this. Meanwhile on the ice, we could see players coping with how their bodies change over the next couple of seasons, and it could be interesting to see someone as sweet and calm as Nick have to become the team’s new enforcer because of how he grows into a physical player, or see Evan transition from forward to defenseman if him going through puberty made him a more viable defensive option than some of the current players.

Beyond that, there is aso the question of how Alex progresses. It can be assumed that she will look to move on in her career, could this provide new obstacles to her coaching the team? Or what if she were to start dating the parent of another player? Logan and his divorcé father have moved in on the same street, while another character could always be introduced. And what if further seasons want to take things further, with players potentially having to compete against each other for the same spot in a higher level—something that certainly feels like a potential stumbling block in Evan and Sofi’s relationship.

If season 1 has set the show up well, season 2 feels crucial right now for the longevity of the series.

What did you think of this series? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!