The sport of American football, or just 'football' if you grew up Stateside, really lends itself well to the world of film and television.
Some of the best ever sporting films and TV series have been centered around the gridiron, so you if you were a fan of 'Any Given Sunday', 'Friday Night Lights', or 'Remember The Titans', then you can be forgiven for getting excited any time a new movie or TV show emerges based on a team, or player, from the wildly popular US sport.
That's why I gave 'Last Chance U', a Netflix original series, a chance over the Christmas period, and I'm happy to report that after going in with high expectations, I was absolutely hooked.
It's set in the one untouched area of the sport.
We've seen pee-wee football (the Little Giants), high-school football (Friday Night Lights/Remember The Titans), college football (We Are Marshall/Rudy), and pro football (Any Given Sunday/The Replacements), but there has never been a major movie or series about Junior College, or "Juco" football. At least not a mainstream release.
Junior college is a route for people who wish to attend a fully fledged university if they didn't get the grades in high-school. For football players, this is where the guys who didn't get recruited either for educational or social issues go to prove their worth.
East Mississippi Community College is the focus, by far the best and most successful juco football team in the US, so the guys on the show are the best in the level just below senior college ball. The show even starts with the team as defending national champions on a 20+ game winning streak.
The town is an absolute armpit of a place with nothing to do but attend college, so it's the perfect place for someone who has lost their way to get back on track, thus giving us a truly interesting redemption story for nearly every player featured.
It's 100% real, and yet we get such a detailed look behind the scenes.
It's a documentary, and an excellently produced one at that.
We see everything from practice sessions, player backstories, troubles with education and schoolwork, drama between coaches and players, as well as genuine match footage from real games that mattered to real people... But it's just obscure enough to not know the results before watching.
Blood, sweat, tears, comedy moments, life lessons... It's all there. It's exactly what you want from a sports documentary.
The characters and storylines are compelling.
East Mississippi Community College manages to pull in some outrageous talents and huge personalities, and the timeframe of filming introduced us to some fascinating characters.
Some of the guys are legitimate Division 1 NCAA talents, but for whatever reason fell through the cracks. Others made it to Division 1 teams like FSU, only to transfer down for six-months in a bid to secure playing time and prove their worth.
This makes for a fascinating dynamic, as nobody wants to be there, but everyone must work hard to prove why they don't belong there. It's also recent enough to not be outdated, but old enough to find out what happened to the players after the series ended.
There is so much on-field action and drama.
This, for me, is the biggest reason why I love sports movies and shows, the on-field action. Typically a film can be ruined with crap choreography (Invictus, anybody?), so whenever it's real, it always works. And 'Last Chance U' offers this in spades.
Every episode features a game, and the music and condensed storytelling will have your blood pumping at crucial moments of the game.
The featured team are targeted by every college they play, and seeing how these athletes deal with the pressure to perform is what keeps you coming back for more.
The coach is an absolute madman.
A good sports story needs a strong coach, and Buddy Stephens does not disappoint.
A larger than life character and an old-fashioned football man, he is brutally honest and if things don't go his way... Get the hell out of his way.
The fact that he could snap at any time, but is still clearly doing a damn good job as head coach, is again fascinating to watch unfold. You're never sure what you're going to get when he's on a football field.
It's on Netflix, and it's really damn good, so if you're a fan of the likes of 'Friday Night Lights' you really should be watching this show.