October 25, 2012 by seancole1875
Since Channel Five lost their broadcasting rights to the often unfairly maligned Europa League, Liverpool have had to content themselves with Friday night appearances on the station instead. The final instalment of the Being: Liverpool documentary, charting the progress of Brendan Rodgers’ reign, appears tomorrow. It’s been at turns intriguing, embarrassing, mundane, and unintentionally hilarious.
Unsurprisingly, for a project officially approved by Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group, following on from a similar venture with their baseball side the Boston Red Sox, its subject is cast in a forgiving light. Potentially controversial topics such as wasteful spending by Kenny Dalglish and the club’s poor handling of the Luis Suarez race row are suppressed in favour of a relentlessly upbeat tone. While this approach is understandable given the emphasis on enhancing the Liverpool brand, it leaves us with a rather superficial, stage-managed production.
Beginning with departure of the club’s previous boss, which is presented as an amicable affair somewhat out of kilter with Kenny Dalglish’s surly demeanour during his time at Anfield, the premise is of a fresh start with up-and-coming idealist Brendan Rodgers. Charged with more than the already momentous task of restoring Liverpool to their rightful place at football’s top table, Rodgers is also required to play the part of prophetic leader. He does his best in this regard, repeating the mantra that “You train dogs, but educate players” while others attest to their belief in his vision.
However, Rodgers’ eagerness to fill the inspirational void comes across as a forced affectation. The notion of the messiah mark II, now with new age managerial techniques, seems to be something of an editorial necessity, a deliberate contrast to the old school ways of King Kenny. With Rodgers we get bizarre existentialist mind-games instead. At a team meeting ahead of Liverpool’s opening league game against West Brom, he presents envelopes purportedly containing the names of three people that he feels will let the side down this season. “Don’t be the name in the envelope” he barks, to a sea of bemused faces.
They go on to lose 3-0. And this proves to be a problem throughout, events conspiring to spoil the director’s chosen story arc. Cast as the man who will get Liverpool back amongst the European elite, seeing Rodgers search for positives after each game of their winless run makes for painful viewing. Indeed the documentary is so heavily invested in the former Swansea man having a transformative effect on his new team that it’s difficult not to sympathise with the struggles they are forced to portray.
During these dark early season days there are still moments of light relief to be found. Even apart from the awkwardness of Rodgers’ occasionally matey approach, which bears unfortunate resemblance to that of David Brent, and the disconcertingly large portrait of himself he keeps at home, there is Jonjo Shelvey’s chronic disinterest in anything the manager says, and Joe Cole’s quip, when, proudly brandishing a baby’s car seat, he announces that it’s to keep 17 year-old Raheem Sterling still during their coach trip.
Even in its unscripted moments the programme’s biggest failing remains a clinical lack of self-awareness. A spirit of Scouse exceptionalism prevails, pandering to the worst stereotypes of the region. Here, an opportunity to show Liverpool doing more than just trade on increasingly distant glories was lost amidst Clive Owen’s needlessly portentous narration and the mythologizing contributions of Dave Kirby. But for a grimly entertaining insight into top flight football and the home life of Jay Spearing, Being: Liverpool cannot be faulted.