Though the world is comprised of countless people from all possible walks of life, there is one thing that often brings us together: competition. Whether friendly or not, the existence of sports in our society is without question, though the type of sport is where our surroundings come into play.
In Netflix's We Are the Champions, Rainn Wilson narrates his way through six of the world's more unusual sporting events. Breathing a moment of life into their story, he works to uncover their origin, their meaning, and most importantly, their champions.
Primary focused stateside; the six-episode first season tackles six entirely independent events that bare only their absurdity in common. From cheese rolling in the farmlands of England and chili eating in the heart of the deep south, the series takes no prisoners as it lays out some of the lesser-known events that catch the attention of some particular competitors.
Sadly, while the sporting events depicted are interesting, the series is unable to capitalize on their unusual traditions. The competitors, highlighted in brief moments, never receive an authentic unveiling. Though their stories get told, they lack personality and remain surface level, offering up traditional story elements that ultimately do not excite, implore, or have us craving for more.
In everyday language, We Are the Champions is an unfortunate and disheartening bore.
I partially blame the speed at which things occur. The series never allows us to fully understand the history surrounding these events, staying surface level regarding their origins and original purpose. If the answer is not direct and precise, the question goes unasked. It's a handicapped approach that is both passive and lazy.
Another part of me is frustrated with the editors. Though meant to be fun, the series struggles to generate any energy, giving us traditional camera work that offers up little creativity, a stark contrast to the events depicted. Slow-motion action shots are fine, but filling episodes with them for the sake of a laugh is elementary filmmaking, and a show that bears a TV-MA rating knows better than to resort to rudimentary gimmicks.
Given all of this, Rainn Wilson's involvement is somewhat surprising. Though it doesn't take much to understand why he does not appear on screen, it is still a shame given the amount of personality he brings to his other roles. He most definitely did not attend any of the events filmed, and he never met the prized contestants who willingly share their stories.
His disconnect, however slight, parallels ours. Gone is the honest and humane kinship that we desperately want to feel in these situations. Gone is the full understanding of a sport we never knew existed. Gone is the creative approach to storytelling, replaced by a style that bypasses quality and intrigue. What could have been a captivating series featuring unique people doing unique things quickly transcends into a show that never understood its full potential.
It's a shame. When it started, I felt six episodes wasn't enough to encompass the world of unique competitions fully. I was somewhat right, though, in hindsight, for this series, six episodes might have been a half dozen too many.
*This series is streaming globally on Netflix. All six episodes were reviewed.