To British brains, the idea of filming five series of expensive Netflix television, documenting university sports teams, is a pretty baffling one. What are they going to do, follow them to sticky-floored clubs and then watch them attempt to hit a ball the next day whilst nursing a horrific hangover? But Last Chance U isn’t the UK, it’s the US. So, it’s out with the two quid pints, and in with the tough nut coaches and the life or death mentality.
This Netflix series follows the sports teams of America’s community colleges. Whilst the stereotypical jocks we know and hate from most US high school sitcoms are off to the state universities with scholarships, other aspiring athletes aren’t so lucky. That’s this lot – they don’t come from affluent backgrounds, they struggle academically, they don’t have any discipline, and they don’t give a toss what the coach says. But they also absolutely love their game, and will do anything they can to get to the top of it.
So there’s drama, and lots of it. Coaches come and go as the team’s bad behaviours are laid bare. There’s the occasional victory, and the more frequent failures. And it’s fascinating.
Following five seasons of American Football, the most recent season has switched things up, ditching touchdowns for slam dunks and the world of community college basketball. Though the sport may have changed, the premise remains the same. There are big characters – the grieving and isolated team captain Deshaun Highler, temperamental Joe Hampton, fierce and god-fearing coach John Mosley – who must come together to achieve their mutual goal: beating the odds, and becoming sports stars.
Lots of people are pleased this show has prospered on Netflix, including The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage, who calls this “heady, heartening stuff,” and making the bold statement: “It is hands down one of the best things on television.” He’s likely pleased, then, that the show has had a hoop-shooting revival in the latest season, which his fellow Guardian writer Jack Seale says has “more emotional heft than ever.” The New York Times’s Margaret Lyons agrees that the series is “riveting,” as much about the individual characters as it is “about race and poverty. And of course education.”