TV Review: The First Team, BBC2

TV Review: The First Team, BBC2

We might have to wait a bit longer for the real Premier League to start but you can get an early football fix with this new sitcom set in the world of soccer's top flight written by Inbetweeners writers Iain Morris and Damon Beesley. Although a word of warning if you are having really bad withdrawal symptoms, there is no actual football shown. This is pretty much a workplace comedy that happens to be set in the football world. Same shit, shinier cars.

And another warning. The first episode features two scenes in which we see a player's buttocks, so I guess it is a bit different from your usual office sitcom. It's the start of the season and a new player from America is joining the team. Except that as the chairman Mark Crane (Will Arnett) realises just as the ink has dried on the contract, rookie Mattie (Jake Short) is not quite the hotshot they thought they were signing.

Meanwhile some other players are having trouble living up to their glamorous image. Benji (Shaquille Ali-Yebuah) has a flashy Bentley but still lives with his mum, while Liverpudlian Jack (Jack McMullen) needs help to buy some toilet rolls. And when fans see him walking out of the supermarket with a shitload, as it were, he doesn't seem quite the hero he might be on the field.

There's quite a bit of setting up to do in the opening episode. We also meet various other backroom staff and players, including veteran hard man Petey Brooks (Theo Barklem-Biggs) who is touchy about his foreskin and has a habit of threatening other players while naked. Meanwhile Italian manager Cesare (Paolo Sassanelli) seems to doze off after one glass of vino tinto which doesn't bode well for his coaching skills.

Given that Morris and Beesley wrote The Inbetweeners I expected more laugh-out-loud moments from this opener. But it establishes the comedic pecking order efficiently even if it is on the predictable side. Arnett, best known for Arrested Development, is a bit of a coup, and looks like the best signing. The funniest moment is probably when he tries to rub out Mattie's signature on the contract when he realises it is a bad deal. 

The First Team doesn't feel like an instant hit, but with a writing partnership of this quality – they apparently spoke to real footballers to do their research so there should be a ring of authenticity here – it ought to find its feet. Nice cameos too from Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods as the man who washes the kits and Gary Lineker who doesn't.

The First Team, Thursdays, 9.30pm, BBC2. Full series available after first episode on iPlayer.

Picture: Fudge Park/BBC

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