American football – or football to any American friends – is the only sport that I follow with any real interest. It is however, the major US sport with the shortest season, only running from September to Early February. But to supplement that, the NFL is really good at creating engaging content that’s available in the off season.
This means as July rolls around each year, we get a new series of All Or Nothing on Amazon Prime Video. This is a ten part docu series that recounts the journey of one team from the previous year’s football season.
This year is the turn of the Carolina Panthers, a team led by Cam Newton, a player who was the league’s MVP a few years back when he led his team all the way to the Super Bowl. The Panthers’ campaigns for a championship haven’t proved as fruitful since, with only a few short-lived trips to the playoffs. The need to return to the heights of what was previously an almost-undefeated team, was always going to be the setup and the main driving force for this series of the show.
But while this is a show centered around football, it’s not just for fans of the sport. The first reason being that as with anything produced by NFL Films, this series looks fantastic. As the episodes recount the regular season games played by the Panthers, they use broadcast footage to set up events and then cut in with rushes from handheld cameras that feel more cinematic than they do documentarian.
And this is just one of the reasons why All Or Nothing isn’t a series that’s reserved for fans of football. As documentary series have become more mainstream on streaming services like Amazon or Netflix, audiences are now used to a certain high level of quality. It’s a very different aesthetic to the single-operator, run and gun production teams that were more common place in documentaries several years ago.
The look and feel of the series is something that was laid out in a template in the first series of All Or Nothing in 2016 and to a certain extent, in the other NFL Films-produced series Hard Knocks. What’s important is that the familiarity of the series’ aesthetic is one that at times forgets the ‘football’ of it al and instead makes editorial decisions primarily focused on putting storytelling first.
A couple of the story-driven standouts in this series of All Or Nothing, aside from the obvious draw of seeing what the team’s well-known quarterback Cam Newton is like off the field, are the stories of veteran tight end Greg Olsen and defensive end Efe Obada.
Greg Olsen spent most of the previous season benched thanks to a foot injury and the first episode details the long rehab process he’s needed to go through to get back to health. Then in the first competitive game of the season, he gets hurt again and the rest of the season follows him trying to rehab enough that he’s able to get back out on the field to play the game he clearly loves before the season’s over.
Obada is another player given a decent amount of screen time – and for good reason. A native Nigerian, when he was just ten years old, Efe was trafficked from the Netherlands to the UK where he lived on the street with his sister for several years. He then started playing for the London Warrior before being scouted and became the first international player to go straight from a European league team into the NFL.
It’s these sorts of incredible human stories about standing in the face of adversity that really make All Or Nothing what is is. And then combining that with the beautiful cinematic aesthetic and great filmmaking talent that goes into the show and you’ve got a program that is absolutely not created just for the die hard football fan but for anyone with an interest in great storytelling.
So if you’ve seen All Or Nothing pop up on the homescreen of your Amazon Prime Video application and skipped it because you’ve got no interest in the sport, give it a go. I bet you’ll find something in it that you’ll like.