"If nothing else, you can put it on at home and your significant other won’t immediately whinge about it. That’s not nothing."
As of yesterday, the first four episodes of Make Or Break, Season 2, are available on Apple TV.
The series begins with Pipe and Kelly’s victory, which seems logical. Thereafter it roughly follows the course of the season, but does jump about a bit which can be odd for the seasoned WCT fan.
But then, it’s not really designed for us.
What MOB aims to do is communicate the humanity of professional sport. It’s a blueprint of character driven narratives established by Drive To Survive, the Netflix juggernaut that spearheaded the craze for reality sports documentaries.
Whether you understand the sport in question or not should hardly matter. If anything, it might impair your enjoyment if you do.
I loved Drive To Survive, despite the fact I knew almost nothing about F1. That’s pretty much the whole point.
The hope is that casual observers of the documentaries are converted to fans of the sport. Whether this is realistic or not, I’m not sure. I still haven’t watched an F1 race for years. Stranger still, I don’t even look up the results for fear I’ll spoil the next season of DTS.
So, can this type of production work for surfing?
It should, given we know surfing attracts rich characters. Capturing the interest of fans by digging out these personalities is one of the many ways in which the WSL has spectacularly failed over the years.
But let’s do the flat bits first.
(It wouldn’t be accurate to call them bad.)
Disappointingly, Kelly’s victory at Pipe didn’t quite pop the way I expected it to.
Pipe 2022 was one of the best surf contests in living memory, but there was no sense of that.
There was no context for how historically good the waves were, nor any footage of most of the incredible barrels that were ridden by competitors other than Kelly.
I get it. There’s only so much footage you can use, and Kelly was the subject of the episode.
But there were so many reasons why Kelly winning that comp was both special and incredibly unlikely: his age, the level of competition, the quality of waves, and the fact that he hadn’t won in years. They touch on some of this in the episode, but ultimately it looked like the victory was a little too easy.
Remember how emotional and raw he was? The real reasons for that were not excavated in the way I’d hoped they might be.
Box To Box tweeted that the Slater episode was one of the best pieces of TV they’d ever produced, so it could be that my perspective is too much of a niche surf fan. It’ll be interesting to see the response from the wider audience.
Episode Two switches to Tatiana Weston Webb as the main character. It’s fine, Tatiana seems lovely as always. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s engaging as a subject, especially when most of the episode is still at Pipe, but focused on the women’s comp, which wasn’t great.
The minor fracas and resulting Instagram furore that happened after Tati dropped in on Moanna Jones Wong prior to the event is acknowledged, but it doesn’t add as much spice as hoped.
And there’s far too much Jesse Mendes, who ironically seems to be more visible than ever given his stints in the booth at Sunset.
The third episode shifts focus to the Wright family, framed around the Bells event that Tyler won and where Owen was left in a precarious situation with the Cut looming.
There’s a good overview of the Bells event and some interesting archival footage of the Wright family. But mostly it’s about Owen’s shortcomings vs Tyler’s success, and that does make for engaging TV.
Owen is both likeable and vulnerable. You do get a sense of what competing means to him, and how much of a struggle it’s been after his brain injury. Especially now as he reveals he’s a live-in carer for his sick father.
There’s definitely some value in this episode.
The following episode, “The Cut”, should be more exciting than it is.
The petition that most of the surfers signed and took to ELo in protest of the implementation of the Cut is conspicuous by its absence.
Just as Logan smacked it down at the time, I’m sure it was dispatched down his Memory Hole long ago.
In this episode we return to two favourite characters from Season 1 in Morgan Ciblic and Matt McGillivray, charting their divergent futures at Margaret River. Maybe if you don’t already know what happens here it’ll grab you more than it did for me.
There is an interesting insight into Jack Robinson behind the scenes. I’ll admit to being a little sceptical of his zen schtick last season. After watching Make Or Break, I was perhaps wrong to think that way.
So is it worth your time as a whole?
In short, yes.
I suspect if you’re reading this you won’t learn anything new from Make Or Break, but it will give you glimpses into some more personal elements of the surfers you know and love. And if you’re relatively new to the game, you’ll probably like it even more.
If nothing else, you can put it on at home and your significant other won’t immediately whinge about it. That’s not nothing.
The first four episodes didn’t set the heather on fire for me, and reviews for the next four are currently under embargo until they’re released on Feb 23rd.
However, what I will say is that two of these remaining episodes are the strongest in the series.