Hard Knocks: Detroit Lions on HBO Max, Where Hope Springs Eternal for a Downtrodden Franchise

Hard Knocks: Detroit Lions on HBO Max, Where Hope Springs Eternal for a Downtrodden Franchise ...

Hard Knocks: The training camp with the Detroit Lions, which is now on HBO Max. This year, not real big-cat lions like youd see on the savannah, but guys like galumpy quarterback Jared Goff, human soundbite Jamaal Williams, and OTT-earnest overcaffeinated head coach Dan Campbell, who weve seen on television losing the living shit out of football games. Hard Knocks: For the first time, the historically fut


An upper-corner angle on Lions players and coaches gathering for a team meeting. Notable is a banner hanging in the back of the room that is mostly obscured, but there is one line on it. It says, 1957's last league championship.

Dan Campbell takes the stage in the meeting room. He runs like a caged what now? Bear? Bengal? Packer? F NO. He starts talking about grit. He says something like: Doesnt matter if you have one ass cheek and three toes, I will beat your ass, and Were going to tread water till you die.

It's quite the dead open, followed by an intro that stops players lifting weights and putting some cornball stuff on a Detroit assembly line (probably not Chevy or Chrysler). The first is from the veterans, but the third is from the youngsters. This is because by the end of the episode, i'll just be chewing out players for farting in the movie room.

Liev Schreiber reveals that his training camp is a fresh start. There are several teams who aren't the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to Campbell. Last year, Detroit was the league's worst team, scoring three points, but Campbells was the first in a row as coach. (It wasn't as bad as it looked, however), according to Campbell, who also worked with a bunch of former players, including Staley, Aaron Glenn, and Antwaan Randle-El

Aidan Hutchinson, the beast of a defensive end the Lions picked second overall in the draft, has been introduced to the program as part of Campbell's post-practice speech; instead, he expresses his gratitude to coaches who, like Coach, handled a speech and his voice cracks and tears. (Everything on the back of the film is ON THE LINE. And then Staley pokes a dude out for farting in the cinema room.

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Inextricably, any piece of visual media involving the Detroit Lions resembles The Day After.

Our Take: Most often, Hard Knocks' respect to reality-TV contrivances (amped-up conflicts, montages calculated to hit you right in the feel-cockles) and its reputation as an advertising tool for the NFL. Teams often must be cajoled to participate in a complicated and intrusive television-production schedule, and that reluctance sometimes creeps into the subtext of the series.

The unerring fascination and sincerity of these Detroit Lions capital-C characters sets up the show phony sheen. One thread in the episode focuses on Campbell's desire to coach and players to be absolutely and only themselves, for those who know them (e.g., lifelong Lions fans/idiots) and criticizes reporters for slouching in their chairs. Note the scene in which a Campbell press conference is halted and no one is crying for the cameras here. They are

Dan Campbell, a madman, is a kind of loose nut of a main character this season. Even if the Lions lose, you still feel like they won something. He is a sharp-focus portrait of intensity and desire. Even if they lose, you do not feel like they won something. Regardless, this season, I expect it to delve into storylines about players overcoming hardship, competition for dwindling roster spots, and quarterback Jared Goffs' status as an expensive reclamation project

Sex and skin: None.

Parting Shot: A dramatic low-angle shot with Campbell in the foreground, hands on his hips, and watching a scrimmage. The whistle blows.

Hard to find a sleeper star in a show full of showboats like Campbell, Staley, and Glenn. So lets go with Jamaal Williams, who is the showboat you want to invite over to grill out and play board games, maybe watch Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Schreiber grinds salt in the wounds of Lions supporters, or perhaps states a bitter fact: Winning is everything. This team knows it. It's been in a dark place for a long time. (Every Lions fan, shouting at the screen in response: NO SHIT, SHERLOCK.)

Our Call: STREAM IT. The No-respect Rodney Dangerfields that represent the Detroit Lions make for the perfect Hard Knocks profilee.

John Serba is a Michigan-based freelance writer and film critic. See more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.

HBO Max: StreamHard Knocks: A Training Camp with the Detroit Lions

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