The English Game: Sports Series Meets Period Drama

I don’t know anything about sports. I know I don’t particularly like watching sports-related television shows, and it’s only the pathos and tension of documentaries like Cheer that get me hooked. But Netflix (of course) has found a way to make me instantly tune into their new sports-related series, The English Game: it’s also a British period drama.

Two 19th-century footballers on opposite sides of a class divide navigate professional and personal turmoil to change the game — and England — forever. The six-part drama charts the origins of football and how those involved in its creation reached across the class divide to establish the game as the world’s most popular sport.


Confession: I am not sure what sport they are talking about in this show. They keep talking about football and footballers and a cup, but the trailer looks like they are playing rugby, and at one point it could easily be lacrosse. I am lost. I am not a sports girl.

But I know for sure that sports-dramas hit all the right notes. High stakes. Allegiances. Injuries. Loyalties. Loss. Always the perfect field for a drama. Especially a period drama.

Class Crashes

We’ve been missing the early 20th century sentiments of Downton Abbey since Cousin Matthew crashed (I quit watching at that exact moment), but Julian Fellowes has been following that perfect formula of Upstairs and Downstairs since Gosford Park, and he knows exactly how to bring both sides to the screen.

The English Game is a drama about class warfare: the affluent trying to hold on to their marble pedestals, and the common worker tearing it down. A lot of period pieces keep us safely relegated to one realm or the other, but if Downton taught us anything, it’s that they are inextricably entwined. This show promised to pull at those threads, head on.

Waistcoats and Bustles

Plus it looks so … good. Gorgeous costuming and sets and (let’s be honest)… leading men. We’ve loved Edward Holcroft since he was a torturing himself in Alias Grace, and our other lead, Kevin Guthrie since The Terror.

We wouldn’t expect anything other than lush interiors and accurate exteriors from a Fellows production. But let’s not count out Birgitte Stærmose who is directing the series and gave us Charlotte Hope in The Spanish Princess as a director who knows how to tell a true story from the past in a compelling way.


It’s going to be so good … and I’m pretty sure it’s about old-timey soccer. NAILED IT.

The English Game is coming to Netflix on March 20th.



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