Noh Arrow Dong-Hyeon, Michael Miko Ahn, Misha Brooks, Da'Jour Jones, Youngbin Chung in Players. (Photo: Scott McDermott/Paramount+)
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Season 1 | Paramount+
Half-hour Mockumentary Series (10 Episodes) | TV-MA
What's Players About?
One of the best-known brands in esports — League of Legends — gets a very true-to-life mockumentary treatment from the Peabody-winning producers of American Vandal.
Misha Brooks plays Creamcheese, a talented, voluble superstar in the universe of "League," a multiplayer online battle arena game (or MOBA) considered to be the world's most popular esport. Now an old-timer in his late 20s, Creamcheese — the name is invoked so often that its absurdity eventually fades — has never been a member of a League team that's won the world title. That quest is the main storyline of this season.
Da’Jour Jones, aka Organizm, is the team's teenage wunderkind, and he's as reserved as Creamcheese is loud, though he can throw online shade with the best of them.
Ely Henry (Roadies) is perfectly cast as Kyle, the team's nerdy co-coach. He's one of the show's better talking-head explainers, though he's clearly lacking in people skills, which is a problem on a team with a hothead superstar.
Holly Chou plays April, the other coach/strategy guru. Though in the unenviable position of being the lone female on the team, she gives off the familiarity of a veteran girl gamer who has seen and, unfortunately, heard it all from undersexed boys. April is a good example of how Players opts for true-to-life characters rather than sitcom stereotypes.
Other archetypes from the sports-documentary genre include Peter Thurnwald as Creamcheese's rival-turned-teammate and Stephen Schneider as the team owner with his own set of motivations.
Organizm's parents, played by Arischa Conner and Miles Mussenden, often appear as talking heads. They are a hoot, and they make Players more relatable, because they are clearly as baffled as they are delighted by their son's success.
Many well-known players and commentators from the actual League of Legends appear on camera, playing themselves. (Riot Games, which created League, is a co-producer on Players.)
Creators Dan Perrault and Tony Yacenda previously collaborated on American Vandal.
Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?
More to the point, why should someone who doesn't follow esports watch this show? If you enjoy sports documentaries, then you'll likely appreciate how deeply Players understands the template that makes those shows satisfying. The result is an accessible, enjoyable introduction to a huge industry that passes many of us by.
That said, Players at times can be a bit too self-referential (and self-serious) for its own good. Still, it's close enough to American Vandal in tone and style that, if you haven't watched that show first, you could start there, familiarize yourself with the creators' distinctive approach, and then slide into the universe of this series.
Pairs well with
Arcane (Netflix), an animated series based on Legends characters (one of whom is voiced by Hailee Steinfeld).
Documentary Now! (Netflix), an anthology series that spoofs a popular documentary film or format in each episode, and is not just for doc fans.
The Last Dance (Netflix), a good reference point and a great docuseries about the final run of the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls teams of the ’90s.