Jack Whitehall is everywhere these days, from Netflix comedy travelogue to stand-up special. But it’s his BBC Three sitcom Bad Education that YouTube is no doubt banking on, as it orders this new YouTube Original from a face identified as being familiar to younger viewers. The premise is simple: combine that friendly face with the topical sport of football and generate as many laughs as possible. The result? Jack Whitehall: Training Days, a series that shoots and scores precisely because it doesn’t live up to that title.
The name suggests lots of locker room chat and on-the-pitch exercises, a modern update to 1999 series Michael Owen’s Soccer Skills. Whitehall, though, has more personality than Owen and isn’t afraid to stray from the pitch to do all manner of silly things. In that sense, this is more talk show than training day, a web series that follows in the football booted steps of James Corden and Jimmy Fallon. Whitehall even acknowledges that in the opening episode, joking that this is essentially Carpool Karaoke for football.
Crucially, though, our guests are the kind of people who barely get seen on screens outside of their profession: footballers, in general, are a more reclusive bunch, with only a handful of Beckhams and Rooneys turning into celebrities bigger than their team. The days where Ian Wright got his own ITV talk show are long gone – after all, why invite a footballer onto a late night couch (the few that Britain have) when we already see them on TV as studio pundits or sports quiz contestants?
There’s a welcome novelty, then, in seeing Whitehall’s sidekicks facing the challenge he’s got in store – you’ve never seen footballers like this before – and Training Days does a surprisingly good job at keeping things varied. The first episode sees none other than José Mourinho teaching Jack to drive – because if he’s the best coach in the world, surely he can coach him behind the wheel? The ensuing awkwardness is a genuine delight, as Whitehall threatens to crash Jose’s own car, and then makes fun of his hair – Mourinho, to his credit, is a great sport and joins in the laughter. Only minutes later, we see Gareth Bale join Jack in a Spanish wax museum, where he spends his day jumping out at unsuspecting customers.
Other highlights include the F2 freestylers (who have their own YouTube Original football series), who play a laugh-out-loud funny game of Russian food roulette (three words: fish liver pâté), and Dele Alli spending the night in a haunted mansion. Then there’s the absurd spectacle off Kyle Walker failing to perform World in Motion on Britain’s Got Talent, with Whitehall dressed up as the World Cup trophy. As you do.
In other words, insightful chat show, this ain’t, but Training Days knows what it is – lightweight entertainment – and behaves accordingly, varying its episode lengths from 30 minutes to just a couple. The result keeps things easy to watch and convenient to binge or dip in and out, with either approach promising consistent giggles. Interestingly, some guests are more willing participants than others. While Fabregas gamely attempts blindfolded free kicks, Sterling is happy to return just to try out some hot wings, in an eating competition with Big Narstie. Narstie himself also returns for the very final instalment, an in-studio affair with an hour of chatting, pranking and clip-watching on offer, culminating in an impressive one-take dance sequence. But Training Day works better in bite-sized chunks, as it smartly focuses less on questioning long balls or linking up narrative and more on tightly executed set pieces – just the thing for half-time viewing on your phone. On that basis, Jack Whitehall’s YouTube series shoots and scores.
Jack Whitehall: Training Days is available exclusively on YouTube Premium, as part of an £11.99 monthly subscription – including YouTube Premium Originals and YouTube Music, as well as the rest of YouTube advert-free.
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