Walter Presents TV review: Son of a B****
Change of perspective7
Ivan Radford | On 06, Jul 2016
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Leicester winning the Premier League. Wales getting further than anyone – including them – expected. Football’s been everywhere this year. Which is great, if you’re a fan of the beautiful game. If you’re not, at least there’s more TV than ever before to keep you distracted. One of the best sources of TV has been Walter Presents, Channel 4’s online collection of shows from Europe and around the world. You might despair, then, at the arrival of their latest show, Son of a B****, a comedy about the 2014 World Cup. But there’s enough here to entertain football fans and non-fans alike.
Known as “(fdp)” in its home country of Brazil, the series was released in the run-up to the contest hosted by Rio two years ago. Euro 2016, then, feels like a relevant time to catch up – any differences between the two tournaments are easy to overlook, because this isn’t a series about players or teams: it’s a series about a referee.
Juarez Gomes da Silva is the umpire in question, a guy who dreams of officiating on the World Cup final. When he gets the chance to work at the prestigious Libertadores da America Cup, then, he takes a big step towards his perfect life. Off the pitch, though, he’s only seeing red cards: his wife has kicked him out and he doesn’t get to see his son.
Eucir de Souza is a charismatic lead, but he’s likeable precisely because the show doesn’t try to make him likeable – we learn immediately that his split with his wife is due to his own infidelity (she calls him Mr. STD, which should tell you enough about what happened there) and even when he does get to see his son, Vinni (Vitor Moretti), he doesn’t seem that bothered about going out of his way to entertain him. When his son asks for ballet shoes for his birthday, meanwhile, he promptly frets that he might be gay, which to him is, of course, a bad thing.
On the pitch, though, he’s another man entirely: he might be a screw-up in real life, but as a referee, he’s a beacon of morality. The show repeatedly throws obstacles in his professional and personal life, often at the same time – in Episode 1, he has to decide whether to help one team win, because it’s supported by the judge ruling on his custody case. In another, he’s appointed to officiate a match involving his once-favourite team, deciding whether to cheat just to save them from relegation. Like a true anti-hero, he consistently chooses to the right thing.
“You may not get out of here alive,” jokes his boss, after one dramatic game. “But tomorrow, the news headlines will love you.”
That constant onslaught of suffering instinctively puts us in Juarez’s corner, a perpetual underdog in the world of sport. The referee is a w*nker, as the saying goes; whoever wins each match, he always ends up losing. It’s a fact of life that makes for an amusingly downbeat drama, with each episode climaxing with someone new calling him the titular insult. You never know where the abuse will come from, but it’s inevitable.
It’s also a fresh perspective from which to view a familiar sport, which keeps things appealingly varied; there’s more to the story than goals and whistles, as a brief detour to the home of Juarez’s mother, Rosali, sees her reluctant house guest bump into another: her new lover, Guzman, a football fan whose age hasn’t earned him manners. A subplot involving Manuela, meanwhile, gives you more than enough time to pour any leftover scorn onto her sleazy divorce lawyer, Rui – compare his interactions with Moretti’s Vinny and it’s easy to see that he idolises his dad.
The result is a lightweight, but consistently enjoyable series, which benefits from its brisk 30-minute runtimes. If you don’t like football, you can get through three episodes in the time it takes to watch a single match. And if you do, with England showing no chance of winning a trophy any time soon, you’ll be in need of something to cheer you up. Either way, this is a welcome change of pace that’s certainly worth a punt.
All episodes of Son of a B**** are available to stream on All 4’s Walter Presents.
For more information on the other foreign-language shows available, see our Walter Presents TV guide.