Hard Knocks Premiere Plays Like a Pre-Season Game – It’s Vanilla, But You’re Watching Because It’s Football

Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Plot Summary:

HBO’s annual documentary series goes to training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are being touted as one of the “teams to watch” this season.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past 10 years, you know football dominates the American sports consciousness.

Ratings for the Superbowl are setting all-time television records. Thursday night games, which often feature less than marquee match-ups, are trouncing major television programming. Sunday Night Football on NBC is untouchable. The draft is a massive event now. Even the first pre-season game of this season, which featured almost no stars, did over 5 million viewers on a Thursday night.

Basically, if you’re a football fan — you’re watching anything related to the game — no matter the quality.

HBO’s new season of Hard Knocks, is an example of “if it’s football you’ll watch it.” The series premiere lacks the teeth, or dramatic flare previous seasons have had. There’s no storyline that’s compelling, no player that’s captivating you. Basically, it’s like a pre-season game — super vanilla, nothing compelling, but you’re still watching because it’s football.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this new season. The Tampa Bay Bucs are a very likable team. Quarterback Jameis Winston and defensive star Gerald McCoy come off as two of the most awesome guys you’ll ever want to meet. Third string linebacker Riley Bullough is the requisite “camp darling” who hopefully will be given more time to shine, as he may be one of the most intriguing guys in camp. It’s passable entertainment. And having Liev Schreiber narrate football is never a bad thing.

However, we don’t see any drama here. A couple guys get cut, but there’s no stakes. We’re not invested in them at all. In previous years we got invested in these rookies who got cut, now they’re a fleeting image across our screen. Also, with all the talk of the Bucs being “the team to beat” this year, we don’t see any conflict on the pressures of this hype. There’s nothing must-see about this season.

The highlight of the entire premiere episode occurs during the end credits. There’s a hilarious montage of various Bucs players and personnel talking about the new season of Game of Thrones. This could’ve been terrible product placement by HBO, but the interactions between everyone involved are genuinely funny, and endearing.

Overall, this will probably be a fine season of Hard Knocks, but like the NFL pre-season, if you don’t watch it, you haven’t missed anything.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites