With the World Cup beginning to reach its final climax, many football fanatics around the world (who aren’t privy to the dizzying heights fans of the top four teams must be feeling) have already finished wallowing in their self-pity and turned once again to daydreaming of other leagues starting up again in the near future or wistfully thinking about where their team could be in four years.
Those looking for an affably silly comedy that understands the inner workings of the footie fan mindset without talking down to them should give the UK/Canadian animated production Warren United a try (airing Monday evenings at 8:30 and 11:30pm). It’s the ongoing saga of one man who can only dare to dream that is perennially defeatable team will one day become worthy of the boundless devotion that he puts back into the organization.
Warren Kingsley (voiced by British character actor Darren Boyd) is an affable sports nerd and family man who constantly roots for his home team, Brainsford United, who go by the not so threatening nickname The Meringues. He’s stuck in a dead end job as a sales associate at a big box kitchen goods warehouse. His wife Ingrid constantly worries about her husband’s well being, but sees Warren for the good man he so desperately wants to be. His kids Harrison and Charlie can care less about soccer or hanging out with their dad, and Warren constantly has to deal with his batty, oversexed elderly mother whom he can’t seem to get rid of. With so little to root for in his own life, it’s easy to see where his fanatical devotion for a sporting organization comes from.
The main comedy comes from a general understanding of how sports fanatics function in their day to day lives, but it also manages to rise a bit above average sitcom conventions thanks to a sometimes surreal kind of tone and outlandish plotting that could only ever work in an animated series. An episode that features Warren having a nervous breakdown as his squad hires a star player with the same name as his takes on a bizarrely Kafkaesque playfulness that most series of this kind can’t quite pull off.
Another where Warren finds himself at odds with his evil boss over whose kid gets to take the pitch as the team mascot before a home game showcases the heart of the show. Warren definitely puts football before family most of the time, but the arc of the show definitely speaks to how people should pick their battles when it comes to the passions in their lives.
There’s a real heart to Warren United that’s refreshing considering it could have gone for easy jokes within its simple framework. There’s a desire to create actual character arcs for Warren and his entire family instead of using them as simplistic gag delivery devices. Considering how dire most other comedic offerings have been this summer, the return of the World Cup isn’t the only thing right about the timing of Warren United’s debut on this side of the pond. It’s a leisurely, unforced bit of entertainment perfectly tailored to in-home watching on a far too hot summer night.