Review: 'Make or Break' Season 2
Review: 'Make or Break' Season 2
Season 2 of Make or Break, the Apple TV series made by Box to Box films and produced by WSL CEO Erik Logan has had all eight episodes up now for over a month.
Did you watch it?
I just got through, and to be honest, it was a bit of a slog.
As well as being the clearest window yet into Elo's vision for the Sport, Make or Break gives us continuing clues into the evolution of pro surfing and the quixotic quest to attract a mainstream, non-native audience in the way Formula 1 and UFC have been able to do.
Season 1 debuted with much fanfare and the lauded Box to Box crew did an epic job. The production quality jumped off the screen. Everything was top notch: filming, editing, sound design. Also, massively in its favour was the novelty factor. In 2021, the sport was returning after the COVID years and the new tour schedule, including Finals Day at Trestles, was all brand new. As was the outside perspective given inside access to the sport. It was also made quite clear to us surfing fans and viewers, that this was operating on another level as a marketing arm/propaganda vehicle for the WSL. They'd seen the way Drive to Survive had driven new fans to Formula 1 and they wanted a piece of that action.
Fair enough, it didn't detract from the entertainment value of the series.
However, the second season doesn't pop in the same way. The formula seems more tired and hackneyed, the vanilla blend designed to promote the WSL a little more bland and blatant, and the whole enterprise comes out of the oven as a souffle that didn't quite rise to the occasion.
Some of that is just the nature of sport, especially pro surfing. The foundation stone of sport is anticipation. Fundamentally, we tune in to watch live action to see what will happen. Once that desire has been satisfied we move on to what is next.
What's now and what's next is what matters. We are not predisposed to relitigate the near past.
We spoke about Portugal for 24 hours and then, once we'd thrown our two cents in, we moved on. Same as Sunset, same as Pipe, same as almost every sporting event you can conceive of. It's an incredibly rare event that is still being talked about two weeks later, let alone a year down the track.
But that is what Make or Break asks of our viewing attention.
It's not a historical deep dive, but a re-cap of what has happened in the near past, where fans already know how the story ends. It's incredibly hard to build drama and tension when the audience already knows how the story will play out.
The timing of the release compounds this problem. The first four episodes dropped during the Hawaiian season, when we were up to our necks in current storylines. Going backwards a year just seemed a weird distraction while we were driving forwards at full speed while trying to watch the rear view mirror.
It's a huge job editing an entire year but if they'd managed to release Series 2 during some of the dead air between the end of the tour in September and the start of the next one in January it would have been very different; a perfect segueway into the new season instead of a curious distraction.
OK, that's a fan complaint. But the series isn't made for surf fans, it's made for Joe Public - the mythical non-surfing audience who can be captured and convinced of the magic of pro surfing. How did they react? Reviews were mostly positive. A female reviewer for Vogue magazine enjoyed the perfect escapism from a New York winter and spoke gushingly about “matinee idol” Jack Robinson and the Brazilian men who excited her imagination with their “brooding, intense, fiery, mercurial” energy.
So Sex and the City babes are tuning in for sunshine, bluewater, and shirtless beefcake. I never discount the 'sex sells' aspect of sport, especially after a Melburnian female cousin explained she enjoyed watching the AFL primarily for the titillation of watching fit blokes run around in tight shorts.
Will they stick with it though? Endure bleary-eyed sessions through hours of dreary closeouts under grey skies? The fact that we aren't seeing the Make or Break camera crews this season suggests not.
Season 2 was announced at an incredibly opportune time, right after 49-year old Kelly Slater had just won the Pipe Masters. There's been no such opportune announcement this year.
The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC's reality doco-series has just wrapped filming on the 17th series. Drive to Survive is up to Series 5 (with season 6 in the works). Make or Break looks set to quietly fade away after its sophomore sojourn. Pro surfing's white whale - the non-endemic audience - remains gloriously unharpooned.
Despite having seen it all live, the highlight episode is clearly the first one, detailing Kelly's Pipe victory last year a week shy of his 50th Birthday. Box to Box described the episode as the finest show they have ever produced. You can see why. The action is compelling. While there is no great insight into Kelly we haven't seen in the plethora of content released by the WSL over the last few years, including the infamous Sound Waves episode at the Surf Ranch with his healer and last year's Lost Tapes series, Kelly remains a deeply compelling figure. Obviously struggling with some version of a Peter Pan complex and a competitive drive which just can't be quenched no matter how much success he achieves, he keeps rolling the dice no matter the psychological cost. The buzzer beater against Barron Mamiya remains one of the great moments in sport and his charging Backdoor in the Finals is just mind-blowing. I could have watched the entire eight episodes dedicated to this one contest.
Things descend from that high point. We get an episode about Tatiana Weston-Webb feeling sad because she lost the final to Carissa Moore the year before. The Wright family gets a glib and superficial look at Bells with way more questions than answers, highlighting a weakness of the concept. We know Owen got cut. Where is he now? what is he going through now?*
The same criticism extends to the next episode about the cut. Much was made of Morgan Cibilic in Season 1 and in Season 2 we see him as a fully-fledged surf star.
What's interesting though, is not seeing Morgs get cut, it's what happens next.
Morgs has dropped off the face of the Earth, not a mention for months in any surf media. Can a pro surfer maintain a livelihood by disappearing? These would have been truly fascinating concepts for the Box to Box team to explore. What happens after the cut..?
The timeline through the second four episodes gets confusing as we lose the dramatic impetus of the mid-year cut. Instead of following the chronological events we skip back and forth in order to follow individual characters. Colapinto and Igarashi primarily, with a heavy dash of Jack Robinson. It's cool to be reminded of the sheer quantity of crazy buzzer beaters Jack had last year and the many 50/50 calls that went his way, which he has completely vindicated by this year's performance.
Of course, these 50/50 calls went against his opponents, mostly the Brazilian Storm big dogs. That storyline is tentatively explored, in terms of Brazilian fan rage. Colapinto in one of the more controversial calls for the season claims a close call went against him because the “judges were borderline scared because they didn't want to start a riot”. The online abuse directed at Colapinto after his win over Toledo at Punta Roca is touched on as he heads to Brazil but no great drama comes of it. It ain't exactly the Bronzed Aussies hiding under the bed in the Kuilima with tennis racquets waiting for the Black Shorts to arrive.
An episode is devoted to the rivalry between Kanoa and Griffin, but it falls very flat. The strongest card Griff plays is that Kanoa's celebration's are weird (true), while a blinged up Kanoa accuses Griff of being a rich kid riding around in a golf cart. It's thin gruel when compared to historical sporting rivalries. Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier fought three of the most famous and intense heavyweight battles of all time and even after twenty years when Ali had Parkinson's Disease and was able to light the Olympic Torch in Atlanta, Frazier quipped “they should have pushed him in”. Andy Irons made his feelings clear on Kelly Slater in Jack McCoy's 2002 Blue Horizon stating he wanted to “crush Kelly's pretty little picture. It's my time now.”
A couple of middle-class Californian boys having a little dig at each other doesn't quite inspire the same awe. To be fair, they probably had no choice with Gabe and JJF out.
The second series is also defined by absences. John John Florence gets the briefest of cameos, but otherwise he is a ghost, barely sighted and never mentioned. Any internet random watching Make or Break would have no idea about JJF's status in the sport. Dual world champ with a career constantly defined by injury but still widely considered the best surfer in the world. That seems a major miss.
Tahiti flits in and out of the last four episodes and there's some big talk about sending it - particularly from Steph Gilmore. But Gilmore didn't send it, nor did fellow current world champion Filipe Toledo.
In solid 8ft Teahupoo against a 50-year old Kelly Slater and 44-year old wildcard Nathan Hedge, Toledo caught one wave for a heat total of 1.87. In any other sport this would have been huge news, and even allowing for Toledo's sensitivities could have been explored. Being able to conquer (or not) fear in heavy surf is something every champion surfer, even recreational surfers, has to grapple with. Some succeed, most don’t. To just completely ignore it like it didn't happen seems bizarre.
In the last episode covering Finals Day, the producers/editors lose control of the material. In fact, it feels like the editors just walked out and let Elo push the buttons. The show devolves to epic schmaltz, liberally smothered in Oprah Winfrey-style cheese. Slow mos and orchestral crescendos abound - it's more like the second coming of Christ than a sporting doco. Unfortunately, as anyone who witnessed it knows, the day doesn't justify that treatment and so we are left slightly nauseated instead of uplifted.
The Finals Day concept itself has been the subject of immense controversy - including criticism from both Gabriel Medina and even Steph Gilmore herself minutes after taking out her eighth title. A nuanced examination of this subject would have elevated the episode above naked cheerleading and given it, I dunno, a smidgin of dignity. Ultimately, it was this shameless cheerleading and the unquestioning endorsement of the Elo vision which reduced Season 2 to nothing more than disposable eye candy.
With the quality of the production team at hand, it felt like the sport deserved something more. Ultimately, Make of Break will go down as one more doomed attempt to harpoon the white whale of the non-surfing surfing fan.
// STEVE SHEARER
* He retired.
Fantastic review Steve.
You’re right…a perfectly risen soufflé is almost mythical.
A perfect soufflé should be served asap; they fall as they cool down....
I haven't watched it but there's just not enough drama in the WSL to make it interesting, they need proper rivalries, affairs with each others partners, cheating scandals... proper drama!
MAFS for you
I binged season 2 in the lull between Portugal and Bells. I really noticed the production values this time round, the little squishy water squelches in the soundtrack adding to the surfing footage and the super tweaked clean ocean water colours where it had looked brown in the live streams, made the whole pro surf thing look pretty beautiful. But I felt sad that reality had been edited into soapie storylines, some really key bits were missing because the didn’t fit the script. This is obviously targeting another audience, not me.
For sure!.. it continually reminded me of the opening scene to the first Point Break movie... slow mo footage with squishy water squelches.
Thanks for taking one for the team FR
I'll give it a miss.
Most of time Steve I read your reviews before watching the actual replay or clip.. summaries are priceless and occasional watch to just verify.. and yep spot on with wrap up love it cheers
Thanks Steve. I will watch ep 1.
Segueway doesn’t look right, isn’t it segue or segway?
In the words of Lemmy and Greasy
'absolutely unwatchable shit!'
And i love surfing. And surf vids. And behind the scenes surf clips.
Fuck the WSL and all it's become.
An absolute embarassment to all that has come before in surfing history and the pioneers of this sport.
Rebel tour. Shane Beschen?? Surfings elder statesmen?
The time has come.
Couldn’t even find the interest to finish reading your story. Sorry Steve .
Pass the beer nuts.
Think I’ll just stick to watching the comps and read your comp write ups.
Haven't watched it yet and maybe will watch the first episode but gotta say it FR you have a way with words thats funny as at times, good stuff.
'Pro surfing's white whale - the non-endemic audience - remains gloriously unharpooned.'
Does anyone think the bar will fall much lower? It's hard to think it possible, but the WSL always finds a way.
What's next for the man with a million shit ideas? Seriously Elo, have ANY of your ideas worked?
Good thing you are the boss so you can't get the sack, but I do believe it's time you gave yourself the flick, as your contribution so far has amounted to nothing. Take a good look in the mirror Elo and ask yourself, "am I out of my depth here?"
The answer is a most definite YES!
Pro surfing keeps getting more shit by the year it needs a new ideas , new people running it . It's surfing no matter how hard people try it's not a main stream sport with the big crowds and money . The hey day of the industry was years ago , now it's owned by the corporate world and shareholders when it was once owned by Surfers for Surfers .
Make or Break- thank fck it’s broken -next series- “WSL- Kurl Up & Die”
I tried watching the Finals Day episode but couldn't finish it, the Oprahness of it was a total turn off. I enjoyed your summary more than the series Steve. Great writers have a way of crystallizing moments and experiences and though I abhor arse kissing I think you are a great writer and Swellnet is elevated by your presence. I hope they are paying you big bucks because you are worthy.
We tried watching Break Point from the same producers, but found it so bloody boring. Never made it through the first episode (Nick Kyrgios).
Elo's marketing vision for the WSL was inspired by this video:
so trendy to hate on the wsl
Well, what’s there to like ? Please enlighten me. The anticipation is killing me. The WSL, currently, is like kids on Xmas Day opening presents with gay abandon and breaking everything they touch. Total basket case. AW
"The Ancient Greeks took their entertainment very seriously and used drama as a way of investigating the world they lived in, and what it meant to be human.
The three genres of drama were comedy, satyr plays, and most important of all, tragedy.
Comedy: The first comedies were mainly satirical and mocked men in power for their vanity and foolishness. The first master of comedy was the playwright Aristophanes. Much later Menander wrote comedies about ordinary people and made his plays more like sit-coms.
Tragedy: Tragedy dealt with the big themes of love, loss, pride, the abuse of power and the fraught relationships between men and gods. Typically the main protagonist of a tragedy commits some terrible crime without realizing how foolish and arrogant he has been. Then, as he slowly realizes his error, the world crumbles around him......"
"When Gilligan's Island was first aired on TV, there were a few viewers who didn't quite understand the storyline. They believed that there really were people stuck on an island. Not only did these individuals send concerned letters to the show's creator, but some even called the Coast Guard to alert them of the news!"
What IS that on Kelly's knee?
Very good Question Ben...
Reckon it goes with that equally weird black finger ring...
Here's wot comes back on www searches..
Waterproof Apple Smart Ring wifi or similar powers the Omni directional Knee Microphone.
This would act as a Coaching or Directional Key to Zhoosh up the Swish Soundtrack!
Kinda Like ELO tugs on Puppet strings > Kelly's Knee > Cutback & Kelly tells them how cool it is!
Marries the Doco Deep Voice over to reverberate thru GOATS deep carve....
Watch & listen how deep Kelly can carve...take it away Kelly...all done live to add impact!
ZZZhhhooosh....Grrrr....Power kick...like Revving a car.
Pretty sure some surf movies have done similar...crew can help on that!
The Tibia below the knee cap (patella)?
During extension from a fully flexed position, the patella initially serves primarily as a link between the quadriceps tendon and the patellar ligament, allowing the quadriceps to generate torque on the tibia.
However, twice as much torque is needed for the final 15 degrees of extension compared to that which is required to get to that point from full flexion, and the patella helps achieve this by increasing the moment arm during extension. By displacing the quadriceps tendon-patellar ligament linkage away from the axis of knee rotation, the effective moment arm is increased, which contributes an additional 60% of torque that is needed for the last 15 degrees of knee extension.
According to the man himself - osgood - schlatters disease
Skip to 31.15
There is a weird dichotomy here where nearly all committed surf fans don't want surfing to become more popular with a non surfing audience. This being for the obvious reason that no surfers want already crowded lineups to become more crowded.
The only parties who are interested in this result are the WSL, sellers of surf gear and maybe pro surfers... This sets them at interesting odds against their core market.
Are there really any of us out there who want the 'white whale' to be harpooned? Surely we are all praying the WSL fail in this endeavor? Is there any other sport where the fans are so opposed to the aims of the official masters? No wonder there is so much ill feeling against the WSL
Long live the white whale!
Put down yer harpoons!!
Scroll through to 1min mark to see exclusive rare footage of the Great White Whales......the audience ELO and his Commisioner of Sports are so keen to capture.
Frightening. Products of the education system in the 'greatest country in the world'.
Im all for the next gen of real surfers getting into the ocean.
Its a healthy challenging adventure, therapy, planetary connection, lifestyle and buzzz.
Its just the infux of ignorant crowds of ScoMo Covid19 payment twits bailing boards hangin in the impact zone..... that spoils tooo many great waves; with no apparent idea or interest in anything or anyone else. ......
Add a hero 4WD'er to the shiteshow..... and the dunes & forests are in real danger of being destroyed for 30+ years. Even Elo couldnt afford the earth repair rehab bill
Maybe a tad undercut on the photoshopping therm and I haven't watched M or B as its not free...enjoyed reading your take on it though Steve
I was thinking the same thing Ben, is it perhaps been Kelly’s secret weapon all these years? The extendable knee… or something …
The two current World Champions are style over substance which mirrors the governing body. How a surfing world tour ends up in Southern California for its penultimate contest is beyond belief.
"I never discount the 'sex sells' aspect of sport, especially after a Melburnian female cousin explained she enjoyed watching the AFL primarily for the titillation of watching fit blokes run around in tight shorts."
Little does she know the horrific cost of this borne out by the players:
Watched series 2 and haven't watched another episode again which speaks volumes....trying to put a divide between nations I think and create narrative that's not there. One thing I did find interesting is how Italo and his "manager/filmer" accuse the head judge of being anti-brazillian or in other words racist after the heat loss to Robbo at bells. Interesting
Brazillians are not a race , just a country ,
(who,s people are internationally renowned for poor surfing etiquette)
they would be Latinos as a race which also includes all the different countries in the South and Central Americas
Maybe the head judge is just over the claiming and ugly surfing?
Yeah fair call. Still it's a big call to claim a head judge to be anti-brazillian.....
" it's more like the second coming of Christ than a sporting doco." This cracked me up!
The QS 5000 at Newy looks like another disaster wave wise.
I'm surprised there's actually 2000 people watching it on YT.
Even the A-League docu-series is surprisingly good. I would've thought surfing would have way more material to work with than Australian soccer but obviously not. Glad you've saved me the time of watching.
Volcom & other real surf sponsors support their talent, know the prime audience & deliver quality
(vs bloated quantity)