Most of the time shows are made to hit a certain audience but still have a wide appeal. Players is not this and that is not a bad thing in this instance. Between the many League of Legends references and even the style this mockumentary is shot in, there is no doubt who this show was made for. It is time for a no-spoliers review of Players which can be seen now on Paramount+.
This mockumentary follows Creamcheese, yes, the main character of this show is named Creamcheese. He is an older player that is one of the top players at his position in North America. Then there is the young rookie sensation, Organizm. The two could not be more different in what drives them and this leads to a lot of butting heads. Their hope? To find a way to come together and win Fugitive’s first LCS championship.
He was originally called something else, but revealing that would spoil the fun. From Creamcheese’s beginnings, it is clear that some real-life influences from League of Legends esports are used and fans of those players will recognize this. Played by Misha Brooks, Creamcheese is an older player who made some promises that he couldn’t keep. The theme of this is visited throughout with every episode going back on forth on a 10-year timeline. Fugitive, the LCS team was started by him and his friends and he reminds everyone of it constantly.
This may seem annoying at first but truly Misha Brooks steals the show. His embodiment of Creamcheese is the best part of Players. The character has so much more depth than people will realize at first. They continuously pull back the layers throughout the show revealing a much more raw person than he would lead on.
It is his drive to win an LCS championship and to make up for the mistakes of the past. This is the entire path of his story which seems linear at first but eventually pays off with multiple storylines mixing in with his ultimate goals. Creamcheese is the star of this show and Brooks does an incredible job of bringing him to life.
A Different Drive in Organizm?
The other major player in this story is Organizm. Played by Da’Jour Jones, Organizm is an extremely reserved 17-year-old prodigy whose focus is to be the best. His story is not only interesting but at times it also feels like it is based in reality. This is something that Players does as well as anything.
It is this mindset that clashes with the goals of Creamcheese and creates the schism between the two. The problem is that in nearly every scene Organizm shares with Creamcheese, Creamcheese steals the spotlight. While this is how the characters work out, it takes a while for Jones to find his form. The character at times feels very bland and the episode that is supposed to focus on him feels like it should have come later in the show or at least, there should have been another chance to really just find Organizm’s character.
In terms of the payoff for Organizm, Jones really delivers in the last few episodes in particular. It feels like Organizm’s decisions are his own and Jones excels at making it feel palpable. There were certainly chances to do this earlier but by the end, Organizm and Jones have found their groove.
Filling Out the Roster
The rest of the cast has some shining beacons and then some characters that felt thrown in. One, in particular, stands out. The trainer, played by director Tony Yacenda, is a character who they are continuously going to for interviews and yet he is never actually seen doing anything else in the show. While he provides an interesting perspective, that does not make up for the fact that his lines couldn’t have gone to someone else. Maybe the forgotten about Mid Laner for the team who is in a ton of scenes but essentially has no lines?
Then there are characters like Ely Henry’s Kyle Braxton. There is a chance that he is the second-best character in the show. Henry brings a level-headed Braxton to life and makes every scene truly feel like a real-life documentary. Easily one of the most polished actors of the group, it is hard to get enough of his character due to his connection with both players and the positions he is constantly put in.
One of the other major wins for Players is Nightfall who is played by Youngbin Chung. Players is Chung’s first acting experience and he absolutely nails his character. As someone who was just a League of Legends player for the University of California Irvine, he feels like a natural. While Nightfall does not do much until the episode named after him, his character quickly grows on the audience and tells easily the funniest story in the show.
Overall the many side characters such as the controversial Guru, the love interest Emma, the hilarious Frugger, the conflicted Rudy and the equally levelheaded wife of Kyle Braxton, April all bring so much to flesh out the rest of the roster.
Connections to League of Legends Esports and the Realities that Come with It
What really sells this as an experience for League of Legends fans is the connections to the game and its esport. Throughout the show, the casters and analysts of the LCS, League of Legends Championship Series, show up and add so much realism. Between Phreak getting his chance to shine and making these events feel like they happened to Azael, MarkZ and Kobe discussing the characters on their podcast “The Dive”, Fugitive feels like an actual team.
The attention to detail even when showing the game is outstanding as well. They revisit times that older players will recognize instantly within the game and even the old League of Legends client makes an appearance. They also connect everything to how it was in real life. From a team climbing their way through challengers to even where events were held, it is clear that this show was made by people who get it.
Hitting a Target Audience
All of this is to say that Players knows exactly what audience it wants to hit. The writers have clearly done their research and there is no doubt that the people at Riot Games were involved in every aspect of this story. It is because of this that anyone who cares about League of Legends and especially its esport will instantly feel a connection to the show.
Even the verbiage that is used feels like something top-level players of the game would say. This includes even the more cringe moments of which there are plenty. But the story allows for that and does so without it feeling unnatural. Again it is the realism that hits home and this was clearly made intentionally for a certain audience.
A Fumbling of the End
While the majority of the show is really good, the ending feels a bit fumbled. The race to make sure it finishes everything in its 10-episode first season hurts a show that otherwise had found its groove about three episodes in. The reason for this is clearly that they wanted the whole story told, especially should Players not be renewed for a second season.
Without spoiling anything the focused growth on some of the characters is lost in a rushed last half of the last episode. It is clear that some of what they wanted to do just ended up being too long and the half-hour episode really should have been given an hour runtime in order to not lose the momentum. That said, the ending is absolutely nailed and should have everyone pushing to see what comes next.
There is no doubt that Players was made with one audience in mind and that is fine. For that audience, this show hits every note. From the beginnings of Fugitive, to the intertwining stories of Creamcheese and Organizm and even the story surrounding the investor, Players really knows what it is about. A fumbling of the final episode aside, this mockumentary melds plenty of comical moments into a well-produced show that delivers on nearly every major storyline. Also, it must be stated again, Misha Brooks is an absolute star in this show. For fans of League of Legends and especially those of its competitive scene, this show is a must-watch.
Final Rating: 9/10
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