'Beckham' is wildly popular on Netflix for this 1 key reason

Spice Girls, sport, and fame.
By Sam Haysom  on 
A close-up of a tattoed man sitting at a table with a serious expression on his face.
Credit: Netflix

Beckham, Netflix's new limited documentary series about the legendary footballer and his family, didn't take long to make its mark on the streaming service.

The show knocked Sex Education Season 4 off the top spot in the TV streaming charts pretty convincingly, racking up 12.4 million views in its first week in Netflix's English language category.

So why is a sports documentary about a retired English footballer pulling in so many views? Are football fans tuning in? Fans of the Spice Girls, who want to see more of Victoria Beckham? Or are people simply interested in the celebrity element?

'Beckham' transcends the label of sports doc, and in doing so it wins fans in every corner.

The genius of the Beckham documentary — directed, somewhat surprisingly, by Succession star Fisher Stevens — is that it caters perfectly to all those groups. Like Welcome to Wrexham and Last Chance U, Beckham transcends the label of sports doc, and in doing so it wins fans in every corner.

Beckham is a story about fame and celebrity.

People interested in reality TV, or simply fascinated by celebrity itself, will find Beckham gripping. Although they don't tend to pop up in the news anywhere near as much these days, David and Victoria Beckham were everywhere in the nineties and early noughties. Their marriage and careers were pored over by tabloids and documented by paparazzi, an era that's become increasingly disturbing to revisit in the 2020s.

Indeed, the documentary doesn't shy away from this; the dark side of fame is very much a focus. David's public treatment in the aftermath of being red carded during England's 1998 World Cup match against Argentina, and Victoria's portrayal following the couple's difficult move to Spain, is all discussed in detail — as is the toll these things took on their mental health. In a similar way to how Framing Britney Spears offered an uncomfortable look back at the terrible treatment of a celebrity in the spotlight, Beckham makes us question our own intense interest in fame.

A man in the "Beckham" football shirt kicks a ball.
Beckham, midway through bending it. Credit: Netflix

There's enough football in it to appeal to sports fans.

Beckham strikes the right balance between interviews and pitch footage. Key games from Beckham's time at Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, and playing for the England squad are revisited and commentated on by the players themselves. If you're not familiar with the games it makes for a tense history lesson, but even if you are it's still a dramatic revisit. The documentary has handpicked some of the most suspenseful footballing moments of Beckham's career — even if you're not a football fan you'll find your attention drawn. And everyone can appreciate the beauty of those free kicks.

There's plenty for Spice Girls fans, too.

Did you see that clip that went viral on TikTok, of Beckham crashing Posh's attempts to convince the interviewer she grew up working class? Well, there's plenty more where that came from, because Victoria Beckham (née Adams) features heavily — including plenty of '90s footage of her and her fellow Spice Girls on tour.

A man and a woman stand smiling in the stands of a football stadium.
Posh and Becks. Credit: Netflix

The nostalgia levels are high if you grew up in the '90s.

'90s kids, even those who didn't particularly care about football or the Spice Girls, will still find something in Beckham. When two celebrities are so huge they filter down into all elements of popular culture, from the fashion and the gelled-up hairstyles to Gurinder Chadha's 2002 movie Bend it Like Beckham. Watching the documentary is a trip down memory lane.

Is it perfect? Well, it's important to note that with Beckham himself as an executive producer, the story we're seeing is obviously going to be biased to an extent. But the series still covers both the bad and the good, and it's ultimately both an entertaining insight into one of the world's greatest sporting careers and an important reminder of the damage that can be inflicted by our collective obsession with those in the public eye.

How to watch: Beckham is streaming now on Netflix.

Topics Netflix

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Sam Haysom

Sam Haysom is the Deputy UK Editor for Mashable. He covers entertainment and online culture, and writes horror fiction in his spare time.

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