HBO Sports Documentary Series: “BEING SERENA” Premiere

BeingSerena_HBOSports

One of the most lauded athletes of the past two decades is the subject of the latest HBO Sports series. She is tennis great Serena Williams and her show, Being Serena, centers on the titular character at her happiest and most taxing time: Pregnancy. The first of five 30-minute episodes delves into Serena Williams’ uncertainty of her prowess to be a good mother. With the first glimpses of her baby on the ultrasound, the viewer is immersed in a mother’s ambiguity. Will she be too strict? Will she spoil her child? Will her child be a productive member of society?  Serena has not been this doubtful about any aspect of her life, since the start of her professional tennis career. 

Serena is certainly not alone during her prenatal time period, with husband Alexis Ohanian no more than an arm’s length away in much of the first episode of the series.  Alexis, a co-founder of the “homepage of the internet”, Reddit, is seemingly a polar opposite of his spouse. Serena Williams’ formal education ended with high school. Alexis Ohanian would graduate from the University of Virginia, a top-tier public university.  She is a black professional athlete, with numerous endorsements. He is a white businessman that serves on multiple boards of directors. Yet, the documentary series captures Serena conversing with her OBGYN physician in affluent French; which counters one professional critic’s review that Being Serena lacked on well-articulated interviews. Quite the contrary. Both parties of this couple are indeed from different backgrounds, but their contrasts mesh into a well-oiled machine.  This is brilliantly captured in archival footage from the Williams-Ohanian wedding, and individual first-person interviews with the couple. Within a 27-minute span, Being Serena effectively showcases the ageless concept of opposites attracting one another. 

The archival footage of Richard Williams telling his adolescent daughters  (the other being Venus Williams) that they will reach the U.S Open is a level of confidence only a parent/guardian can possess for their child.  In the episodes that follow, this confidence factor will surely be a theme as the tennis world eagerly awaits her announcement of retirement or a comeback. The former would afford the opportunity to be a full-time mom.  Knowing HBO’s history of remarkable revelations, her decision on retirement could be revealed upon conclusion of the series. But this is speculation, based on HBOWatch’s confidence in HBO programming.

HBOWatch decided to cover this series, not merely because it occupies an airing timeslot.  Being Serena is one of the few HBO docuseries in recent years, to cover a familiar athlete. Although, thus far not as profound or engaging as top-tier docuseries such as The Jinx or Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the first episode is engaging enough to look forward to subsequent episodes. The expectation is that Being Serena will never reach the highs of the celebrity-centered The Defiant Ones, but never the lows of the ego-centric Beyoncé specials Life Is But A Dream and  Lemonade specials.   Here’s to hoping to see glimpses of Serena recovering from her pregnancy, balancing motherhood, and possibly preparing to return to the firm rectangular surface that has defined her professional life.

HBOWatch will review episodes 2-5, following the conclusion of Being Serena.


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