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‘All in, tears and all’ – Netflix hit Sunderland ‘Til I Die returns to screens

The latest instalment of Sunderland ‘Til I Die is now streaming on Netflix. Part three of Fulwell73’s love story brings promotion, hope and a Wembley win at last, as new owner Kyril Louis-Dreyfus takes over, bringing fresh ideas and personnel, and the club finally wins promotion to the Championship. Fulwell73 are the Hollywood-based film and TV producers for global megastars like Beyonce, the Kardashians and Elton John. And they are mostly all Sunderland-daft. They convinced Netflix they could have full-on access to a club, which would win promotion to the Premier League. In fact, they did the exact opposite; and still put Sunderland on the map. The new three-part series, released on Tuesday (February 13), has a much happier denouement, which is certain to please Sunderland fans who do not need to sit through series one and two again to be reminded of the misery of their fall from the Premier League to League One and the impasse in between. It will also delight Netflix viewers across the globe, who were gripped by the first series – the first football documentary of its kind for the service – and fell in love with the club thanks to the raw emotions of the supporters, captured up close alongside some of the mind-boggling behind the scenes access to the club as it fell from grace, and favour, in the city. North East Times sent Colin Young along to the premiere in Sunderland, to hear how the new series took two years to put together and why the timing of its release could have huge implications for a £450 million project to build a new Hollywood in the region.


Mackem Royalty converged on Sunderland for the latest instalment of the Netflix documentary that has put the city on the world football map.

The final episode of Sunderland ‘Til I Die was screened to invited guests at a premiere at The Fire Station, which was attended by Fulwell73 founders and producers, first-team players and club legends Jim Montgomery and Marco Gabbiadini. 

No one had warned them they might need tissues.

Part three, across three episodes, is another take on a tried but forever being tested genre, and once again the producers have treated the hands-on access to the club and all its staff and supporters with care and respect, and delivered another picture postcard of Sunderland, which is still slightly frayed at the edges.

Fulwell73 was set up in 2005 by Leo Pearlman, Ben Winston, Ben Turner and Gabe Turner, with James Corden since joining as a fifth partner.  

For London-born Gabe – a lifelong Mackem thanks to his Sunderland-born grandfather – working on this latest instalment was, he says, “a real honour”. 

Prior to the first showing, he told North East Times: “I was actually doing other things for season one or two, so I joined physically for this one and what Ben and Leo created for the first two series spoke to football fans across the country and the world.

“There’s so much football content out now, but this has a place in people’s hearts because it really accesses what it feels like to be a fan of a football club.

“It is about the true fan; the highs – and more importantly – the lows, because 90 per cent of what we go through are lows not highs, and most of it is a struggle.

“They really highlighted that, and to be part of the third series was a real honour. 

“If you watch series one back now, it is grim viewing, and we felt we wanted to put at least one series out that could actually have repeat viewing for Sunderland fans. 

“So, season one or two, you watch it as a Sunderland fan, and then you put it in a cupboard and say, ‘I loved that, but it was kind of difficult, and I don’t want to see that again’. 

“Hopefully, episode three of season three, where you watch us win at Wembley, you can just go and enjoy that on repeat. 

“Football, when it’s not in the Premier League, just looks different, and it is different, and most of us know that in this country.

“But they don’t necessarily know that around the world. 

“We just wanted to show real football in all its glory, and also with all its failings, because that’s really what we all experience, especially as Sunderland fans.

“There is a very small sector, that top four thing, and for everyone else it is kind of messy and lovely, and we wanted to show that, the times when you win and when you lose.

“You could say Sunderland shouldn’t be celebrating winning a League One play-off final win at Wembley, but then you realise you can’t go to Wembley to watch the Papa John’s Final because of COVID-19 and you say, ‘next time we go, I’m all in’.

“We did, and we had the day of our lives.

“I remember winning the Championship and promotion to the Premier League, and Roy Keane said we’re not doing an open top bus and I agreed with him at the time. 

“Now, if we have a day to party, I am all in, tears and all.”

After Marty Longstaff had given the small audience a rendition of the show’s theme tune – and a small sample of that other signature tune, ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ Leo Pearlman took centre stage for a Q&A with Paul Swinney, author of The Mackem Dictionary.

Since he told North East Times nearly two years ago of his plans to make Sunderland the ‘Hollywood of the UK’, Leo has been banging the drum for the Crown Works project.

And the premiere of another potential global hit was the ideal opportunity to make a final rallying call to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of his Spring Budget.

Plans for the £450 million studios, by the side of the River Wear, in Pallion, were submitted at the end of last year. 

It is estimated the 20 sound stages across 1.7 million sq ft will create around 8000 jobs for the region, across a range of largely blue collar occupations, and, says Leo, stop the brain drain of creative talent.

He says: “It’s the scale of the ambition – 20 sound stages is enough to shoot three Hollywood feature movies and a couple of TV shows at the same time.

“This isn’t a little pop-up, this is a regeneration plan for the entire region and what really underpins it – going back to what was the greatest thing about Sunderland ‘Til I Die – is the people. 

“It’s the fact we have a region that is overflowing with creativity, with incredible voices, that I would say for the last two or three decades has been completely forgotten about.

“When I grew up, my dad would make me watch shows with stars and talent and writers from our region, whether it was Auf Wiedersehen Pet or Byker Grove, and there was a real sense of pride that these shows were being shown all over the country and across the world.

“That has completely disappeared because the entire creative industry is South East and London-centric, and yet we have fantastic locations for films like Avengers, Indiana Jones and Transformers, but they can’t stay here because we don’t have the studio or the infrastructure.

“There’s a real opportunity and we have to take it.

“This is a perfect example of where the Government and private sector can come together. 

“On the private side, we’ve worked very hard to put together a package around investment, and we need Government support. 

“We’re hoping they see the opportunity and they grasp it.

“It would certainly be, to my mind, the first time they’ve done so since Nissan in the 80s; we’re effectively handing them their next one.

“If they step up and actually do something, then we will be looking to break ground on the project in the summer and, in 2025, the first stages will be up and we will have our first production.”

Leo adds: “The University of Sunderland was number one in The Guardian for best production courses in the entire country, and yet 90 per cent who complete the courses have to leave the North East to pursue their careers.

“That is something we have to change.

“The industry really needs Sunderland to deliver this and do the whole country a favour, and our dream is that in ten years’ time people will think of the North East and Sunderland as being a hub for the creative industry.

“While heavy industry was previously our heritage, the creative industry can be our future.”

And in the meantime, fans can enjoy Sunderland ‘Til I Die – and don’t rule our series four…

February 14, 2024

  • Arts & Culture

Created by North East Times