Photo Credit: Piotr Cichosz via Unsplash
Zero Chill is a 10-episode Netflix show that I watched specifically because I knew it was going to be bad.
It’s a family show, centered around the character of Kayla MacBentley, who has to leave everything behind in Canada when her family decides to follow her twin brother Mac, to a hockey school run in England by an ex-NHL legend.
Listen, I know I said I watched this show because I knew it was going to be bad, but I was hoping for fun bad, or a car crash that I couldn’t quite look away from. But Zero Chill was not fun bad, it wasn’t even car crash bad, it was bad bad. I want to be clear, I wasn’t expecting high cinema or artistry from this 10-episode family sports comedy on Netflix. I had incredibly low expectations and yet Zero Chill got down onto the floor and army-crawled underneath of them.
The show starts off on an utterly incomprehensible note. The MacBently family has decided to move away from their home in Canada (we’re never told what part of Canada, just ‘Canada’) all the way to England so that their son Mac, can be coached by Anton Hammarström, a renowned former NHLer-turned hockey school founder.
I found myself immediately wondering why someone who wants to get better at hockey would leave Canada of all places, to go to a country where approximately five people own hockey skates. Also worth pointing out is that at no point did I ever believe that this show was set in England. There were a couple shots that I’m pretty sure had palm trees in the background and it was almost always sunny.
But, I decided that I could move on and forgive the show for its location-based sins and just focus on the story. But the story was also bad.
Almost all of the characters were incredibly one dimensional and their arcs were either left unresolved or were resolved in a totally unsatisfying way.
Kayla’s arc centres around adjusting to life in England and fighting with her brother. When the family decided to leave Canada, Kayla was forced to leave a very big part of her life behind. She was a competitive figure skater and her pairs skating partner Jacob Schimmer now lives across the Atlantic Ocean.
Kayla spends her nights sneaking into the rink where her brother plays hockey so that she can facetime Jacob and skate ‘with’ him. It’s kind of sweet, until you remember how entirely ridiculous it is that this family moved to England in the first place. On one of the nights, Jacob ghosts her and so Kayla decides to skate on her own. She sees someone on the ice, clad head to toe in hockey gear, but who appears to be going through the motions of a figure skating routing. There are a couple episodes that Kayla spends trying to find the mystery skater’s identity so she can convince them to be her new skating partner. There’s a plot twist that the show thinks is absolutely brilliant, but actually ends up being kind of underwhelming and also, for whatever reason, involves cancer.
That’s not the only baffling subplot, in fact, this entire show is just confusing subplots held together with shoelaces. There are several episodes about Ava Hammarström, Anton’s daughter, a figure skater whose secret desire is to play hockey for her father’s team. Honestly, Ava is kind of a sweet character and she’s one of the few in the show with realistic motivations for her actions. But the problem here is with Anton. In short, he’s a jerk, especially to his daughter. He constantly prioritizes hockey over raising her and, when she tells him that she wants to play too, he laughs in her face and she reveals that he hasn’t hugged her since she was a child. All that is seemingly forgiven though, when Anton agrees to let Ava play for his team. They gave Anton a redemption arc without making him do any of the actual work to earn it. It was underwhelming and honestly, not a great message to send to the pre-teens that this show is aimed at.
The acting from the leads was flat, but honestly, I can’t blame them too much because the script they were working with was also painfully dull and boring.
One exception to this was Jeremias Amoore who plays Bear Stelzer. Amoore gave every scene his all and despite the subplot involving himself, his father and… questionably legal sports betting… Amoore gave the best, most heartfelt acting performance of the show.
My dear friend who bravely battled through watching Zero Chill with me said that Bear was going to need a chiropractor by the end of the season because the weight of carrying the show couldn’t be good for his back.
This is a show about teenagers and the characters are repeatedly stated to all be around 15 years old. The show took every opportunity to remind the audience that the characters were all 15; it was a little bit strange, but then I realized, ‘Oh, it’s because every actor on this show looks like they’re 30 years old.’ I understand why shows might not work with teenagers for all kinds of labour and insurance reasons, but this was bad. Think Olivia Newton-John playing a 17-year-old Sandy in Grease when she was 29, that’s how weird these so-called ‘15-year-olds’ looked on screen.
There were plot holes upon plot holes, characters did things that made no sense and I had questions that just kept piling up because they were never explained by the show. It felt like the writers had been asked to write a script in a day without access to the internet (or common sense).
Perhaps most telling of how little the writers cared about attention to detail was the fact that one of the characters’ names is “Mac” MacBently. We never learn his first name and his entire family calls him “Mac.” Clearly his family wouldn’t have named their son “Mac MacBently,” right? Well, he’s listed in the credits as “Mac MacBently,” so maybe they did in fact give their son the dumbest name I’ve ever heard. More likely than that, I think, is that the writers just didn’t bother coming up with a first name for one of their most important characters.
It’s a little thing, but it’s indicative of most of the problems with this show. It seems like they didn’t even try. I like bad TV, I like trashy TV, I like cheesy TV about teenagers playing sports and making mistakes. I knew that this show wouldn’t be good, but I was hoping that at the very least, it would have been bad in a fun way.