As an uncultured American with no relationship to the world of “football,” the new Netflix docuseries Beckham has given me a cursory education about the passionate, sometimes terrifying fan culture surrounding the sport. It’s also given me a more complex portrait of David Beckham; growing up, I had mostly understood him to be a Very Hot British Man. I was also reminded of his high-profile marriage to Posh Spice, a.k.a. Victoria Beckham, in every magazine I flipped through.
Still, despite all the interesting facts I discovered about Beckham’s public and private life—the kick, the sarong, his obsession with tidiness—I found the portions of the doc featuring his longtime spouse, Victoria, to be the most compelling and downright amusing. Obviously, there’s the now-viral scene of the fashion designer trying to assert that she grew up in a working-class household before admitting that her father drove a Rolls Royce. There’s also her refreshingly honest admission that watching David play football, even in the most pivotal moments of his career, hasn’t endeared her to the sport. The internet has also spent the past week revisiting the bold, often ridiculed fashion choices she and David made as a couple, including their very random but somehow perfect Barney-purple wedding looks.
In the wake of renewed conversations around Victoria’s iconic-ness, I couldn’t help but experience flashbacks to her NBC reality special, Victoria Beckham: Coming to America. Despite completely missing the Spice Girls boat (I was born the same year as their debut album), I somehow managed to catch this delightfully unserious hour of television on a random weeknight in 2007. I mostly just remember the fashion icon getting her drivers’ license and meeting the omnipresent blogger-villain Perez Hilton. But seeing her dry humor and overall fabulousness on display in Beckham made me want to revisit the stellar one-off episode.
First of all, the fact that Coming to America was apparently a pilot for an axed Bravo series just re-emphasizes how lost we were as a nation when Bush was in the White House. Despite averaging 5.1 million viewers, the special, which documented the former singer’s move to the U.S., apparently didn’t do well enough to warrant additional episodes. In any case, this 45-minute romp is entertaining enough on its own and probably the best introduction I could’ve had to Victoria, given the tabloid image of her as a perpetually scowling British woman.
It took my second viewing of Coming to America as an adult to realize that the program is more of a scripted parody of Beckham’s “posh” persona than any genuine attempt at a documentary. The format, plus the movie trailer-esque narration, is reminiscent of popular network reality shows at the time, like Supernanny and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. After David’s transfer to the LA Galaxy, Victoria has to race against a seemingly imaginary clock to find a dwelling for her family in Beverly Hills. Along the way, she learns how to drive, tricks the paparazzi with a sex doll, throws the first pitch at a Dodgers game, and goes through earthquake training.
The scenes between Beckham and her new American “personal assistant” Renee (who’s supposedly just an improv actress that’s been cast by producers) are comedy gold. Beckham tows the line perfectly between flaunting her well-earned status as a British royalty and being a high-maintenance snob for the sake of laughs. (Her casually telling Renee that she should lengthen her body by wearing heels made me snort.) Throughout the entire special, she’s playing an aloof but sharply funny diva character—this is an assumption, of course—that we’ve seen older, established pop stars put on a million times. And yet something about Beckham saying that “it’s exhausting being fabulous” after spinning around on a balcony may be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.
My favorite scene—which really cements this special as a variety hour more than anything—is when Victoria meets Perez Hilton to confront him about his coverage of her. “I think people are used to seeing me as a miserable bitch, to be completely honest,” she says in a confessional, “because of the paparazzi pictures.” When she goes to the cafe where he’s working, she’s hardly indignant. This is the sort of attitude I also picked up watching Beckham. While the British tabloids and aggressive sports fans certainly had an effect on her, she doesn’t seem to latch onto it. Correspondingly, when faced with Hilton, she feeds him the manufactured version of herself that he and other bloggers have created.
“I don’t want to be seen smiling, having fun, or eating,” Victoria says when she joins him at his makeshift office. “Perish the thought.” This segment is also where she claims that her least-favorite celebrity is Eddie Murphy, and I’m glad to know she had her groupmate Mel B’s back during that paternity scandal the same year. Maybe she was just poking fun at Murphy because her special shares the same name as one of his most iconic movies. Her jokes have layers!
These are just a few of Coming to America’s laugh-out-loud moments. (An honorary mention for “I was completely shocked and devastated… because I was wearing flat shoes.”) Surprisingly, I haven’t seen many clips from the special make the rounds on social media over the past week, so I won’t spoil the other gems. Trust me, though: They’ll feel even more valuable in the wake of Beckham.