TV Review: ‘The Book of Manning’

The Book of Manning review on

ESPN documentary chronicles 'fairy tale' of the QB who sired a pair of NFL stars

Despite the cloying Hallmark Card music and Southeastern Conference-approved pom-pom waving, “The Book of Manning” — ESPN’s latest addition to an impressive library of sports documentaries –- is pretty fascinating stuff. Writer-director Rory Karpf goes back to detail the playing career of Archie Manning, who was not only a standout player but sired two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, his sons Peyton and Eli. “It reads like a fairy tale,” the John Goodman narration intones, before delving into the Mannings’ three-hankie story. At the very least it’s presented like one, but that doesn’t mean this “Book” isn’t the TV equivalent of a page-turner.

Manning had established himself as a college star at Ole Miss – just beginning an impressive quarterbacking career that mixed running and passing – when his father committed suicide. Manning briefly thought of leaving school to help his struggling family, but ultimately chose to stay, eventually resulting in a 14-year pro career, a dozen of those with a New Orleans Saints team that, despite his stoic efforts, never enjoyed a winning season.

For a younger generation familiar only with the sons, this early footage does a terrific job of capturing their dad’s on-field credentials. But “Book of Manning’s” real point is about how Manning’s loss of his own father translated into the way he dealt with his kids, which included being an extremely present dad, without seeking to mold them or pressure them toward pro football careers.

There’s also a moving passage about Manning’s oldest son, Cooper, whose own promising football career (he was Peyton’s favorite receiver in high school) was cut short by injury, with Peyton citing that as motivation for everything he’s accomplished since.

Mostly, the doc (part of the SEC’s “Storied” series) presents the elder Manning as a model for the modern sports dad — one who takes enormous pleasure and pride in his sons’ accomplishments, without seeking either to live in their reflected glory or reclaim his own.

Admittedly, the tone is a little too adoring, at times feeling like a promotional video for college football at a time when the game could clearly use some feel-good publicity. Yet even with its flaws, there’s enough here and in the Mannings to make this “Book” worth opening.

TV Review: 'The Book of Manning'

(Documentary; ESPN, Tue. Sept. 24, 8 p.m. ET)


Produced by Front Row Films and ESPN Films in association with the Southeastern Conference.


Executive producers, John Dahl, Connor Schell, Bill Simmons; producers, Lauren Karpf, Andy Billman; writer-director, Rory Karpf; camera, Al Francesco. 90 MIN.


Narrator: John Goodman.

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  1. Bobbi says:

    I missed it! When will it be replayed or how can I purchase the DVD?

  2. debbie says:

    When will the manning story air again?

  3. Sandi B says:

    As a Saints fan since their birth in the late ’60’s, this is an inspiring story of football at it’s best. I was glued to my tv watching this program. It should have been subtitled…”Out of Defeat, comes Victory”
    This story would make an excellent gift for sons to give their fathers or fathers to give their sons.,
    Sandi B

  4. Chrissy DeVito says:

    We saw a little of the show, but couldn’t watch it fully. Will this be on again?

  5. jaybee says:

    I’m watching it now, for the second time. What a beautiful family and a beautiful story. No one is perfect, but the Manning family sure comes close. Such dignity and grace. The only very small complaint I have is that Olivia should have been given her own 30 minutes, at least. After all, who was overseeing the family while Archie was playing, practicing, or out of town. All in all, well done.

  6. Pat Terry says:

    I missed the showing of this very interesting story. Will it be shown at later dates? How do you find the schedule?

  7. Karen West says:

    Very well done. My mother has watched this twice and can’t stop talking about it. Very remarkable, talented family. A very close family

  8. Ted Lifot says:

    Well done, kudos to ESPN!!!!

  9. Vicki Seven says:

    I loved it, too, and got interrupted and missed the last part. I do hope it will be shown again and advertised. Lovely family.

  10. Kim says:

    I LOVED every BIT of the Manning story and being a boy momma I can’t wait to show it and watch it again with my two young sons 11 and 8:)

  11. Angela Blair says:

    I missed the beginning of the show because I was out supporting my own grandson (albeit at flag football, but you have to start somewhere). However, I was already a huge fan of the Manning family and this documentary did nothing but make that admiration grow. Not only the sports community, but the world needs more parents like Archie and Olivia Manning. Thank you ESPN and PLEASE replay this as many times as you’d like.

  12. Larry Force says:

    Missed most of the TV presentation last night.. When will it be shown again. I want to be sure to see all of it then.

  13. suxanne says:

    Absolutely enjoyed it. So glad Olivia talked Archie into finishing the book of manning
    because i felt it was a book and a story that no one but archie could have told.

  14. Patti Long says:

    What a wonderful, moving and humble family man that took a terrible event that could have totally devastated him and used it to be the best he could be! Truly a good man that encouraged his sons to be good men,too. I loved the “Book of Manning”. A great asset from the state of Mississippi !! Olivia and Archie are such great role models. I know they are proud of their sons.

  15. Marynelle says:

    Looking forward to seeing “The Book of Manning”. I’m sure it will show how a football great and his wife raised an amazing family. It can be done it a family tries. The Mannings are real role models.

    • drwil10609 says:

      Just finished seeing “The Book of Manning”. What an excellent, well written history of the Manning family. And Archie…you are a good guy. You are such an example for other dads (and parents) of high school and college athletes. You have an amazing family and know how proud you are of them.
      And now I understand that you are the reason for your family being who they are
      P.S. My parents were huge fans of yours throughout your career at Ole Miss and for the Saints. This story was fascinating for my husband and I to watch and to learn your earlier history before we kept up with you.

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