All American tackles off-field issues

The CW’s new football high school drama series proves surprisingly enjoyable

Admittedly, I stumbled upon The CW television show All American on accident.  I intended to only watch one of the latest episodes of Riverdale, but an advertisement alerted me of the channel’s new series.

After watching each weekly installment of All American’s 16-episode first season, I was thoroughly impressed by the show. I have a great appreciation for it, especially because it is loosely based on the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger.

The show centers on main character Spencer James (played by Daniel Ezra, who masks his British accent flawlessly).

James comes from the rough-and-tumble neighborhood of Crenshaw where he escapes the dangers of street life by being the star player on his high school football team.

James finds himself getting into trouble at school, which forces his mother to recruit an old beau –– coach Billy Baker –– to entice James to live with him and play for his team in Beverly Hills. James reluctantly agrees and finds himself thrust into what seems like an entirely foreign world.

Throughout the first season, James slowly assimilates to life in Beverly Hills, but at the same time, he attempts to hold down the fort in Crenshaw.

James is by no means a static character. He’s both likeable and dynamic as he strives to fit into the mold of his new surroundings while simultaneously clutching onto his roots.

The narrative does a fantastic job of splitting screen time between Beverly Hills and Crenshaw, as James often visits home to check in. He sometimes gets himself into hot water as he attempts to keep a foot in both camps.

James displays this innate maturity that makes him such a perfect lead character. He is forced to make tough decisions, like when he is eye-to-eye with his estranged father who returns in an attempt to rectify his wrongdoings.

Perhaps the most interesting development of the show is that James never loses himself. He stays true to form while also adapting to his new life. One admirable quality is that he doesn’t let his personal hardship define him.

While the backdrop of the show centers on the sport of football, it doesn’t have an overwhelming presence.

There are several episodes that don’t even really have any game action. What really matters about this show is the growth that James (and those around him) makes as the season progresses.

Because All American is successful in creating a plotline that is perhaps more drama-filled off the field than it is on, I deem it a success. The scenes that show the characters in-game are actually quite underwhelming.

In most instances, the outcome of the game is predictable. Even if the action takes a sharp twist, the suspense is sub-dramatic and resembles a second-rate production.

In any case, there are reasons to suspect that the first season won over many viewers, and this alone should remain a viable reason why a second season should be ordered.

For the time being, The CW hasn’t officially announced a season two. However, the first season recently dropped on Netflix, and the streaming numbers will likely factor into a decision to give a green light for a second season.

While James is presented as a thick-skinned character who faces many obstacles in this coming-of-age story, there are still many storylines that have to play out. Therefore, a second season of All American should be just as good, if not even better, than the first.

By: Luke Feliciano | Sports Editor