Being an intern at the CW has it perks. One of those is to see pilot episodes, such as CW’s All American, before the series premieres. Here’s my first impressions and review (without spoilers!).
Fans of the blockbuster Straight Outta Compton are going to love this. Set to air this fall, this CW series tells the story of Spencer James, whose rise to a wealthy lifestyle from his impoverished neighborhood of South LA is as dramatic as it is satisfying to watch. James is an African-American star football player attending South Crenshaw High, which suffers from poverty and gang violence. Beverly Hills’ coach Billy Baker, whose job is in jeopardy, illegally recruits him with the promise of furthering his skills for the NFL. Once in Beverly Hills, his friends and family in the south side must be juggled with the new friends and enemies he makes. Everyone wants a piece of him, for better or worse.
The show displays its strength through the cast. Many of the talented actors are up-and-coming, but it’s refreshing to have fresh faces. British actor Daniel Ezra (Prey), who was cast after a lengthy search, plays James convincingly well. Other young stars who stood out were Bre-Z (Empire), Samantha Logan (13 Reasons Why), and Cody Christian (Teen Wolf). The brief encounters we have in the first episode gives just enough time with each to want to learn more of their story.
Speaking of which, All American utilizes multiple areas of contention to keep the story interesting – a formula CW is well experienced with. Yet, unlike other CW shows, much of the drama is rooted in more realistic situations. The series is based on real life NFL player Spencer Paysinger. While the main story arch relates to James’ ability to perform in football, situations such as love interests, competition, gang violence and family conflicts steal the spotlight as well. This keeps the plot moving. But I expect more soft and positive moments as the show goes on.
Writer April Blair, who penned shows such as Reign and Heart of Dixie, does a commendable job. She’s not afraid to explore deeper subjects that can afflict young adults. Just in the first episode, characters react to drug abuse, classism, violence and more. Bre-Z’s character, Tiana Cooper, is LGBTQ+ and faces homophobic remarks. Like CW’s Dynasty, parts of the show capitalizes on displaying the vices of the richest 1%’s way of life.
The end of the pilot episode, which I will not spoil, does have a pretty big twist. It’ll heighten the stakes even more for the rest of the season.
Bottom line: All American’s first episode is a promising look at what could be major hit with viewers. There’s a lot more I could write about, but it would be a crime to spoil it for you. This episode left me waiting for the next one (yes, even the intern for CW has to wait). You can watch All American airing Wednesdays this fall right after Riverdale.