What started with the NBA season cancellation due to COVID-19, followed by cancellations of NCAA basketball, MLB, the PGA Tour and most other sports, has left a huge chunk of television viewers aching to see some competition.
I’ve seen trending videos of marbles racing down dirt tracks as a replacement — and that’s just sad. Instead, I offer a different alternative in the CW’s “All American” football drama.
The first two seasons both are on Netflix.
The series follows a promising high school football star (inspired by pro football player Spencer Paysinger) trying to flourish in his underprivileged neighborhood. After a rival school’s coach, looking to build his own roster, offers the player a chance to transfer to Beverly Hills, the young man has a difficult decision to make. Does he stay with his family and represent the hometown he fiercely supports, or does he take an incredible opportunity to propel himself into the public eye and further his chances of playing college and professional football?
The show is along the lines of the 2006 series “Friday Night Lights,” in that it follows the trials and tribulations of the high school players both on and off the field. It’s a modern take on high school life that tackles several social issues, including racism, addiction, gang violence and infidelity, among others.
The most obvious rift is the differences between lead character Spencer James’ two living options.
His hometown of Crenshaw is riddled with gang violence that sucks in his best friend. James keeps a watchful eye while trying to save his friend from the dark path ahead of her. His community suffers several hardships, and James feels the need to tackle its problems himself. His father left his family when he was very young, so he also feels a responsibility to take care of his mother and younger brother.
Beverly Hills is filled with rich kids, who should live carefree lives. Wrong. While those families may not have to worry about money (and maybe some still do), they come with their own set of problems. Drug addiction, lack of parental guidance, mental health issues, pressures to meet high expectations and keep up appearances plague the Beverly students.
Beverly is a predominately white school, while Crenshaw High is predominately black. Beverly is a privileged neighborhood, while Crenshaw is impoverished. Understanding and accepting the two different lifestyles is James’ task. And the contrast shines a light for viewers as well, that there are positives and negatives in both worlds and there can be a common ground between them.
Although it’s a teen-geared show, there are mature messages conveyed, and it touches on several relatable problems that many viewers may have experienced in their own lives.
There is excitement, drama, sorrow, triumph and most importantly in these times — a sports-centric plot.
There are two seasons with 16 episodes each, and season three is set to air on the CW in October. Season two leaves viewers with a cliffhanger leading up to James’ senior season. There’s enough intrigue to keep you watching, and with only two seasons so far the series is a breeze to binge.