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New fall drama ‘All American’ scores touchdown for The CW

October 5, 2018
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Taye Diggs as Billy Baker and Daniel Ezra as Spencer James act in a scene from "All American."

In 2003, I fell head over heels for a new FOX drama about a young man from the wrong side of the tracks who moves in with a wealthy Newport

Beach family. It was called “The O.C.” It left the airwaves in 2007, and I’ve missed it ever since.

Now, after 11 years, a possible successor has finally emerged in a new drama from The CW, “All American.” Only this version of the story throws a little football in the mix to create a fun soap opera that also serves as a solid family drama.

Daniel Ezra is Spencer James, a talented high school football player from a rough Los Angeles neighborhood. When we first meet Spencer, he’s celebrating his latest touchdown, until the celebration is cut short by gunshots. While the scene may seem shocking, it’s commonplace to Spencer, as it’s the only life he’s ever known.

That is until a Beverly Hills high school coach, Billy Baker (Taye Diggs), offers him another option—playing football in Beverly Hills. Coach Baker sees Spencer as his ticket to keep his job, while Spencer sees the coach as his ticket to the NFL.

But Beverly Hills quickly proves to be a whole different world for Spencer, as he immediately runs afoul of his teammate Asher (Cody Christian).

Asher is threatened by Spencer taking his job on the field and possibly taking his girlfriend off the field. Spencer also finds trouble with Coach Baker’s son, Jordan (Michael Evans Christian), who resents all the time and attention his dad is giving Spencer. Meanwhile, Spencer works to maintain his relationships with his mom, little brother and best friend in his old neighborhood.

But straddling both worlds proves incredibly difficult. And when Coach Baker’s motives come into question, things could prove tougher for Spencer than he ever imagined.

Based on the true story of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger, who serves as a show consultant, “American” is your classic fish-out-of-water story, but the addition of Spencer’s gritty reality keeps it from being run-of-the-mill. And the football elements are used to great effect to keep the drama moving.

Taye Diggs does great work as Coach Baker, going back and forth between father figure, coach and friend, while also not always playing by the rules. The high school cast is strong as well, led by Ezra, a British actor in his first U.S. role. And it helps that the show is produced by Greg

Berlanti, who knows a lot about how to successfully mine young people’s angst for good drama. This is Berlanti’s seventh show currently airing on The CW and, in my opinion, his best one for them yet.

Don’t let the squeaky clean title fool you as there is nothing squeaky clean about “American.” And that’s a good thing, because the messier the characters, the more fun the drama. And based on the characters in the premiere, this drama is going to be a lot of fun.

“All American” premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10 on The CW.

Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact her at ahenderson-bentley@hotmail.com.

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