Gem Finder: All American is one of the most promising new shows of the US autumn season

Alexandra Plesa 31 October 2018 NEWS

Inspired by the life of professional American football player Spencer Paysinger, All American is engaging, comforting TV.

We live in the era of Peak TV. Streaming services offer thousands of hours of quality content and everyone seems to be recommending a new series to binge. Through all the noise, it’s no wonder some marvellous titles fly under the radar. Here’s where we do our best to push them into the mainstream.

What is All American about?

All American centres on Spencer James, a talented high school American football player at South Crenshaw High. When Coach Billy Baker recruits him to join his team in Beverly Hills, giving him a better shot at going pro one day, Spencer decides to take advantage of the opportunity. However, the move isn’t without bumps, as the American football player must learn how to navigate his two worlds – his south side neighbourhood and the affluent world of the rich and beautiful. He will soon have to move in with Billy’s family, which won’t bode well with Billy's son, Jordan, or some of Spencer's new teammates.

Who stars in All American?

Spencer is portrayed by British actor Daniel Ezra, known for A Discovery of Witches, Prime Suspect 1973 and The Missing. Meanwhile, Taye Diggs plays Coach Billy Baker. You might know him from Private Practice, Empire, Murder in the First and The Good Wife.

Besides, the main cast also includes Michael Evans Behling, Bre-Z, Samantha Logan, Greta Onieogou, Monet Mazur, Cody Christian, Karimah Westbrook and Jalyn Hall.

Where can I watch?

Stan. Episodes arrive weekly.

How many seasons does All American have?

The show just premiered, with only a couple episodes available to stream so far. Watch out for new instalments on Thursdays.

Will I like All American?

There’s a good chance the answer is yes, especially if you’re into shows about American football and community. Or if you’ve been missing Friday Night Lights ever since it went off the air. There’s been a trend among recent teen shows, such as Riverdale, Pretty Little Liars and Elite, to up the ante with over-the-top cliffhangers and murder mysteries. You won’t find any of that here. All American is a straight-up high school drama with soapy storylines, a compelling fish-out-of-water premise and a brilliant cast that will most likely win you over from the first episode.

The lack of murders doesn’t make the show any less engaging, quite the contrary. There’s enough drama to go around, as Spencer finds it hard to navigate his new Beverly Hills surroundings, after he moves from his violent neighbourhood to an elite school populated with mostly white rich kids who spend their spare time partying on the beach or by the pool. It’s a familiar set-up (anyone else getting The OC vibes?), but All American isn’t afraid to broach serious topics like racism, classism and bullying, which gives the series a bit of an edge.

All American isn’t afraid to broach serious topics

Moreover, the show benefits from an appealing cast. Similarly to Michael B. Jordan in Friday Night Lights, Daniel Ezra is clearly a star in the making, with more than enough skill and charisma to keep viewers coming back for more. Besides, All American relies on a solid line-up of supporting players. Spencer’s best friend, Coop, is a standout as a lesbian trying to navigate the hood without her friend’s protection. Jordan, Billy’s son, is also compelling as Spencer's rival/friend, as he struggles with being biracial and welcoming Spencer into his home. As for Coach Billy, it has been established long ago that Taye Diggs is a treasure and his performance here is just as engaging as fans might expect.

All American does feature some of the tropes usually associated with teen dramas. For instance, Spencer is immediately thrown into a love triangle as he falls for a classmate dating one of the other guys on the team, with Coach Billy’s daughter also showing an interest in the new kid. The show hints at a history between Billy and Spencer’s mum as well. The familiar storylines make All American very comforting to watch, but the series has enough aces up its sleeve to keep things fresh and interesting, especially when it explores issues related to class and race. As a nice bonus, you really don’t need to know anything about American football to enjoy it, so binge away.

Anything else I should know?

The show was inspired by the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger. Also, Greg Berlanti serves as an executive producer for the series. He is known for his work on popular television series like Dawson's Creek, Riverdale, Everwood, Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl. With such a great pedigree, it’s safe to assume that the series will be around for a while, so we’re waiting for news of a Season 2 renewal.

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