Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pilot Review: All American

All American (CW)
Premiered October 10 at 9pm

It’s easy to forget what the CW is supposed to be: a network for a younger audience of mostly teenagers and college students, with its prolific slate of superhero shows and its engaging dramatic comedies that feel perfectly suited for adults. Then you get a show like this, one that’s clearly meant to be more like “90210” and “Melrose Place,” early efforts for this network back when it first started. While it’s hardly a direct update of “The O.C.,” the show that I watched fifteen years ago when I was fifteen, this does include a number of similarities, adapted most for a different community. The race issue is made all the more complex by the fact that many of the people that Spencer meets in his new Beverly Hills life are African-American just like him, including Coach Baker. Spencer may be the new kid on the block, but he’s hardly the most modest, well aware of how good he is on the field and all too happy to be the star of the show. Some of the interactions on this show are far too blunt, like him staring with his mouth open at one girl just after meeting another potential love interest and Coach Baker loudly calling Spencer “son” in front of his own children. Of the cast, Samantha Logan and Michael Evans Behling seem to be the standouts as Olivia and Jordan, those very same accomplished but underappreciated children. This show’s specific hook might appeal to some, but I’ve seen fare like this before, and this doesn’t really stand out.

How will it work as a series? Moving in with the Baker family is a big step, and one that’s sure to alienate Jordan while making things much more confusing between Spencer and Olivia as he continues to drool over Leila. If Coach Baker is indeed Spencer’s father, as was indicated by his end-of-episode visit to see Grace, that’s going to make everything explode.
How long will it last? Reviews are decent, which counts for something, but the ratings are poor even by CW standards. Attracting a good chunk of its “Riverdale” lead-in audience is crucial to this show’s success, and its lackluster opening performance suggests that this show is going to be on the network’s short list of shows that aren’t renewed for a second season.

Pilot grade: C+

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