Title: All American (Seasons #1-2)
Released: 2018

Fix: High School Drama That Happens to Involve Football, Fish-Out-of-Water, Socioeconomic Disparity, Extremely Good-Looking People, Abundant Male Shirtlessness
Platform: Netflix

Netflix Summary:

Inspired by pro football player Spencer Paysinger, this sports drama features NAACP Image Award winner Taye Diggs as a coach.

FYA Summary:

I usually don’t comment on the official descriptions — to be honest, I don’t even read them most of the time — but WOW, this one is bad. Complete offense to Spencer Paysinger, but he’s not really an athlete name-drop that the average person would recognize. (The show itself only says “Inspired by a true story”, with no direct mention of Paysinger.) And as much as Taye Diggs deserves recognition, you can also see his name in the cast list, so that part is quite redundant. That logline is so non-descriptive and uninteresting!

Here’s the actual scoop; I’ll even write it in the one-sentence Netflix way. In order to pursue better athletic and academic opportunities, football phenom Spencer James transfers from his neighbourhood school in South Crenshaw to glamourous and well-funded Beverly Hills High.

Think of it as a soapier Friday Night Lights (or One Tree Hill with football) meets The O.C., but in the parts of SoCal that actually have Black people. (The premise itself is also a little Fresh Prince-y, with Spencer’s mom getting scared after a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in the neighbourhood.) If you have no context for any of those first three shows, my thoughts on the cast are going to make no sense, so BUCKLE IN. 

Familiar Faces:

Daniel Ezra as Spencer

Whenever an actor’s performing in a different accent than their own, I can’t help trying to listen for any slip-ups. But Daniel Ezra’s is flawless and has no hint of his actual English accent. Anyway, Spencer is the quintessential CW noble-to-a-fault hero who always looks out for everyone else before himself. Definitely the Ryan Atwood/Lucas Scott interloper, but more Ryan because he’s actually likeable and you don’t want to punch him in the face.

Taye Diggs as Coach Baker

Even though he’s a prolific actor, the thing I most associate with Taye Diggs is that he follows FYA on Twitter. (Along with 690K other accounts, BUT REGARDLESS.) Coach Taylor and Sandy Cohen are the obvious parallels, but maybe also a little Keith Scott and Jimmy Cooper. Which is not very helpful that I just listed all the dads except the evil one, I know.

Bre-Z as Coop

It’s Freda from Empire! Although as Spencer’s best friend, she gets tangled up deeper and deeper with the neighbourhood gang in his absence, so she makes A LOT of worried faces. I was going to say that Coop is no Landry, but then I remembered the murder season, so actually they’re both acquainted with violence. 

Greta Onieogou as Layla

If you think there’s no way a teenaged girl could look this beautiful… you’re right; Greta Onieogou is 29. Lyla Garrity FOR SURE (their names are even eerily close). Marissa Cooper should make sense, since they’re both poor little rich girls, but Layla isn’t as outwardly tortured or annoying. 

Samantha Logan as Olivia

Olivia has her romantic hopes dashed within seconds of her introduction, so OF COURSE she is my queen. Despite being the coach’s kid, Olivia’s no Julie Taylor (thank goodness), but more Haley James or Anna Stern.

Michael Evans Behling as Jordan

I honestly have no recollection of anyone mentioning that Jordan and Olivia are twins FOR THE ENTIRE FIRST SEASON. (Logically, it’s the only thing that makes sense, but still! I was so fixated on their ages before someone finally said it.) Jordan’s the quarterback seeking his father’s approval, which makes him the Nathan Scott. (And makes it gross that I equated Olivia to Haley. To clarify, they are NOT Lannistering. Apparently, some things are still sacred on The CW!)

Cody Christian as Asher

This actor was a real “Why do I know his face?!” until I realized he’s Aria’s brother on Pretty Little Liars, and he’s who Cesar on On My Block reminds me of. Asher is a real asshole in his first moment onscreen, but of course he slowly redeems himself and wins me over, DAMMIT. He’s Luke Ward without the fun catchphrase or a less witty Logan Echolls, to throw yet another TV show into the mix. (Also Echolls-esque: his parents are a fun bit of casting for Starship Trooper fans.)

Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tyrone

This show had a full Biggie or Tupac debate without anybody mentioning the guy they know who looks exactly like Tupac?!? Granted, Tyrone is an intimidating gang leader, but nobody says anything, EVER? (I’m sure the actor must be tired of getting this all the time, so I understand if he’s just like, “CAN WE NOT?” But the show did have an amazing line about who Coop resembles that makes me love Bre-Z for being a a good sport.)

Couch-Sharing Capability: Physical Distancing Only

Unless it’s a Netflix Party situation, your choice of couch companions should be limited to whomever you’re isolating with. (If not, CONSIDER YOURSELF YELLED AT, for whatever the ire of an internet stranger is worth.) There’s a little something for everybody, assuming age appropriateness for The CW. It tackles a lot of tricky subjects like addiction, depression, coming out, and racial injustice. And if the heavy stuff’s not for you, the cast is 100% smokeshows and there’s rampant male shirtlessness because football and also The CW. 

Recommended Level of Inebriation: Low Whatever Floats Your Boat

While I don’t think alcohol is necessary for enjoyment’s sake, who am I to dictate how you watch this show? (Other than the hypocrite who just did so, but that was a matter of public health!) Booze as much or as little as you’d like; LIVE YOUR BEST PANDEMIC LIFE.

Use of Your Streaming Subscription: Great

If my formula of Friday Night Lights × One Tree Hill + The O.C. didn’t already convince you, nothing will. (Although full disclosure: I could do with like 20% less gang stuff and 50% more kissing. Yes, I know it’s reflective of the harsh realities that some people face, but it can be very stressful! I just want these hot people to be happy and kissing!)

Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.