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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All American is a dramatic series inspired by the life of former NFL player Spencer Paysinger. The loose biography features some mature content: Fights and drive-by shootings are shown, gang behavior is discussed, and racist language and hazing are addressed. Romantic interests are evident, and lead to some jealousy-prompted bullying. There’s some underage drinking, and logos for Adidas and Nike logos are visible, too.
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What's the story?
Inspired by the life of former NFL New York Giants linebacker Spencer Paysinger, ALL AMERICAN is a drama about a talented high school student playing football on the right side of the tracks. South Central Los Angeles resident Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) is a star receiver at Compton’s South Crenshaw High School. But when he’s recruited by Coach Billy Baker (Taye Diggs), Beverly High School’s varsity football coach, he knows it’s a great opportunity. But in order to be eligible to play he has to move in with Baker’s family and adapt to their posh Beverly Hills lifestyle, leaving his mom Grace (Kamera Westbrook), his little brother Dillon (Jalyn Hall), and his best friend Coop (Bre-Z) behind. It doesn’t help that Coach Baker’s son Jordan (Michael Evans Behling), who also happens to be the quarterback of the Beverly Hills football team, is jealous of him, and classmate Asher (Cody Christian) wants to keep Spencer away from his girlfriend, Layla (Greta Onieogou) and off the team. It’s not easy, but Spencer knows that if he wants to play for the NFL and help himself and his family, he has to do his best to stay on the team and out of trouble. Luckily, he’s got a friend in the Coach’s daughter, Olivia (Samantha Logan).
Is it any good?
This compelling fish-out-of-water series tells the story of a rising football player raised in poverty who gets an opportunity to play and live in a more privileged world. While football is the central storyline, the series also highlights how hard it can be for someone to negotiate the socioeconomic world of poverty and racial disadvantage with a community filled with privilege and frequent intolerance.
The overall plot doesn’t feel particularly original, and the teen angst that results from competing love interests gives it a slight melodramatic quality. There’s lots of football talk, too. Nonetheless, All American has some heart to it, and still tells a good story about someone who was given a rare opportunity to pursue his dream, and the struggles he faced to be true to himself among those who were not in a position to understand where he comes from.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about high school football. What kind of advantages can playing on a good football team give to someone? Are players specifically recruited for these benefits?
Do you think All American offers a fair portrayal of what high school is like in a wealthy area like Beverly Hills? What about in Compton? Or are they based on stereotypes of each community?
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