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All American - Pilot - Advance Preview: On or Off the Field

As the latest project from Greg Berlanti, All American is the One Tree Hill, The OCFriday Night Lights, mash-up crossover you never knew you needed. The CW has finally taken a break from churning out genre-fare to returning to their roots with a grounded teen drama, and it pays off.

This has been one of my most anticipated new fall shows of the 2018 season and I’m excited to have the chance to preview it.

All American is loosely based on the real life story of Spencer Paysinger, a former NFL player. In the show, Spencer (Daniel Ezra) is recruited by football coach Billy Baker (Taye Diggs) after seeing him play a stellar game at his local high school in Crenshaw, where Spencer has lived his entire life.

Billy is the coach for a Beverly Hills High School but he can relate to Spencer and certainly sees himself in the teen given his own Crenshaw roots.

It’s why he takes such a shine to him and eventually even invites him to live with him in the 90210. See, in order to play for Billy’s team, Spencer must transfer to a new school and he actually has to live in the zip code to be applicable.

Thus, Spencer finds himself conflicted. He is torn between two worlds despite having an incredible support system in Crenshaw composed of his mother, Grace (Karimah Westbrook), his little brother, and his best friend, Coop (Bre-Z). The only person standing in his way is himself. The central conflict really boils down to Spencer’s own conflicted feelings adding a juicy layer of internalized tension.

Eventually, Spencer comes around to the idea of living with the Bakers part-time during the week in order to maintain eligibility for the team, but clearly it’s not going to be an easy journey to acceptance. Not every team member is keen on accepting a newcomer, especially one who might threaten to take their place. We’ll be watching along as Spencer is thrust into a whole new world outside of Crenshaw and how he deals with the change in pace.

In addition to having a female creator and showrunner, All American also boasts a great, diverse, cast of women. Coop, Spencer’s gay best friend, is one of the most compelling characters. Bre-Z plays her with such an emotional authenticity it’s hard to not get attached.

Greta Onieogou is also fantastic as the popular girl with a heart of gold, Leila. Then there is Samantha Logan, playing Billy’s daughter, Olivia Baker. She’s a little jaded but she’s kind to Spencer and accepting of him into the Baker home.

Filling out the rest of the main cast is Michael Evans Behling as Billy’s son, Jordan, who isn’t quite as accepting as Spencer’s place in the home as Olivia is.

I can see conflict brewing between Jordan, his father, and Spencer down the line. Playing the resident bully is Cody Christian as Asher, although there may be more to him than meets the eye.

As far as pilots go, All American delivers a strong debut. I truly think The CW has scored a touchdown with this one.


“I can make all your NFL dreams a reality.”

”I don’t have a father.”

”Football is my dream, you may not believe in that dream, but I do.”

”You got the goods on and off the field.”

”I wanted to get back just a little bit of what I’d lost.”

”Give yourself a chance at something more.”


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