So a bunch of weeks ago I asked my nephew Jordan for a TV suggestion, and he enthusiastically offered up “All-American,” a CW series now sitting 18 episodes strong on Netflix. He described it as “Sorta like Friday Night Lights,” but with inner-city football. He told me it was entertaining and well done and …
He is no longer my nephew.
First, to be clear, the wife and I watched the entire first season, and that’s on me. The program is basically the worst episode of Beverly Hills 90210, plus football, minus the acting chops of Tori Spelling. It stars Taye Diggs as a retired NFL player who now coaches the gridiron team at a Beverly Hills High School. He recruits a kid out of the hood, and said kid may or may not be his son. Which is the running storyline. Until it’s no longer the running storyline. Because, I’m quite certain, at some point the writers or producer or director or whatever said, “Eh, I’m tired with this storyline. So let’s move on to the rich teenager who lives by herself and has her home broken into—possibly by her ex-boyfriend, who’s an alcoholic and lives in her guest room.”
Wait. Time out.
To dive deep into the awfulness of this TV show would take too much time. So I just wanna touch on some of the football elements …
A. Taye Diggs is simply unbelievable (as in—not believable) as a former NFL player. First, he’s really small. Second, there’s nothing about him/his character that oozes ex-athlete. The walk. The cocksure. The … nothing. He’s an actor playing a retired wide receiver. Which makes me think the CW people either A. Had Diggs roped into a project that was cancelled, and wanted to use him somewhere (“I mean, we’re already paying him, right Saul?”). B. Thought, “He’s black. So that works. Because, hey, athlete, black guy, black guy, athlete.”
B. Diggs’ team seems to have 14 players on the roster. Maybe 13. They wind up winning the California state title.
C. Diggs’ son is the starting quarterback. He guides his team to the state title, and looks about 6-foot-4, maybe 220. Dropback style, huge arm. Yet we’re repeatedly told how he’s not good enough, how his dad is carrying him. Which, again, makes no sense. Because we keep seeing him toss 70-yard bombs and winning game after game.
D. There’s a play-by-play announcer doing PA. So, if you’re an attendee, sitting in the stands, you’ll hear, “Corey James takes the handoff, cuts left, dashes up the middle—touchdown!” I get the device. But it’s preposterous.
E. Players practice without shirts. All. The. Time. I’m a 25-year sports journalist. I’ve never seen this. Not once.
F. An actor named Daniel Ezra plays Corey James, the star wide receiver from a rough part of town. And while Ezra is very solid, he doesn’t look or move like a football player. Turns out he’s actually British, and never played a second of the sport before landing the gig.
G. Uniforms never get dirty. Literally never. Not one time.
H. During games James’ long, lost father walks onto the field and stands along the sideline. Just stands there. Because—hey—why wouldn’t parents be allowed on the sideline?
I can go on and on.