It's hard to make a show about high school football in 2018, even seven-plus years after the end of Friday Night Lights. FNL was so revered, so satisfying, so good, that a show that asks us to care about 17-year-old running backs faces a steep climb.
The CW's new drama All American is not that show. It is not that show by a long shot. Where FNL was secretly about the adults a lot of the time, this really is about the kids. It's a solid, addictive, high-end high school soap, like the ones the CW (and Fox and, in its day, the WB) made into prime-time staples. Creator April Blair (who recently stepped down as showrunner), in fact, cited both The OC and Dawson's Creek as influences when she talked about the show with critics earlier this year at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Based on the story of former NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger, who works as a consultant on the show, All American follows Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), a star football player for South Crenshaw High in Compton, Calif. His life changes when he's recruited by Billy Baker (Taye Diggs), the coach at Beverly High School in—obviously—Beverly Hills. Wary but ambitious, Spencer heads out to a very different kind of high school where he plays with very different teammates.
There's some material here about double consciousness and the intersection of race and class when it comes to complicated relationships. There are tricky dynamics between Spencer, his old friends and teammates, his coach's very wealthy kids (whose mother is white), and his new teammates and classmates.