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Series / All American

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"Take it from me, my experience. Every player out there is just one injury away from needing a backup plan."
Billy Baker

All American is a 2018 drama series airing on The CW, inspired by the life of retired NFL football player Spencer Paysinger.

Gifted football player Spencer James (Daniel Ezra) is a star player at his local high school in South L.A., but his home city is plagued by gang violence and poverty. Billy Baker (Taye Diggs), the coach at Beverly Hills High School and former NFL player, recruits him to play football for the struggling football team, and, with encouragement from his best friend Tamia "Coop" Cooper (Bre-Z), his mother Grace (Karimah Westbrook), and his little brother Dillon (Jalyn Hall), Spencer accepts the offer. But he's pulled between two worlds, his world back home in Crenshaw and the affluent Beverly Hills where he stays with Coach Baker and his family. Spencer tries to fit in at Beverly Hills High and not forget where he came from, but occasionally, both his worlds collide.

Also starring Samantha Logan as Olivia, Billy's daughter and recovering addict; Michael Evans Behling as Jordan, Billy's jealous and sheltered quarterback son; Monet Mazur as Billy's doting wife Laura; Greta Onieogou as Layla Keating, an affable girl that shows interest in Spencer; Cody Christian as Asher Adams, a wide receiver with a lot of money and secrets to hide; Chelsea Tavares as Patience Robinson, Coop's girlfriend; and Hunter Clowdus as J.J. Parker, a fun-loving outside linebacker.

Notable for having a modest audience for the first season, and doubling that number when the show premiered its second season on October 8th, 2019, no doubt helped by the first season being placed on Netflix. Five seasons have been aired, and a sixth has been greenlit.

In December 2020, it was reported that The CW was developing a spin-off of the series, which was then officially picked up in February 2021. Titled All American: Homecoming, it is centered on Jordan's girlfriend, Simone Hicks (Geffri Maya), who began to recur in the second season. The backdoor pilot aired during the series' third season.

All American contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Downplayed in the case of "Thirsty Denise" as she is an attractive woman but she's desperate to find a man, something that's a major turn-off. She does have Hidden Depths, she took in her sister's children after she died and wants a man to help her out.
  • Aborted Arc: The big cliffhanger at the end of season one was whether or not Dillon was Corey or Billy's son; Seven episodes into season 2, it gets quickly resolved: Dillon is Corey's son, but then Corey soon dies afterwards.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Billy's father Willy was at the very least verbally and emotionally abusive to him as a kid; while it was his father's coaching that propelled him to the NFL, Billy does not speak with him unless he has to. Willy also gaslights Jordan constantly into thinking that he isn't good enough at football supposedly for his own good.
    • Asher's father puts him out of the house once he gets kicked off the team, and what's worse is that his mother doesn't want him either, leaving him temporarily homeless.
    • Coop's mother kicks her out of the house for being a lesbian, but they eventually reconcile.
  • The Ace: Spencer, who is a gifted football player and knows the game inside and out and has the physical prowess to excel. Asher is great at the game as well, but not at Spencer's level.
  • Always Someone Better: Jordan feels this way towards Spencer; while Jordan is a good football player, Spencer is a natural talent and can't help but overshadow him.
  • Amicable Exes: Billy and Grace, who were High-School Sweethearts before they went their separate ways.
  • Asshole Victim: Tyrone, a vicious gang leader responsible for killing many people including Shawn and almost ending Spencer's football career gets shot and killed by Shawn's mom in revenge for her son's death. No one but his family mourned or shed a tear for him in his funeral.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Spencer is not only a great football player, he's gifted at analyzing players' strengths and weaknesses. He even uses this to read people and their emotions.
  • Betty and Veronica: Oddly, Spencer is the Archie caught between Girl Next Door Olivia's Betty and Class Princess Layla's Veronica. After a long time switching with both, he finally chooses Olivia.
    • In Season 1 earlier episodes, we had Layla's Archie torn between All-Loving Hero Spencer's Betty and her Jerk Jock longtime boyfriend Asher's Veronica. Finally she chooses Spencer at the end.
    • In season 4, Jordan takes the role of the Archie, caught between Layla and Simone, with childhood friend Layla's Betty and Simone's Veronica. However in this case, Layla also takes the role of the career driven, intimidating and beautiful Veronica, and Simone takes the role of the Betty, as Jordan's troubled first love. when Simone (FINALLY) opens Jordan's eyes to his true feelings, he chooses Layla.
    • In Season 5, Olivia becomes the Veronica to Alicia's Betty and Spencer's Archie. When Alicia is tired of Spencer playing with her feelings, she breaks up with him and Olivia and Spencer get back together at the end of Season 5.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Monique "Mo" Moore comes back to Crenshaw, which has Coop wary as she was Tyrone's sister and Coop thought Mo might be planning revenge. Mo spends her time using her attorney skills to help people and helps out Patience, and finally, Coop lets her guard down. Unsurprisingly, that was part of Mo's plan to earn Coop's trust so she can ruin Coop's life for getting Tyrone killed.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: It's not so easy for Spencer to try to keep gang activity away from his city. Ultimately, no one likes the fact there's gangs around but have reasonable objections to Spencer's effort to take back the city, namely the possibly of more police coming to their neighborhood and hassling them randomly.
  • Break the Cutie: First Layla's house gets burglarized. And then after seeing Spencer's family reunited and having a good time and going back to her empty house, she has a complete nervous breakdown and trashes her house, and plunges into a depression. Her father later reveals to her that her late mother suffered from depression as well.
  • Broken Bird: Olivia, who is fresh off a rehab stint and trying to pick her life back up together. Layla starts to slide into this in season 2 when she gets completely taken over by her depression.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: D'Angelo was bullied by Billy and the football team when they were teenagers; he was beaten up by Billy and his parents pulled him from Crenshaw and he had to enroll in a boarding school and he wasn't there when his grandmother died...and Billy barely remembers him, much less beating D'Angelo up. To be fair, Billy's mother passed away during that time and Billy's thoughts were preoccupied.
  • Butch Lesbian: Coop, who doesn't even go by her first name, Tamia. She dresses in hoodies and jeans most of the time, and typically hangs out with men.
  • California University: Downplayed, the cast is broken up between two universities: Spencer, Olivia and Jordan attend Golden Angeles University and Asher and JJ attend Coastal California College. Coop initially decided not to go to college until her new career path made her realize she needed a degree so she decides to take pre-law classes at GAU. Layla forgoes college and goes straight into working in the music industry.
  • Career-Ending Injury:
    • Downplayed, but during season 2, Spencer gets shot in the arm by one of Tyrone's thugs, putting his football career in serious jeopardy. He manages to completely rehab the arm, but it still sometimes gives out on him, and he later finds out it's a psychosomatic issue, one he blames on Coop for her actions leading to him getting shot.
    • In the season 3 finale, Asher is told he has cardiomyopathy, a heart disease, thus effectively ending his football career.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Asher's parents are Johnny Rico and Dizzy Flores.
    • In the fifth season finale, Spencer tries his best to prepare Olivia for her summer trip to England and teaches her about English slang and customs and getting mostly wrong, despite his actor, Daniel Ezra, is British. Spencer even has a nightmare at the beginning of the episode of everyone speaking in an English accent.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Spencer, who feels the need to constantly advocate for his hometown and save his friends.
  • Cliffhanger:
    • In Season 3, Coop gets shot by Mo and Layla is unaware that Carrie is planning to kill herself and take Layla with her. Coop survives the bullet, and Layla manages to save herself and stop Carrie from jumping off the cliff.
    • Season 5 ends with Patience getting stabbed by her insane #1 fan, after Patience sends her fan to harass her on social media. As of now, we don't know if Patience will survive.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Carrie, one of Layla's friends from therapy, comes back into Layla's life after supposedly being kicked out of her home. She starts living with Layla and hanging out with her, cutting her off from her friends, and being possessive and clingly. It's later revealed Carrie's parents have not kicked her out and are desperately looking for her. The season 3 finale ended in with a cliffhanger as Carrie and Layla leave to go on vacation, with Carrie leaving behind a suicide note and chucking away Layla's phone.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Played With, Corey left Spencer and his mom and brother after her affair with Billy, which is understandable in the case of Grace, but not for his two sons that he left behind.
  • Disappeared Dad: Spencer's father Corey (played by Chad L. Coleman) who left his family when Spencer was a kid. It later turns out that he left due to his wife cheating on him with Billy. To make matters worse, he comes back briefly in season two, and leaves Spencer and Dillon behind again, due to his illness which he tragically succumbs to.
  • Double Subversion: Since the very first episode, the viewers were led to believe that Spencer could possibly be the son of Billy. After Spencer moves in with the Bakers, Jordan discovers that his dad and Grace knew each other from way back and also finds out Billy has been sending money to an address in Crenshaw. He and Olivia confront each Billy... only to find out they were completely wrong. However, they were on the right path as it turned out, see below in The Reveal.
  • Evil Is Petty: D'Angelo Carter, season 3's central antagonist and new Crenshaw principal who was part of the school board. His actions throughout season 3 are basically just to be a pain in Billy's ass, constantly undercutting the football team, and he initially tried to turn Crenshaw High into a magnet school. This is all due to him being bullied, then later beaten up by Billy when they were teenagers.
  • First Girl Wins: Olivia is the first girl Spencer meets when he starts to attend Beverly Hills High in the pilot. Despite fawning over Layla and dating her, he and Olivia end up dating in season 3 and become the show's Official Couple.
  • Foil:
    • Billy Baker for Spencer; who reflects what Spencer could become if he totally left his Crenshaw life behind. Billy was a gifted, dedicated football player like Spencer but Billy wanted to completely distance himself from his old life and father unlike Spencer who doesn't want to forget where he came from.
    • Shawn for Spencer as as well, who like Spencer, loves his city and but falls into the trap of gang-banging and dealing drugs.
  • Gangbangers: All over Crenshaw, with Shawn and Tyrone being the most well known.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Both Asher and Jordan were jealous of Spencer because his connections with Layla (Asher's girlfriend) and Billy (Jordan's father) respectively as well as his skills. They try to prevent him to be transfer becaus they felt threatened and invaded.
  • Hate Sink: If Tyrone being a horrible gangster leader wasn't bad enough, him having Shawn be shot and killed for wanting out will definitely make you despise him very much and root for his downfall.
  • He's All Grown Up: D'Angelo Carter, a former nerd that was picked on by Billy as they both attended Crenshaw High. He's grown to be quite an attractive man, to the point where Billy doesn't even recognize him.
  • Hope Spot / Retirony: After half a season of being lectured by Coop and Spencer, Shawn finally decides to leave the gangster life. He even gives his cut of drug/stolen money back to Tyrone, the gang leader without a hitch. He's talking to Coop about his plans and leaving Crenshaw with his little girl... and is then shot dead by a rival gang member for a gang shootout earlier that season. What's worse that the shooting wasn't a retaliation shooting but it was orchestrated by Tyrone himself for Shawn defying him.
  • I Am Spartacus: To show support for Spencer who is about to get expelled for not revealing who was behind the senior prank, his friends show up to his discipline hearing claiming they were behind the prank. Spencer doesn't get expelled but he can't walk at graduation.
  • Jerk Jock:
    • Most of the time the show defies the trope; though Jordan was this at times and Asher fit this trope to a T before their Character Development. The closest example would be Cam, Crenshaw's new receiver who immediately gets an attitude and big head from being on the team and immediately tries to challenge Spencer.
    • Frausto from Crenshaw is passionate about football but is constantly antagonistic to Spencer and Coach Baker and always questions their loyalty to Crenshaw.
    • Wade Waters is the straightest example, he is quarterback on the college team and throws his fame and privilege around and has a Gang of Bullies that follow him. He drives a wedge between Spencer and Jordan and makes Olivia his enemy when she researches his past for an article.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Shawn may be a gang member who has killed in the past and deals drugs, but he looks out for his friends and for Coop and Spencer. He even told Tyrone to leave Spencer alone so Spencer can have a shot at leaving Crenshaw and hooked Coop up with a job.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Tyrone at first seems like Shawn - a gang banger looking out for his friends and neighborhood. But then it's revealed he had Shawn killed because Shawn wanted out (Shawn even gave back his cut of money in good faith) and has no qualms about threatening and hurt his fellow gang members and risking the lives of innocent bystanders.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Played With, D'Angelo Carter cuts the team's funding fore more money to be allotted for other school programs. He's right in that sports programs typically dominate school budgets, leaving others to fight for funding, but he's also doing it out of spite due to his personal issues with Billy and trying to close Crenshaw.
  • Killed Off for Real: Billy Baker dies while saving one of his players in a bus accident.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Laura's apparent reluctance to go after the cops who shot Pratt has Olivia convinced she's doing nothing so releases the body cam footage to the press. This causes a huge public outcry with many slamming Laura as a racist. Her assistant, Shelby, tears into Olivia for how Laura was actually working behind the scenes to build a case but was legally bound not to reveal to her daughter what was happening and now her actions have ruined it.
    Olivia: Every time I asked, she said she couldn't talk about it.
    Shelby: Because she couldn't, Olivia!
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Quite a few; Layla is left at home a lot alone due to her father being away on business most of the time and her mother died before the series' events, Olivia is still on the bottom rung on the social ladder after recovering from her pill addiction, and Asher unintentionally drives people away with his anger.
  • Loony Fan: Miko, who is a big fan of Patience and her music. Throughout the fifth season, she shows signs that she's starting to get obsessed with Patience, to the point of putting spyware on her phone. In the fifth season finale, she stabs Patience in the chest after getting hit with a restraining order.
  • Lovable Jock: Both the Beverly Hills and Crenshaw team are full of them, but Spencer stands out as he cares for his family and friends, sometimes above his own needs. And while Jordan and Asher started out as the opposite of this trope, after character development they become a lot nicer.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Let's the beginning of the series, Asher and Layla were dating but then Asher and Olivia hooked up behind Layla's back and despite being with Asher, Layla was interested in Spencer. In season two, Olivia and Asher started dating and then Spencer and Layla started dating as well, but Spencer and Olivia also had a interest in each other since they met in season one complicating more the love square. And season three brings new character Vanessa into the mix. In season 4, Asher's girlfriend Jaymee lampshades this and says the group is a vortex, which is what the characters call their entangled relationship from that point forward.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Billy and Laura's relationship is not looked at too fondly by Billy's father.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Coop and her girlfriend Patience; Coop is a Butch Lesbian and Patience is much more feminine.
  • Mock Millionaire: Asher puts up a front that he's rich and has loads of cash, but in reality his father lost his job, and they're living in a rented house from a rich family always out of the country.
  • Missing Mom: Layla's mother died in a car accident before the start of events of the series.
  • Nice Girl: Layla, student council president and overall sweetheart. The worst thing you can say about her is that she was somewhat mean to her father and his new girlfriend, but even that only lasts for an episode. At least in season one.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Olivia is upset her mom won't seemingly do anything to prosecute some cops who shot an unarmed black woman and releases the body cam footage to the press. Her mom's assistant blasts her by relating Laura has actually been working behind the scenes to gather evidence, including getting other police involved to testify. Now, with the press in an uproar, those cops are backing off, meaning Olivia's actions have almost destroyed her mother's case, made her out to be a racist covering it all up and ensure those officers will never be punished.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Coop's actions of helping to assist the police in putting away Tyrone, a violent gangster that has killed several people is to be labeled a snitch and to be ostracized at school.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: D'Angelo Carter, superintendent and interim South Crenshaw principal, who was pushing for the school to be a magnet school before his plans were thwarted by Spencer deciding to re-enroll and join the football team. Also he was bullied by Billy when they were younger and attending South Crenshaw and he still holds a grudge.
  • Parents as People: The show takes great pains to show that none of the adults are perfect but even while abusive, they care for their kids. Billy and Grace keep secrets from their children but wants to give them every opportunity to excel. Coop's mother eventually does accept Coop for who she is. Layla's dad is away most of the time but he loves Layla dearly.
  • Pet the Dog: Preach is a gangster, and gruff and scary-looking but he legitimately cares about Coop and indirectly looks out for her while Coop is running jobs for Tyrone's gang.
  • Platonic Co-Parenting: The protagonist, Spencer, gets recruited to play football for Beverly Hills High School, but in order to attend, he has to live with the school coach's family. On the weekends, he returns to his old neighborhood to live with his single mother and younger brother. His mother is essentially co-parenting with his coach.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Ultimately, Billy is a good guy who wants the best for his team and players and isn't afraid to do Dirty Business, from getting Spencer to play for Beverly, to helping Jordan pass a drug test that he would surely fail. This contrasts with Coach Montes By-the-Book Cop nature, but he's able to get her to bend the rules in order to allow for the championship game to take place after they witness their teams getting into a physical altercation minutes before the game.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Billy lays into Spencer about his Chronic Hero Syndrome after Spencer secretly trains Jordan back to health after Jordan suffers a concussion, stating Spencer is Secretly Selfish for thinking everyone would fall apart without him.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Coach Montes is a stern coach, but she is also fair and willing to listen to her team's suggestions. She makes it clear that she is in charge, however.
  • Race for Your Love: The fifth season finale sees Spencer running to the airport to finally declare his love for Olivia, which she's been waiting for all season.
  • The Reveal: The Driving Questions of the first season was whatever happened to Spencer's father and just what are Billy and Grace hiding from Spencer? After the Spencer/Billy/Who's Your Daddy? plot was wrapped up, it was later revealed that Billy and Grace did hook up...but it was an affair that happened much later and they cheated on both of their spouses. Corey found out and from there, left his wife. And to throw a further zig-zag, it's Spencer's younger brother Dillon who could possibly be Billy's son. It turns out that he was not, and he is Corey's son.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Despite having a great reputation as a lawyer and helping Crenshaw, Mo is deadset on ruining Coop's life after her brother Tyrone was killed in a drive-by shooting. Coop was not remotely responsible for the shooting, but Mo blames her anyway. The third season finale sees Mo shooting Coop after Coop ruins her plans to get her busted for drugs, and Preach shoots Mo in self-defense, killing her in the process.
  • Revenge Myopia: Mo wants revenge against Coop for getting Tyrone getting killed in a drive-by, despite the fact Coop had absolutely nothing do with it and was just trying to make sure he saw justice for killing Shawn.
  • Secretly Dying: Corey had multiple myeloma as a high school player and was treated for it but unfortunately it reoccurred. After Corey finds out that it's terminal, he keeps it a secret from Spencer and his family and goes off to die in peace and not drag them into it.
  • Sex for Solace: Jordan accuses Layla for doing this to distract herself from processing what happened with Carrie at the end of season 3.
  • Stepford Smiler: Layla, who tends to internalize her trauma and put on a front to avoid dealing with it.
  • Spell My Name with an S: It's "L-A-Y-L-A." But since there's not a lot of official media from the show, occasionally it's spelled "Leila." Even Netflix's subtitles calls her "Leila."
  • Taking You with Me: The season 4 premiere sees Carrie at the Despair Event Horizon, standing over a ledge ready to commit suicide and trying to drag Layla with her. Thankfully, Layla is able to escape her grasp and talks her down from killing herself.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Jordan gets a girl he barely knows pregnant, after he starts acting out due to Billy and Laura being briefly estranged.. It's then revealed he actually isn't the baby's father.
  • Title Drop:
    • The season 3 finale sees Spencer getting selected to play in the Platinum All-American game, and the characters call him an All American several times.
    • The title is dropped again in season 5 with Billy's last voicemail to Spencer before he dies in a bus accident:
    "I love you, Spencer James and I always will. You are my All-American."
  • Token White: Asher and Laura are the only White regular cast members, everyone else is Black, though Asher's actor is also of Native American descent.
  • Troubled Teen: The show is about high school football player Spencer James spending his time between his lower-income neighborhood and the ritzy Beverly Hills, but out of the main cast, it's the rich teens that are more troubled. Olivia abused prescription medication and was sent to rehab before the events of the series, and Layla suffers from depression and anxiety, much like her mother and was on the edge of suicide.
  • The Unfavorite: Olivia feels like this at times, as her twin brother has football in common with their father and he's the one playing for the football team, whereas she was a party girl who ended up in rehab.
  • Unintentional Final Message: Billy's final voicemail to Spencer was this, which triggers Spencer's guilt as he let the call go to voicemail because he was angry about Billy taking a job at GAU instead of staying in Crenshaw.
  • Villainous Gentrification: Shown when a frozen yogurt location that suddenly springs up in Crenshaw. The owner racially profiles Spencer and his friends and calls the cops, leading to a tense confrontation with the cops.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Spencer, towards Corey. Part of the reason why he excels at football and trains at it is due to his feelings of being abandoned and trying to be good enough for Corey.
    • Jordan, towards his father Billy. It was exasperated when Billy brought Spencer to live with him, as he thought his dad was investing more into Spencer than him.
    • Billy has a complicated relationship with his father; Billy does want his approval but his father unfortunately is a toxic influence better left alone.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Jordan and Simone decided not to go through with their marriage and wedding to go back to being boyfriend and girlfriend. Billy and Laura use the ceremony to renew their vows and end their separation.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Coop continually has to remind Spencer of the opportunity he has and not to waste it and that he can rise above the fates of most black men in Crenshaw. Though likewise, Spencer has to occasionally remind Coop of the same thing.