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Series / All American

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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 Coop (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, an affable girl that shows interest in Spencer; and Cody Christian as Asher, a wide receiver with a lot of money and secrets to hide. Patience, Coop's girlfriend played by Chelsea Tavares, officially joined the main cast in season 3.

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. The series is currently airing its third season and has been renewed for a fourth season.

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 will be centered on the character Simone Hicks, played by Geffri Maya, who recurred in the second season. The backdoor pilot aired during the series' third season.


Tropes in this series include:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Spencer, who feels the need to constantly advocate for his hometown and save his friends.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. And season three brings new character Vanessa into the mix.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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/Whos 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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