The series premiere of Young Rock just hit the airwaves earlier tonight. Does it look like the show might be worth watching? Was it underwhelming and something I can’t imagine watching more than one episode of?
Here are my thoughts and first impressions of what I’ve seen so far and what I can imagine is coming up in the future of this series.
A Note on Personal Tastes
With anything, including a TV show, your personal likes and dislikes will always influence you saying you love or hate something. Although we all connect on a site like this due to being fans of professional wrestling, we’re into many other things quite different outside of that spectrum (as well as within it).
For example, I’m a huge fan of the MCU, but I haven’t been loving WandaVision because I felt like the first 3 episodes could have been combined into 1 and I didn’t like wasting time watching what was predominantly actual episodes of those old sitcoms that I’m not fond of. Since it’s gotten more MCU-like and picked up, I’m enjoying it much more.
You might look at a show like Young Rock and immediately know from the preview that you’ll feel one way or another about it. For me, it’s a trial and error thing. I loved Modern Family, but I actually thought I’d hate it until I sat down and watched it. The same goes for The Office and Scrubs. My favorite show of all time is The Simpsons if you count only the first 10 seasons, with Seinfeld #2. But no matter how much I loved Community or How I Met Your Mother, there are far more sitcoms that I think are absolute garbage than there are gems worth getting into. Just like for every great Brooklyn Nine-Nine, there are 20 terrible Shit My Dad Says shows.
For another example, I couldn’t even watch one episode of The Big Show Show. I couldn’t stomach the commercials and the clips I saw weren’t in the slightest bit funny to me. Much like how I think Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Naked Gun are two of my top five favorite comedies ever, but Epic Movie is an irredeemable dumpster fire, despite it being a parody film of a similar vein.
Take my opinions below with a grain of salt. If this looks like the type of show you’d even possibly like, give it a shot. On the other hand, if you’re only ever a fan of things drastically different, you’re more than likely not going to be turned around.
A Note on Pilots
More setup? I know, I know. But it’s important to say that pilots aren’t at all great indicators of what a show’s overall worth will be. Far too many shows have odd pilots when you go back and look at what they ended up being even an episode or two down the line.
For the most part, if you didn’t like a single thing about a TV show from its pilot, you probably won’t like the show and you can write it off. However, if you liked at least 60% of it, you should probably stick around for at least three more episodes to see if they improve on what you disliked or if those are the elements they double down on.
The long and short: An amazing pilot is most likely going to be a great show and an awful one probably won’t ever get much better. But a decent pilot can lead into a great show or a terrible one.
Now, onto the actual information and review portion of this information and review article.
Premise and Tone
The story of the show is that Dwayne Johnson is running for President of the United States in the near future in 2032. He’d be 59, for anyone who is wondering, which is far younger than most candidates in recent years, which is scary.
As part of that tour, he’s being interviewed by Randall Park playing himself and they’re diving into Johnson’s past as he tells stories of what made him who he became. Rather than a series dive into the mechanics of maturing, it’s presented as a comedy so the lessons learned aren’t presented as a back to school special, but just a regular “fun for the whole family” sort of vibe. For the record, I absolutely despite that phrase 9 times out of 10, but it does seem to work here, even if I hate myself a bit for using it and feel like I need a shower.
At least for the first episode, it seems the show will be divided into four parts: child Rock growing up idolizing his father, teenage Rock dealing with the pressures of high school, his college years playing football and his current self.
It’s simple enough and effective. I’m not the absolute biggest fan of intercutting so much between the different eras for 4 separate, shorter tales that are supposed to follow a connected theme, but they might be able to make it work. My fear is that it will start to feel more manufactured and less authentic as the episodes stack up. Also, I’d imagine trimming each story to quick snippets will be more difficult to sink your teeth into the individual elements, so it might feel like you’re watching four short stories that end as fast as they begin, rather than actually getting into any of them with more depth. We’ll see.
I’m cool with the tone. It’s a comedy, so it’s lighthearted. They’ve tried to put some more dramatic elements into the mix, primarily with his relationship with his father, which felt a bit rushed. I’m curious how they’ll balance those scales going forward. Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother, for anyone who watched those shows, I feel were master classes in that balancing act and I didn’t feel that here.
One criticism I can imagine having by the end of the season is that I wouldn’t want a second season to be about The Rock giving an interview. Maybe not. Park’s charming enough that they could get some good stuff out of this. I don’t absolutely love it, but I don’t dislike it, either. I’m more than willing to give it some time to develop and let all these flavors combine.
Characters / Acting / Casting
The true highlight of this show so far, by far, hands down, no questions asked, is with the casting.
So far, we’ve been introduced to Ata Johnson (Stacey Leilua), Rocky Johnson (Joseph Lee Anderson), Andre the Giant (Matthew Willig), Junkyard Dog (Nate Jackson) and more. We know there are more to come, too, like Vince McMahon and Macho Man Randy Savage.
Every single person has been so well cast that it’s amazing they were able to find people who fit the roles so well. Brett Azar as Iron Sheik is going to be someone I keep my eyes on, for sure. The Wild Samoans are so impressively spot on that I immediately forgot they weren’t the real Afa and Sika.
That goes for young Dwayne Johnson, too. For all intents and purposes, the three actors playing the younger versions of The Rock are so perfect that I can’t imagine a casting director could have found anyone better if there were 5 more years worth of searching for actors.
All the other characters who have no historical context, like his friend Gabe or the object of his affection Karen are pretty much nonentities at this point.
A+ on the casting. All the actors pull off their parts well and I’m more excited to see what more the show has to offer with all those elements than anything else.
Music and Visuals
It seems like a recurring thing of this show might be using songs in the corresponding eras to immediately take you back to those times. Smart move. Other than that, music isn’t much more of a factor.
The visuals play well into this, too. People aren’t wearing outfits that don’t fit for the time. If you’re in the 80s, you’re not seeing modern clothing. It all feels genuine.
I do dislike the way the parts in the near-future were shot, though. Everything feels like it was done in front of a green screen with The Rock and Randall Park filming separately on a sound stage rather than actually sitting in the same room with each other. Maybe that’s the case and this was a COVID thing. Perhaps it’s just a choice and intentional. Hell, I don’t know enough about lenses and all to rule out that it’s just the cameras they used. Whatever it is, I’m not big on that part, but the other eras are a thumbs up for me.
Random Other Thoughts
Here are a collection of other thoughts I had while watching this episode:
- No Tony Atlas? Strange.
- Good reveal that out of all the things he stole, one of the things was a Woody Woodpecker jacket.
- “Billy is always selling things Waffle is in.” Like Park says, I wasn’t expecting to like Waffle so much so fast! What a disappointment that he isn’t just some recurring character.
- Lots of references and phrases we’ve heard before, like Johnson saying he was playing himself with the dial turned up to 11.
- “You look like Johnny Depp from 21 Jump Street.” With the mustache and all, I love that they play into that.
Ultimately, what do I think?
Well, it’s not the best show I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure. At the very least, it isn’t for this particular episode. That may change for better or worse. But I liked it enough that I’m willing to see it through until it dips down in quality. If it stays the same as this going forward, I’ll likely keep watching it. I might wait and then binge all the episodes, rather than make it part of my weekly routine, but I’m digging it enough to keep watching.
I’d say see it, rather than skip it. Give it a shot for yourself and see if you like it.
What did you think of the show? Will you be watching or was that not good enough to get you to come back for episode 2? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!