Tuesday, February 16, 2021

REVIEW: 'Young Rock' - Dwayne Johnson Sits Down to Share His Life Story While Running for President in 'Working the Gimmick'

NBC's Young Rock - Episode 1.01 "Working the Gimmick"

As Dwayne Johnson runs for president in 2032, he reflects on his surreal life that's helped shape him into the man he is today. From growing up in a resilient family surrounded by wrestling icons, navigating rebellious teen years, to playing NCAA football at the U., this is how the boy became the man.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of NBC's Young Rock.

"Working the Gimmick" was written by Jeff Chiang & Nahnatchka Khan and directed by Nahnatchka Khan

This premiere is completely overstuffed with ideas. Not only can the life of wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson be turned into a sitcom. It can actually be turned into four. That's a lot especially to introduce in a premiere. It means there isn't quite enough time to spend with each iteration of his life story. It's structured so that all the time periods have equal standing. However, none of them have the specificity to really suggest the ability to sustain a series moving forward. The closest comes when Johnson is his youngest. He admires his father and is surrounded by wrestling legends. That story presents with a depth and uniqueness that is missing elsewhere. In that version of events, he is witness to these amazing figures. In the other versions of the story, he himself has become the amazing figure who stands out. That shift is significant. It also shapes who he becomes throughout his life. It's all being told as Dwayne reflects on what happened to form him into the man running for President in 2032. Now, that development is absolutely insane. No celebrities should credibly be running for President without any experience whatsoever in other forms of public service. That lesson has been learned over the last few years. This show may feature that here as a play to the speculation that Johnson is so loved that he could feasibly tackle this role as well. It's never something that he himself has ever given any credibility to. It's been nothing but a fun idea. This show may allow him to live out that fantasy. He can pretend to be a celebrity running for President instead of actually doing it. It plays into the fantasy that people have while also trying to examine just how unique and poignant his life story has always been. But again, there isn't enough time spent with any individual story to truly see just how special this all has been. Moreover, none of it is particularly funny or charming. The three actors cast to play the younger versions of Johnson all embody his energy well. They each have unique vantage points that they get to play with too. It should be fascinating to see how they each make this story there own. And again, that has to come with the specificity that will shape these worlds of theirs. Each one has to be different in order to justify the time spent with them in that environment. Johnson at college on a football scholarship is drastically different than his life as a child. It also highlights the tragedy that comes from his father's philosophy of always "working the gimmick." That could only take Rocky Johnson so far in his career. As a child, Dwayne idolized that notion. As he matured, he had to find a way to reinvent that idea to better suit his own life. He succeeds. He is able to give his mother everything she has ever wanted. Meanwhile, Rocky is still creating the fantasy while working a job that isn't as glamorous as the life he used to have while working with legends. That is the potential tragedy of this story. Families grow and evolve over time. Some of these dynamics will be universal across all of these stories. In fact, Johnson's high school years come across as incredibly commonplace. He stands out because of how big he has gotten. And yet, his struggles are about trying to fit in and appeal to the cool kids at school. It's a universal story. He learns his lesson in trying to be there for his mom no matter what. Nothing about any of this is bad. The show just has to throw all of these elements of the potential series at the audience right away to set expectations. Hopefully, the show can develop these worlds in a more rewarding way in the future. Right now, it's simply apparent that it is all introductory. The viewer doesn't get to marvel at the acting or the cleverness of the writing. Instead, we are simply left questioning if this was the right way to structure a series based around the life of Dwayne Johnson. It comes across as not being willing to trim down and focus on one segment of his story. That would be more enriching right away. This show wants to be all-consuming. That allows Johnson himself to reflect on his entire time in this world so far while aspiring for more greatness. It's easy to see the appeal for him. He gets to share all these stories. He isn't limited. The show itself may have to be in order to find a way to entertain. That pressure is now on for the second episode after this one fails to establish a consistency that can be replicated moving forward.