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‘Young Rock’ is Self-Indulgent in a Good Way

Young Rock

Imagine the meeting with NBC execs telling Dwayne Johnson that they want to make a sitcom based on his life. I’m sure his response was a simple, “Okay” with that toothy grin of his. Or better yet. He proposed the idea to them! Either way, Young Rock is another self-indulgent project featuring the former wrestling star. This would be really annoying if he wasn’t just so likeable.

The pilot doesn’t just star Johnson, the show is ALL about him. Four versions of the guy. One when he was really little, one when he was in high school, one in college and the most current model. In the pilot episode, we get a chance to meet all four jumping from 1982 to 1987 to 1990 to 2032. The show begins with the current Johnson running for president. Randall Park plays himself interviewing the faux presidential candidate sometime in the future. Johnson precedes to tell his life story and he doesn’t intend to leave anything out. It’s hard to tell how much of these stories are real and how much they have been embellished, but either way, it’s entertaining to say the least.

In 1982 in Hawaii, young Dwayne (Adrian Groulx) enjoys watching his pro-wrestling father Rocky Johnson (Joseph Lee Anderson) beat the snot out of his opponent. His mother, Ata (Stacey Leilua) lovingly looks on as well. Afterward the fight, the small family stops at their small motel apartment before meeting up with the in-laws for a “short visit” before going out to dinner. His uncles are there and so is Andre the Giant (Matthew Willig) who is hilarious and The Iron Sheik (Brett Azar). They will eat there, but dad says that they will go out for ice cream, but after awhile, he announces that he and the guys have to go out to meet about a business opportunity. His mother tries to console little Rock by telling him that his father has to do some undercover work for the president. This sets up the loving, yet dysfunctional family.

Bradley Constant (NBC/Mark Taylor)

The story jumps to 1987 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania when high schooler Rock (Bradley Constant) looks older than he is but wants to look successful. He admits to stealing clothes at a local mall and he longs to get a set of wheels. This is followed by a short story on how bought his first car from a “crackhead” and the surprises he found inside.

The story jumps to 1987 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania when high schooler Rock (Bradley Constant) looks older than he is but wants to look successful. He admits to stealing clothes at a local mall and he longs to get a set of wheels. This is followed by a short story on how bought his first car from a “crackhead” and the surprises he found inside.

Uli Latukefu (NBC/Mark Taylor)

Then in 1990, college student Rock (Uli Latukefu) is a freshman at the University of Miami trying out for the football team and it turns out this dad has told a few stories to make his son look good which in turn, makes his feel bad.

There is a lot to take in the first episode from the many characters to many storylines. Apparently, the episodes that follow focus on only one time time period and that should help with the show’s pacing. It is interesting that commercials for the show focused more on the scenes from the 1982 timeline and honestly, those are the best in pilot. Groulx is adorable idolizing his father’s work even if he slips and says that it’s all fake. He is scolded to never say the “F” word ever again.

Though disjointed, I found Young Rock to be very enjoyable and fairly family-friendly – something that is pretty rare these days on network TV. Unlike others shows, there doesn’t seem to be any “messages” in the stories presented. Just “this is how it was” type of stories, but that could change. In fact, I suspect if the show proves popular enough, a few changes will be made along the way.

Main Image: (l-r) Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson, Adrian Groulx as Dwayne, Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson. (Mark Taylor)

Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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