Review of the Pilot Episode of Young Rock


(via Vulture)

Ryan Gorneault, Entertainment Editor

Dwayne Johnson is currently the highest-paid male actor in Hollywood and might be the most famous professional wrestler of all time (behind Mexico’s El Santo). However, most don’t know the wild story of how he came to be the larger-than-life celebrity he is today. Luckily for those curious about his formative years, “The Rock” has created a new NBC sitcom called Young Rock based on his life as a child and young adult. Co-created by Nahnatchka Khan, former executive producer of Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 and Fresh Off the Boat, the show gained favorable reviews before it even premiered on February 16th, 2020. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 88%, the show struck a chord with critics, but of course, the real test will be how many people end up watching the show.

Conceptually, the pilot was a lot of fun to watch. The show’s premise is that Johnson is in an interview to appease his critics as he runs for President in the distant 2030s, recounting the moments in his life that made him who he was. Throughout, we see flashbacks to him as a 10-year-old, a high school student, and a college football recruit. The interview segments between Johnson and actor Randall Park were particularly entertaining, tying everything together and picking up the slack when certain jokes fell flat. Fitting three very different stories into a 21-minute runtime meant that each vignette never overstayed its welcome.

All around, the acting ranged anywhere from good enough to great. Adrian Groulx as 10-year-old Dwayne Johnson, Stacey Leilua as Ata Johnson, and Joseph Lee Anderson as Rocky Johnson shined in the roles exhibiting much humor and heart throughout their time on screen. Johnson’s parents in the show looked so similar to whom they were portraying was super impressive.

This show was enjoyable to watch as a nearly lifelong fan of wrestling since the episode is willing to go so deep into the lore and the terminology that is well known within the industry but not necessarily to the public. The writers do not shy from conversations about “being over,” maintaining gimmicks outside of the ring, and the supposed “fakeness” of wrestling. Any fan of wrestling will appreciate these moments and how well the wrestlers in the show were cast. Matthew Willig as Andre the Giant and Brett Azar as The Iron Sheik were especially great in their roles, considering how distinct and over-the-top the real-life people they portrayed are.

The only thing that might rub some viewers the wrong way is how “preachy” the show can be at times. Instead of letting the viewer figure out the lessons to be learned, the show pulled the 1980s sitcom trope of telling the audience what lesson needs to be learned. It felt very reminiscent of Full House at times, but moments like those were not way too much of a common occurrence, so by no means was it a turn-off. 

Ultimately, the show is a fun watch because that is all it needs to be. The episode did not need to be groundbreaking or of the highest quality in writing to resonate with the audience. The pilot episode of any show needs to hook the audience in but rarely needs to be of the highest quality. Take the pilot episodes for Friends or Seinfeld, for example. Neither of them are all-time great pieces of television content but still do enough to get viewers hooked. As long as the writers tighten up the script and make it less preachy, I could see the show lasting for multiple seasons.


You can catch new episodes Tuesday nights at 8:00 PM eastern time on NBC.