It’s easy to be skeptical of a premise like Young Rock, which exactly what it sounds like: a TV show about Dwayne Johnson’s younger years. Cynically, this sounds like a weak attempt to leverage a star’s fame and likability to make a quick buck and that may have been how it started. However, the show is far richer than it has to be and has recruited smart writers and an appealing cast to make for a very fun and sweet family comedy.
Johnson himself co-wrote the series with Nahnatchka Khan, who wrote ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat. The episodes involve Johnson telling a story from his childhood which are pulled from three distinct eras: his time as a preteen in the 80s, his high school experiences and his college life. He’s portrayed by three different actors in addition to Johnson himself, each charting a chapter in Johnson’s journey from churlish, big for his age kid to college football hero to pro-wrestling icon.
Pro-wrestling is a major part of the show and you don’t have to be a fan to fall in love with its unique window into that world. Dwayne is the son of a well-known pro-wrestler named Rocky Johnson which meant he grew up around many of the eras best-known entertainers like Junkyard Dog, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, André the Giant and the Wild Samoans, and they all make cameo appearances here. The show has a lot of fun joking about the absurdities of the pro-wrestling world, but balances that with a clear, earnest love for the culture. It’s easy to see why young Dwayne — who went by “Dewey” at the time — would aspire to join his father’s ranks.
But on the whole, the series feels more Wonder Years than Wrestlemania and the love and trust between Dewey and Rocky makes up the heart of the series so far, which is really about a family that struggles financially but soars in terms of actual love and gratitude for each other. Like the best family sitcoms, the premise is really just an excuse to peer into these people’s lives, get to know them, root for them and maybe even learn from their adventures. So far, Young Rock shows promise of delivering on all that.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's executive editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.