“Younger Rock” may need labored higher as a film, versus what’s basically “Dwayne Johnson: The Marvel Years Version.” The wrinkle that helps tease the present out is that it touches on three separate formative intervals — with Johnson performed by completely different younger actors at ages 10, 15 and as he begins his school soccer days at Miami — as informed by a future model of the wrestler turned actor mounting a 2032 presidential run.
Johnson is recounting his historical past to an admiring interviewer (“Recent Off the Boat’s” Randall Park), which retains the precise man within the sequence. The memory contains his father Rocky (Joseph Lee Anderson), a wrestler again within the day; his mother (Stacey Leilua), a part of a wrestling household; and their wrestler buddies — typically seen hanging out at their home — together with massive names (actually) like Andre the Big (Matthew Willig, not fairly that massive, however large enough) and the Iron Sheik (Brett Azar).
Younger Dwayne is launched in Hawaii in 1982, earlier than wrestling had become the money machine that it grew to become. Nonetheless, the wrestlers discuss fondly about “working the gimmick” — that’s, promoting the present to an viewers — and react in horror if anybody dares to make use of the phrase “pretend.”
To name this an arrogance challenge could be an understatement, however Johnson’s inherent likability goes a great distance, and he spells out that this is not going to be all pleased nostalgia, citing missteps that he discovered from alongside the way in which.
“To grasp me, you gotta perceive the place I got here from,” he explains.
Frankly, it nonetheless looks like a slight assemble to unfold over a sequence (a film would have made extra sense), however the three separate time frames — or 4, in case you depend the longer term — provide a good quantity of potential floor to cowl.
Any means you slice it, “Younger Rock” is its personal form of gimmick. How lengthy the producers and star will be capable of hold working it and cooking up contemporary wrinkles is the place the present’s future begins to get fuzzy.
In contrast, “Kenan” stays rooted within the right here and now, exhibiting a extra weak aspect of its star, however surrounding him with fairly stale sitcom trappings.
Taking part in the host of a neighborhood morning TV present in Atlanta, Thompson places on the happy-camper persona related to that position, however at residence he is struggling. His spouse died, and he is elevating two children with assist from his father-in-law (Don Johnson, enjoyable however a little bit underemployed) and brother (fellow “SNL” participant Chris Redd).
Kenan is struggling to carry all of it collectively, and the rankings for the present have been slipping. “We’re apprehensive that you have not absolutely processed your grief but,” his producer (Kimrie Lewis) tells him, however the not-very-appealing reply to that’s to attempt to get him to open up about his emotions on air.
Produced by means of “SNL” patriarch Lorne Michaels’ firm, “Kenan” conjures a number of humorous strains — Johnson’s character retains suggesting they watch “Inexperienced Ebook” — and provides Thompson a ready-for-primetime probability to display he can deal with extra than simply one-liners. However the premise and supporting gamers — together with his wacky TV household — are so slim the chances really feel fairly effectively exhausted by the pilot alone.
Because it stands, “Kenan” could be depending on “Younger Rock’s” success, with NBC clearly hoping that viewers will present up for one and stick round for each of them.
In TV phrases, that in old style scheduling technique itself represents a throwback maybe higher suited to “Younger Rock’s” timeline — a gimmick that in all probability would have labored higher again within the 1980s.
“Younger Rock” and “Kenan” premiere Feb. 16 at eight and eight:30 p.m. ET, respectively, on NBC.