NBA – | Review Score – 3/5
Haterade – | Review Score – 3/5
Mano A Mano – | Review Score – 4/5
We Good? – | Review Score – 3.5/5
24 Hour Person – | Review Score – 3/5
All On The Line – | Review Score – 3/5
#RADICALS – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Still I Rise
There have been a lot of sport dramas over the years, both on the big and small screen. Never one to miss a trick, AppleTV throw their hat in the ring (or basketball court in this particular example) for a simple, formulaic and somewhat lackluster 10 episode drama.
All the usual suspects are here, mixed in with a tepid blend of real life issues that eventually undermine the more powerful emotional stories of the season. The focus here is on a youth basketball team called Swagger. Their star player is the main protagonist, teen sensation Jace Carson. He’s hot stuff; the proverbial next big thing. However, basketball is a team sport and across the 10 episodes he comes to learn that the hard way.
While the focus does remain on Jace for large stretches of the story, there’s an equal emphasis on some of his teammates too, who each get the chance to shine in the spotlight. Fellow teammates Royale, Phil and Nick Mendez all get their own subplots here, while Crystal Jarrett is completely underutilized in what’s arguably one of the most important storylines. Her abuse at the hands of her coach is easily the most harrowing moment of the season but it’s frustratingly swept aside for large swathes of the run-time.
For the first four or five episodes, Swagger actually does quite well to depict the trials and tribulations of a youth basketball team. Unfortunately, around episode 5 onward, the focus shifts from the basketball across to real world issues. The execution though feels completely crowbarred into the story in the most unnatural way possible.
I wouldn’t say the show is pandering but it does feel condescending sometimes with the way it implements these ideas. It’s something that a lot of shows in the west have completely slipped up with, to tell the truth. The only example of a show injecting COVID into a story naturally is that of K-drama Happiness, using COVID as a spring-board for a post-apocalyptic zombie thriller, examining the very real human condition of selfless and selfishness.
The actual action on the basketball court is quite good and the final few episodes do manage to crescendo the drama up to a pretty dramatic and exciting finish to the season. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make this a worthwhile endeavour. The story drags its heels on numerous occasions and – like many of Apple’s other shows – could easily have condensed down its story into a more palatable dose.
Given how many other sport dramas there are out in the wild, Swagger is definitely not one to remember. There’s some good ideas here but it’s dragged out unnecessarily with focus in the complete wrong place. A shame for sure but Swagger is definitely not a slam dunk.
Verdict - 5/10