Tuesday 25 January 2022

Streaming on Netflix - Rod Bishop catches up with progress on CHEER (Season 2, Greg Whiteley, USA, 2022)

 After the heavy heroics and emotional ecstasies of Season One, everything at Navarro College Cheerleading now goes to Hell. You can find my earlier thoughts IF YOU CLICK HERE and some follow-up reactions and comments IF YOU CLICK HERE

The first season was a Netflix hit and many of the Navarro team became celebrities at home and around the world. Jerry Harris, the one who rose the highest and showed the biggest heart of gold, even gets a call from Joe Biden who wants to spend a day with him.

As Season Two opens, everyone seems to have brand endorsements; TV talk show appearances; mobile phone cheerios to anyone (for a price) and some of the squad are racking up millions of followers on social media. 

As Covid takes off in the USA in 2020, there’s the incongruous sight of the cheer team tumbling and flying in masks. But their dedication and hard work persist. Then, with only days to go before the Daytona showdown in April with their closest rivals Trinity Valley College, sporting events around the country are cancelled. Viewers of Season One will know how crushing such a cancellation would be on this group of single-minded enthusiasts who literally live day-and-night for their sport.

Coach Monica Aldama takes a sabbatical and is off to appear on Dancing with the Stars. She is about to shoot the first episode in Los Angeles when a phone call changes both her world and the Navarro cheer squad. As if Covid and the Daytona cancellation weren’t enough, this call will further damage any chance that Cheer showrunner Greg Whiteley’s second series will reach anywhere near to the heights of Season One. 

Jerry Harris

Monica is told the twenty-one-year-old Jerry Harris, the breakout star from Season One, an all-round wonder boy, loved by all on the team and millions of viewers around the world along with celebrities, film stars and the President of the United States, has been arrested by the FBI, is in custody and charged with a range of sexual offenses against teenage boys. Harris admits there may have been up to 15 victims. He has been in jail ever since – 16 months – and still waits on a trial that may incarcerate him for 15 years.

Back at the Ranch, La’Darius Marshall, arguably the most important athlete on the team, has thrown his toys out of the crib. Heavily reliant on Monica’s emotional support – he thinks of her as his mum – La’Darius can’t stand his separation from Monica; can’t stand the temporary coach; and can’t stand that he wasn’t chosen to be the temporary coach himself. So, he quits, wages vicious social media attacks on Monica and starts spending his time fishing with some local ducks.

The Jerry Harris scandal has also taken its toll on recruitment and Navarro suspect they are losing talent to Trinity Valley. A sequence juxtaposing the recruits from both colleges as they go through their routines more than confirms this. 

And in the middle of this perfect storm, they again have to travel to Daytona for their annual show-down with Trinity Valley College.

Given the events beyond his control – and there are a lot of them – Whiteley’s second series is an engaging, if patchy, affair. He chooses to give almost equal time to Trinity Valley but is unable to make their students as interesting as Navarro’s. There are a couple of exceptions. Angel Rice is such an exceptional tumbler, you could probably watch an entire episode of her just doing that. And rookie Devonte Joseph is a real treat. Also an exceptional tumbler, he won’t smile during Trinity’s performance. He thinks it’s ‘gay’. Smiling and putting on an entertaining show is essential to the cheer competition and his coaches despair he might lose his place on “the mat”.

Although Jerry Harris isn’t mentioned again during the last four episodes, his spectre hangs on. Whiteley devotes an entire episode to the scandal, interviewing two of his victims (twins) and their mother. Harris was such a central part of the first season - his fiery optimism and wonderful, cheerful social empathy encapsulated everything that made discovering this world of competitive cheerleading exhilarating and rewarding.

His downfall now encapsulates the expunging of the Navarro dream.

 “Do you ever really know another person?” asks someone.

We all thought we knew Jerry Harris. 


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