The Crossover Season 1 Review – Not quite a slam-dunk

April 5, 2023 (Last updated: April 9, 2023)
Jonathon Wilson 2
Disney+, Streaming Service, TV, TV Reviews
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The Crossover is mostly reminiscent of better shows, but it has enough charming characters and good ideas to be a worthwhile experience for a younger-skewing crowd.

This review of the Disney+ series The Crossover Season 1 does not contain spoilers.

The Disney+ series The Crossover, from LeBron James’ SpringHill production company, feels a bit like a LEGO version of other coming-of-age and sports shows, each brick cribbed from a different influence.

That’s probably fitting for something pitched at a younger demographic, which is always a tricky market to crack when you’re also trying to really be about something. But it also holds this well-intentioned and very likable eight-episode story from really standing out.

The Crossover Season 1 review and plot summary

It’s a shame, really, that The Crossover reminds you more of other shows than it allows you to really settle into its own universe, which was adapted from the novel-in-verse by Kwame Alexander, who adapted it for television alongside Damani Johnson. That universe has a love for the written and spoken word that would have been enough to set it apart had the concept really been explored enough.

The story revolves around Josh – aka “Filthy McNasty” – and J.B. Bell (Jalyn Hill and Amir O’Neil), the sons of a beloved pro basketball player named Chuck (Derek Hill), who is also their coach at the middle school where their mother, Crystal (Sabrina Revelle), is the principal.

The lives of the Bell brothers revolve around basketball like the rock has its own gravitational pull. Both are standout players. Both have long imagined a path to the NBA and superstardom, but neither has bothered to ask the other if that’s what they really want. As the pressures of growing up begin to pull them both in different directions – a crush one way, high school the other – they’re forced to interrogate their real passions and values.

Filthy, for instance, has a talent for poetry that is read aloud in voiceover by Daveed Diggs. J.B. is a passionate artist. Neither has considered the idea that these things could become their purpose since their purpose has always been basketball.

Is The Crossover good or bad?

The Crossover knits together these coming-of-age elements with adult storylines quite well – there’s a whole subplot involving Chuck’s worsening health that touches on many different issues, and Crystal has a compelling role as a public-facing disciplinarian who has to juggle doing what’s right with doing what’s right for her family specifically.

The biggest hiccup the show makes, I think, is trying to cheaply build tension with flash-forwards that imply future calamities. This all amounts to quite a decent payoff but it still feels a bit unnecessary.

Likewise, The Crossover doesn’t know exactly what to do with Filthy’s vocabulary or make his words and voice matter. Whenever he uses a big word, it’ll flash up on-screen with a definition, which is a nice educational flourish, and some of the ways in which his verbosity is folded into the plot make sense. But until a cameoing Alexander himself gives him a helpful platitude his relationship to his poetry never really coalesces into anything.

The structure is reminiscent of Swagger on Apple TV+, which mixed off-the-court drama with big sporting action, but The Crossover’s efforts on the court never come close to that show’s level of drama. There’s acknowledgment in dialogue of Filthy being notably undersized but it never amounts to anything in terms of how the basketball games are staged and structured.

Is The Crossover worth watching?

But all this moaning probably gives the wrong impression. I actually enjoyed The Crossover quite a bit because I really bought into the family at its core. The brothers have a believable sibling relationship. The crushes and minor flings are cute. Chuck and Crystal feel like a couple. Phylicia Rashad shows up at one point as Chuck’s mother and almost leaves with the entire show. Even Chuck’s best friend is a scene-stealer who brings a surprising amount of warmth and wisdom in key moments.

So, for all its issues, The Crossover is pretty good, especially if you consider it as a kind of starter show for younger-skewing viewers beginning to question how sports relates to wider issues of growing up and figuring out who you are.

Just don’t expect too much from it.

What did you think of The Crossover Season 1? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Disney+.

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2 thoughts on “The Crossover Season 1 Review – Not quite a slam-dunk

  • April 7, 2023 at 3:58 am

    I really enjoyed watching the Crossover, the best episode to me was the roller rink episode. It made the storyline a little more interesting and exciting to me personally.
    I would give the show 5 stars, except that the 2 lead characters are not convincing in their basketball “gifts”. Neither one of them look nor play like Highschool ball players nor future NBA stars. The acting is good, but since it is a basketball show, it would have been nice to see actors who could make us believe they are basketball players.

  • May 28, 2023 at 12:57 am

    I thought crossover was great. I like the fact that it didn’t disclose so much in season one with hopes of having a season two, that’s what a great does. Why compare? Yes the storyline might be familiar but so is the lives of billions of people with just a fraction of those lies been changed by some event. Which is what happens in Crossover. Yes it’s a basketball show but it’s crossover which means there’s more to life than basketball. Like family, love kids and sometimes tragedy. Their lives outside of basketball that’s what makes the show worth watching. If you’re looking for another basketball show with great basketball players on the rise to the NBA or the lack thereof then don’t watch it. There’s only 500 players in the NBA everybody doesn’t make it. The rest of them have to cross over 5 stars

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