The Reel Review
Cheer is the Netflix reality docuseries about the world of competitive collegiate cheerleading. Its inspiring profiles of personal hardship and triumph in its wildly popular Season One earned it three Emmys. Season Two picks up with the squads at Navarro College in central Texas and nearby archrival Trinity Valley Community College each competing to “make mat” and compete against one another at the National Cheerleaders Association championships in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Season Two really feels like two seasons bookending Episode Five’s cringey elephant in the room – the child porn/child sex allegations against Season One star Jerry Harris. The first four episodes focus on Navarro cheerleaders navigating their newfound Season One fame, at least until the COVID pandemic abruptly scuttles the 2020 competition and for some, unceremoniously ends their college cheerleading careers. The stories drag on without telling us much, and easily could have been condensed into a couple of episodes. Similarly, the final four episodes on the 2020/21 season are also bloated, juggling cringeworthy off mat personal drama and some silly toxic masculinity, as the rival squads prepare for their showdown in Daytona.
The decision to profile members of the rival Trinity Valley squad this season does result in a more Bring It On-styled, emotionally compelling, battle royale finale. But despite that, this season’s Cheer spends way too much time in darkness. Yes, there are a lot of negatives to pack into the season – a prior year of training with no competition, a sex scandal, added distractions of instant fame, and a global pandemic – making even more of the fascinating, will they or won’t they make mat intrigue and more of the endearing, personal profiles more necessary. Instead, we get lots of filler until the thrilling final episode, which is joyous for the victor and absolutely gut-wrenching for the loser, one member in particular. Here’s to Cheer getting back to what made it such a rousing crowd-pleaser in Season Three.
• Season One of Cheer won three 2020 Primetime Emmy awards – for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, as well as for related directing and editing categories.
• Monica Aldama and professional partner Val Chmerkovskiy came in 10th place (out of 15 couples) in Season 29 of Dancing With the Stars
• Jerry Harris has pleaded not guilty to all counts stemming from his FBI arrest in September 2020. He remains at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he awaits a trial date. If convicted of the charge of producing child pornography, Harris faces a minimum of 15 years in prison.