As the new Netflix series “Cheer” begins, Wyoming native Morgan Simianer is tossed impossibly high in the air, then caught by her teammates with a painful-sounding thud. She’s part of the elite cheerleading team for Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. The team also includes massively talented tumbler Lexi Brumback, and La’Darius Marshall, a handsome and cocky athlete who was bullied for his sexuality. They and their teammates are pursuing Navarro's 14th national championship.
They’re led by head coach Monica Aldama. She’s part mother hen, part drill sergeant.
Since the series came out, some of the featured athletes have appeared on “Ellen” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Reese Witherspoon and Chrissy Teigan have proclaimed their fandom on social media.
I just finished it in a day and have begun my instagram stalking of the athletes. as the cheer kids say, I went full out https://t.co/PaP8e80ErF— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) January 10, 2020
That makes it a hit for series creator and director Greg Whiteley, a documentarian who made the acclaimed 2005 film “New York Doll,” as well as the Netflix doc “Mitt,” which went behind the scenes of Mitt Romney’s campaigns for president.
Whiteley also created the Netflix series “Last Chance U,” which follows competitive junior college football programs that gives troubled kids a shot at getting their lives on track. Whiteley tells us about the process of picking which kids to follow for “Last Chance U” and “Cheer.” He and his team had to make that decision very early and with little information.
He also talks about the micromanaging mom and dad of athlete Gabi Butler. Whiteley says he believes he owes them an apology. In the series, they come across as hard-driving and intensely focused on Butler’s cheer career, encouraging her to keep her social media presence up and her weight down. Whiteley says there’s more to them: “I think I could have done a better job as a storyteller in fleshing out the other elements of them.”
There’s a chance we’ll learn more in a possible season 2. While nothing has been confirmed, Whiteley tells us he hopes to make more “Cheer.”