Stream It Or Skip It?


We seem to say this every time we come across a feelgood teen drama aimed for kids, but it’s almost refreshing to see teens doing things that are inspiring instead of seeing them have sex, drink and party. Call us old fuddy-duddies, but we’re encouraged that Netflix seems to be investing in a lot of shows that are more about the inspirational than about, well, the other stuff. A new series from Australia is in that inspirational category.

Opening Shot: A teen is on a plane. We hear her voice say, “They say that courage is knowing that you might have a chance at failing at something, and choosing to do it anyway.”

The Gist: Kyra Berry (Jada-Lee Henry) was a top gymnast in the US, surprisingly making nationals without a professional coach. But she hurt her knee at the national meet and offers to join various academies dried up. However, but then former world champion Maddy Cornell (Emily Morris) offered her a tryout at her Correga Academy in Adelaide, Australia; the three-month tryout could lead to a multi-year academic and athletic scholarship.

Despite the competition — only six scholarships are available, and only one for an international student — most of the girls are happy to see Kyra. Scarlett (Zoe Rae Burns) and Maya (Luciana Valdez Tirado) are not among that group; they even post a selfie of themselves on Kyra’s social media feed declaring themselves the academy’s champions.

Kyra knows the competition is going to be tough, especially because she can’t complete her front fulls without falling, something that’s been plaguing her since her knee injury. But Maddy encourages her by showing her video of an injury she suffered before she became a world champion, and tells her to work with Jaimi (Trung Le), the strength coach who specializes in helping people rehab from injuries. As she works with him for two weeks, her confidence grows.

Gymnastics Academy: A Second Chance
Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Gymnastics Academy: A Second Chance is a spin-off of two Australian family movies: A 2nd Chance (2011) and A Second Chance: Rivals! (2019). Both starred Morris as Maddy Cornell; in the first film, she was more or less around the age Kyra is in this series.

Our Take: What we have been appreciating about the various Australian kids’ series that Netflix has debuted over the last year or so is that they’re well-written stories that both kids and adults can appreciate. They don’t talk down to their kid audiences and they don’t irritate adults. They’re just good stories that star teens that aren’t doing the types of things we see in other series, like the recent Aussie import Heartbreak High.

Are there high stakes here? Sort of. There’s only one international slot for the scholarship, and it seems that Kyra is coming from behind in order to grab one of those slots. Scarlett and Maya are going to do all they can to knock her out of contention. But most of the series seems like it’s going to be more inspirational and coming-of-age than anything else, with Kyra coping with being on the other side of the planet from her Minnesota home, maybe dating Bradley (Jett Gazley), a soccer player at the school where the academy students go, and her overall transformation into a confident, world-class gymnast.

And that’s OK. There’s certainly space for a feelgood teen dramedy that has minor conflict, lots of scenes of people flipping and twirling, and inspirational competition scenes. Jada-Lee Henry is extremely likable as Kyra, and Morris’ calming presence as Maddy is welcome, whether you ever saw the two other Second Chance films or not.

What Age Group Is This For?: The show is rated TV-G, so it’s good for all audiences, although gymnastics-loving kids 6 and up might appreciate it the most.

Parting Shot: Scarlett and Maya realize that pushing Kyra out of contention is going to be tougher than they thought; Myra looks towards Kyra as she says, “I have another idea…”

Sleeper Star: Akira Van plays Li, one of the girls who becomes fast friends with Kyra. She’s under tremendous pressure to achieve, and when she introduces herself, she talks about how much she has to do on top of her already strenuous day of gymnastics and school.

Most Pilot-y Line: Scarlett and Maya mention a student named Louisa, who got cut when she couldn’t do a front full. Jami overhears them and asks another coach, “Was there a Louisa here last year?” “I don’t think so,” the coach replies. It did sound like a pretty lame lie from Scarlett and Maya, didn’t it? As TV villains, they need to do better.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Gymnastics Academy: A Second Chance has a feel-good story, appealing stars and lots of top-notch scenes of athletic achievement. It’s definitely not edgy, but that’s a refreshing change for us.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.comFast Company and elsewhere.

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