Ramblings Post #322
I am of the opinion that what I am doing now is preparing for the next stage in life. In that stage a lot of the trivial things that cause us needless anxiety will be be banished to the far edges of my periphery, and my concerns, although esoteric, will be much more palatable. This is a fancy way of saying in the not too distant future I want my major problem to be deciding what to have for lunch. By the way, this has absolutely nothing to do with the piece that follows. Thank you. 

So I tried to do my part and watch some television focused on people who look like me, and didn't quite make it. 
I started with Queen Sugar, a new slow drama on Oprah's network. I'm not quite sure what the deal is there, because I was only able to get through the first thirty minutes before I just couldn't sit there anymore. In that first thirty minutes we meet three of the main characters, the rich daughter in LA, the earthy daughter who sells a little weed, the son who is just desperate and the impetus of the story, the father who works as a janitor at night and still has some beautiful acreage that used to be produce a nice sugar crop.   
And in this half hour where had this Empire - someone would have gotten shot, three people would tried a hostile company takeover, the company would have been in financial peril, two albums would have dropped, an evil twin would show up and someone would have gone to prison and got out. But on the slightly more sedate Queen Sugar, I think you got a day and a half where ONE scandal broke and one store got robbed. The characters and scenes just linger, with lots of long pauses and wide shots of Bayou that make you wonder if the show is sponsored by the tourist board.
I stopped watching however, because of the little boy. The desperate son has a child named Blue, and just looking at him made me wonder if parenting isn't such a bad thing. He's that cute. And because he was such an effective little emotional tool, looking at one point just so sad because the other kids won't come to his birthday party, I couldn't watch anymore. Because this isn't a comedy where he'll have three or four smart lines an episode, this is a drama which means that child character is going to experience nothing but heartache. And since I understand the first of his many tragedies happened in the first episode, because the whole thing is based on a book about the adults teaming up to keep the farm after the father passes, I'm not really up for watching children, even just actors, go through those kind of emotions regularly on a Tuesday night. So this isn't for me.
Atlanta. via Donald Glover.
So I flipped over to FX and caught the rebroadcast of the premiere of Atlanta, Donald Glover's show about the ...um, well, it's about something.
There is something weird about Donald Glover, and I don't know what it is. Maybe I'm just old, but the show seems to move between goof ball comedy (the WET lemon pepper wings glowing inside the box) to goof ball weird (the guy on the bus demanding Glover eat a sandwich) to family drama to racial statement to police and sexuality issues (the episode Earn spends in processing) to an exploration of blackness and celebrity from the inside. Donald's character is broke, a father, a ivy league school college drop-out, his parents are tired of giving him money and just seems lost. All of which would be cool if this were an indie film, but as a weekly show leaves something to be desired. And for a show that on it's face appears to be about the nuances of a certain type of blackness*, Glover's character seems... other. Not white middle class, but some odd hybrid that certainly exists somewhere in real life, but is hard to relate to or identify with.     
I like the other characters, his cousin, the Paper Boi, who is rough, rugged and raw but also thoughtful is very interesting. Far too often a thug character is just bad, instead here is more realistically depicted as someone who becomes aware of how is actions are affecting those around him. Paper Boi's sidekick character may just be pure comedy relief, as he always feels like you're only getting half the conversation - but since the other half is strictly in his head, you're not missing what you think you are. That he sounds like Dave Chappelle and looks like he could be Chapelle's younger hungrier brother only makes it funnier. I want to comment on the woman supporting Glover's character, but we barely see enough of the baby's mother in the first two episodes to get a good feel for her, other than she is doing okay while he struggles. 
A lot of the story is quiet, but deceptive in what it shows and what we take from it. Take the scene where up with the mother of his child, who he still intimate with, only to find out she has a date that night so he'll need to watch their child. Had the positions been reversed, the guy would have been viewed with disdain. I've read other reviews, and it's taken as just a woman exploring her options because the main character is supposed to be so downtrodden. Interesting. Or the white character casually using the N-word with Donald Glover's character, but realizing that wouldn't be wise with other black people around. Little things. That aside, I think this show will live or die on just how interesting the audience finds the city of Atlanta, which is being pushed as a character in the story, much as a story about NY would emphasize how much the borough shapes it's inhabitants. There is a scene in the second episode where the guy just starts telling Glover's character his story because he just needs to tell someone, has actually happened to me. And that guy sounded just like the guy on the show  - a distinctive Southern urban patios that is as identifiable as face tattoo. But that vibe is an acquired taste. Still, a story where the hero rides the bus should always be given a chance. 
So Queen Sugar looks like it might be something, so far well written and expansive for sure, but I'm not gonna sit there and watch it every week because reasons. But I think people should see for themselves what's up with that. As far as the FX offering, as soon as I can figure out exactly what Atlanta is supposed be, I'm certain I'll enjoy it more. A quirky rap political statement comedy?  
Barkeep. I need a some wings, fries and beer. You got buffalo wing sauce? No, not medium, buffalo wing. Fine, lemon pepper then. 
*Contrary to popular belief, black people are not socially homogeneous. A black man can listen rap and appreciate Jordans, or prefer jazz and want to rope cattle on weekends. The Autobiography of Malcom X or Beowulf. We are all different, yet all black.