Tag Archives: TV

Here My Dear

2017 is many things so far, but for me personally, it’s the year (ok, I started this towards the end of last year) that I take care of myself.

Not in a New-Years-Resolution-Fitness-Craze sort of way; more of a commitment.

Committing to my health spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally.

Committing to living the life I have, not looking backwards and being trapped in nostalgia or straining forwards waiting for it to “begin”.

Committing to the people in my life by showing up and allowing myself to be seen; and taking the time to see, listen and love my family, friends and colleagues.

Commit to doing all the things that I’ve been putting off out of fear or waiting to have someone to do them with.

Aside from all of that, I’ve been watching, listening to and reading some new stuff – new to me, so don’t stone me for being late to many proverbial parties.

Baggage Reclaim: A site that’s about all things relationships. Not just romantic relationships, I hasten to add. Natalie Lue writes with wit, kindness, humour and directness about self-esteem, love and life. It’s therapeutic.

Very Smart Brothas: Sharp commentary that makes me laugh darkly at least once a day because: truth. eg Dear White People Who Write Things: People Who Voted for a Blatant Racist are Fine With Racism (It’s Not That Hard).

Tiny Letters: Yes, I know everyone has been all about this for maybe two years but it’s a great email newsletter from all your faves. Bim Adewumni, whose own one (entitled …fuck is this? ) is fantastic and here she’s compiled a handy list of some other good ones. 2017 may be the year I start my own.

This Is Us: Listen. I am not a sappy person. (start of this post notwithstanding). I like to think of myself as a soft boiled egg: yes, a little gooey on the inside but there’s a robust buffer and a resilient shell to crack through first. I like my TV sharp and either funny and dark (Crazyhead), action-packed and dark (Banshee) or somewhat creepy and dark (Penny Dreadful). Throw in the odd trashy drama (Nashville – but I blame my love of country music for this) and I’m set. What I do not do is sweet. This is Us is sweet and funny and has me all up in my feelings every damn episode. It’s about a family and all the frustrating/beautiful/slightly bonkers things that families do. It’s also a wider commentary on society, race… there’s a lot, okay. And it undoes me every time.

Podcasts: I’ve added Melanin Millenials to my listening mix. Right now, my favourites are the Baggage Reclaim podcast (linked to the aforementioned blog), NPR’s Code Switch podcast (filling that chasm left when Melissa Harris Perry departed our screens) and Death, Sex and Money (Presenter Anna Sale has a gloriously intimate interviewing style that draws the best out of her subjects and one of the loveliest presenting voices to boot).

Music: Lee Moses is on repeat for me right now. His track Bad Girl is raw soul.

 

 

 

 

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Insecure

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-8-10-52-am-www-imagesplitter-netI have long been a fan of Issa Rae and her particular brand of wry humour. I loved Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl and I’ve just finished watching her new show, Insecure.

I can’t recommend it enough. It’s funny but painfully real. The secondary characters are well-developed and I love how complex the lead character is. It’s the sort of complexity that’s usually reserved for male characters, who are never under pressure to be likeable. Issa is flawed, human, hilarious. Real.

But for me personally, her best friend Molly really resonates. Her series of dating dramas just speak to me powerfully and I know I’m not alone. There are so many great characters in the show and her portrayal of that interconnected web of relationships, colleagues and friends is just pitch perfect.

At the moment, watching this, Atlanta and Crazyhead, I feel like I’ve been spoiled for good TV with Black leads. Susan Wokoma (Crazyhead) played my favourite character in Chewing Gum and in Crazyhead she tears up every scene she is in, giving it attitude, pathos, reserve and humour as appropriate and with ease, switching gears with a quiet self-assurance. I hope to see more of her and that we don’t lose her to the States when Crazyhead lands there this month*

 

*I wish her well of course. But if we want to keep talent like hers on this side of the pond, the roles need to be there. I hope the industry takes note!

 

 

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Voice-Overs

Watching Luke Cage earlier I realised with pleasure that Sonja Sohn was in the show. I know her on sight obviously as a huge fan of hers from the Wire, but her voice is one of my absolute favourites. That got me thinking about other actors whose voices (and work) I admire:

  • Gina Torres
  • Angela Bassett
  • Mahershala Ali (also from Luke Cage and House of Cards)
  • Reg E Cathey (Also from House of Cards)

These are just a few and I’m steering clear of the obvious (James Earl Jones et al) but I have to say, there’s something about a sonorous, mellifluous, voice. I think deeper voices tend to resonate more with me, especially on women.

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Ms Jessica Pearson

jessicaSo, the best thing about TV show Suits is now gone. Jessica Pearson, as played by Gina Torres (my ideal Wonder Woman)* bowed out at the end of Season 6. I will miss her.

Jessica is fierce, feminine, wily and more ruthless than any of the men – but compassionnate, too, she just takes care of business. Quite frankly, I don’t know who will step up now that she’s gone. Everyone else is usually off crying (Rachel), whining (Rachel and Mike), faffing (Lewis), plotting (Lewis and Harvey), plotting and messing it up (all of them) and sooner or later they all wind up at Jessica’s door.

And Jessica takes care of business. I love the camaraderie and respect between her and Mr Zane, (Rachel’s dad), himself a shark in the industry. Jessica does it all on her own terms and goes toe to toe with all the men.

And then there is the fashion. Everyone in Suits looks sharp but Jessica took work wear to another level: stylish but daring, sexy, powerful, avant-garde and always, always on point. I am pretty sure most of her scenes were of her walking around because the office was her runway and she looked so damn good.

She had a powerful last few episodes, rediscovering her idealistic side in defending a man on death row, at great cost to herself as she prioritised him over the high-rollers she usually works for. She continued mentoring Rachel, my least favourite character and permanent wet blanket – hopefully she’ll step up a bit with such a strong female character leaving. She got her happy ending with Mike-on her terms. She sold her stake in the firm and decided on a new direction for herself, and one that included the possibility of love.

Her scenes with Mike were among my favourite. He loved her just as she was: ambitious, flawed, beautiful, terrible. He wasn’t intimidated and he didn’t want her to fold down into a smaller version of herself. His issue was her emotional unavailability and to an extent, her lying. But of course, they worked it out. They had a beautiful scene though where he told her that he didn’t want her to change herself, but that they had to have a certain level of trust to make the relationship work. He put his cards on the table. She went all in.

Gina Torres slays in this role. But what I love about Jessica is that she’s allowed to be complicated and morally ambiguous in a way that women still aren’t often permitted to be on TV and in film.

A brilliant role for a brilliant actress. She will be sorely missed.

 

*yes, I keep saying it. I’m hoping someone will make this happen one day if I keep speaking it into the void.

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The 1.5 per cent

No, not the richest among us.

That would be the 1.5% of UK television made by a Black director. I’m just going to leave that here.

This is actually a stat from research  published last month by Directors UK (yes, still working that bookmark flex)

“We found that BAME directors are not only critically under-represented and under-employed in UK television as a whole, but that they are being given a far smaller proportion of directing opportunities in many key programming genres. Some of the most popular drama, comedy and entertainment shows had never been directed by a director who is of black, Asian or minority ethnic background – including all programmes within our sample from the following genres: period drama, chat show, game show, performance, reality, panel show, sketch comedy, and children’s comedy and entertainment.”- Directors UK

This matters. A lot. The entertainment industry is powerful; it’s where we tell our stories and have them told back to us, where issues are explored, mores challenged, issues aired. It’s not the only place, but it’s one of the most influential.

Our storytellers matter.

The report has recommendations too. It’s so easy to focus on on-screen talent, because it’s the most visible, but what goes on in the backroom is just as, if not more important because it shapes how these stories are told. It’s also a much less transparent process, merely by dint of the fact that these creatives are rarely seen.

 

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Great Gothics

A fascinating article on NPR about why we (definitely I) love the gothic genre.

“Though their definition is fluid, Gothic novels (and movies) generally offer equal parts delighted horror and breathless sentiment. And regardless of plot twists or historical pastiches, they’re preoccupied with contemporary problems; the essential horror of the irreconcilable world. For early Gothics, this meant the Industrial Revolution, eulogizing the natural in the face of modernity (Anne Radcliffe’s 1794 The Mysteries of Udolpho equated love of nature with virtue until it was practically a superpower). Udolpho — and countless other crumbling castles — reflected both worry and rebellious glee about the fate of traditional social structures in the modern order; estates declined alongside their nefarious masters.”

Penny DreadfulI love gothic – books, TV series.. I love the melodrama and ugly beauty of it all. Three things I’ve enjoyed in recent years:

  • The Shadow of the Wind series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The second book in particular, Angel’s Game – is delightfully OTT.
  • Penny Dreadful – Sky Atlantic’s original series is eminently watchable for the hypnotic Eva Green who really….commits to her part. But I also love how it references and remixes all the classic tales: Frankenstein, Dorian Gray.. all the characters are in there. It’s atmospheric and sometimes ridiculous, but then that’s part of the fun. Another of my favourite actresses, Helen McRory was wisely retained for the second series as the main villain after making a few great cameos in the first series.
  • I want to add Sherlock Holmes – the new books by Anthony Horowitz – or Ripper Street, the excellent TV series that went from BBC to Amazon and is now back on BBC2 again. They’re not quite full-on gothic, though. But maybe half and half makes a whole? Highly recommend Ripper Street at any rate, especially the first series.
  • Not sure if I’m creating a new genre here but The House that Will Not Stand, by Marcus Gardley at the Tricycle Theatre, was a thrilling play set in the American South, during slavery, focusing on a family of Creole women who are reeling from the death of their (illegitimate) white patriarch, and a diverse community coming to terms with laws on slavery and freedom. It was haunting and lyrical, rhythmic and a little creepy. I am going to file that under gothic too.

 

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In Praise of Alias

EydThh2AG5A.market_maxresI’m rewatching Series 1 of Alias. I remember loving this when it first came out in the….90s? *frantically googles* No – it was 2001, according to the good people of Wikipedia.

I’m struck by how it stands the test of time. Strong, well-rounded female characters, tight storylines (at least in the beginning) and a strong supporting cast with black characters that aren’t expendable or one-dimensional.

And the outfit changes! The wigs! The running down corridors!

JJ Abrams at his best. Plus a great cameo from the inimitable Gina Torres, one of my top 5 talent girl crushes (and since you ask, the other four are Serena Williams, Angela Bassett, Sanaa Lathan and Aisha Tyler).

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Make it Good

Stop press: There is a new Macgyver in the works (well, it’s news to me) and the show’s creator has confirmed that the lead will definitely be a woman. NPR speculates that it may even be a woman of colour.

I love the fact that the moment we’re having in TV at the moment means that a woman of colour fronting the show is a real possibility. Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Sleepy Hollow are just a few of the shows paving the way.

But it also comes on the crest of a trend of remaking some old favourites with women. Like the all-female Ghostbusters that’s coming out soon.

I have just one heartfelt prayer*: let them be good. It’s one thing to have a woman front and centre, but the key is always good writing and believable characters, otherwise it’s an easy slide into arguments on tokenism.

Representation matters; make it good.

*I have another prayer: Gina Torres (Firefy, Suits) for Wonder Woman!

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Shondaland

I’ve been catching up on my favourites list; articles and shows that I have bookmarked and not got round to reading yet.

One of these was Shonda Rhimes’ acceptance speech from October last year when she received the Sherry Lansing Leadership award for being a pioneer in her field. Shonda owns Thursday night TV with her shows Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder and Grey’s Anatomy. She is the first woman to have that sort of TV real estate and definitely the first Black woman to do so.

I have to say, I enjoy all her shows. They are full of action, drama, ridiculous, breathless dialogue and fabulous music. She also makes some great (though at times quite heavyhanded) points on sexism, racism and other issues. She makes the pill sweet to swallow. Her shows lack the subtlety and devastating finesse of The Good Wife or Damages, but they are punchy and assertive; much like the woman herself.

Her reflections on leadership and women breaking through the industry remind me of Hillary Clinton’s comment about cracking the glass ceiling when she lost the Democratic nomination to Obama.

“I know this isn’t an award because I’m a woman or because I’m African-American. I know that it’s really about breaking the glass ceiling that exists in the face of being a woman and being black in this very male, very white town.,”

“But I haven’t broken through the glass ceiling…If I had broken through any glass ceilings, I would know..If I had broken through a glass ceiling, I would have felt some cuts, I would have some bruises, there’d be shards of glass in my hair. … If I’d broken the glass ceiling, that would mean I made it through to the other side, where the air is rare. I would feel the wind on my face.”

“The view from here  —  way up here where the glass ceiling is broken  —  would be incredible. Right? So how come I don’t remember the moment? When me with my woman-ness and my brown skin went running full speed, gravity be damned, into that thick layer of glass and smashed right through it? How come I don’t remember that happening? Here’s why: It’s 2014. This moment right here, me standing up here all brown with my boobs and my Thursday night of network television full of women of color, competitive women, strong women, women who own their bodies and whose lives revolve around their work instead of their men, women who are big dogs, that could only be happening right now.”

She went on to pay tribute to all the women who have gone before her. It’s easy, as a woman living now, to forget that the privileges we enjoy are hard-won, that so many women fell at the first hurdles so that we could walk over them later.

My maternal grandmother left the home to work as a postmistress in rural Jamaica. My paternal grandmother was one of the first primary school teachers in her region in Malawi, outlived two husbands, built a life for herself and her children. Even in my small family, there are stories of breaking the mould, of the power of education for women, stories of sacrifice and strength. They paved the way for me; crucially, they and other women in my family expanded my ideas of what I, as a woman, could achieve. I have been nurtured, encouraged, challenged by a whole host of remarkable, understated women who would never make a song or dance about it, but who have powerfully shaped my life.

As Rhimes put it:

“How many women had to hit that glass before the first crack appeared?” Rhimes said. “How many cuts did they get, how many bruises? How hard did they have to hit the ceiling? How many women had to hit that glass to ripple it, to send out a thousand hairline fractures? How many women had to hit that glass before the pressure of their effort caused it to evolve from a thick pane of glass into just a thin sheet of splintered ice? So that when it was my turn to run, it didn’t even look like a ceiling anymore. I mean, the wind was already whistling through  —  I could always feel it on my face. And there were all these holes giving me a perfect view to other side. I didn’t even notice the gravity, I think it had worn itself away.

“So I didn’t have to fight as hard. I had time to study the cracks. I had time to decide where the air felt the rarest, where the wind was the coolest, where the view was the most soaring. I picked my spot in the glass and called it my target. And I ran. And when I hit finally that ceiling, it just exploded into dust. Like that. My sisters who went before me had already handled it. No cuts. No bruises. No bleeding. Making it through the glass ceiling to the other side was simply a matter of running on a path created by every other woman’s footprints. I just hit at exactly the right time in exactly the right spot.”

 

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Peaky Blinders

Good news in TV:

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