More drama than comedy, new series on SBS VICELAND is raw and real with just a kernel of hope.
Last month Atlanta won the Golden Globe for Best Television Series: Musical or Comedy along with Best Actor in a Television Series: Musical or Comedy for it star and creator Donald Glover.
Don’t expect much in the way of laughs from the FX-produced series. Atlanta, like Transparent and Orange is the New Black, leans heavily towards drama over any comedic observations. While the running time is 30 minutes, this is not a comedy in the broad sense of the word.
Glover (pictured right) stars as a Princeton dropout, Earn, drifting between his working class parents and his former girlfriend Vanessa (Zazie Beetz) who is mother to his daughter. Earn tries to make ends meet with a dead-end job signing up new credit card customers at the nearby airport, but his ex is insisting he start paying rent.
When Earn discovers that his cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) is making a name for himself as rapper ‘Paper Boi’ on YouTube, Earn sets his sights on becoming his manager. It could just be his ticket to success. But Alfred is reluctant, seeing his cousin as little more than a leech.
Earn tries to get Paper Boi’s song played on radio, which leads to further complications I won’t spoil…
The world of Atlanta, as the title suggests is urban America from an African-American perspective (the principal characters are all black). The language is streetwise, occasionally poetic, with references to drugs, guns, unemployment and oppression. In this bleak context, the energy is at the lower end of the scale.
“I just keep losing,” says Earn. “Are some people just supposed to lose?
“Are there some people on earth who are supposed to be here just to make it easier for the winners?”
But there’s also something optimistic about Earn’s mission to improve his circumstance, with a likeable performance from Donald Glover. This adheres to classic storytelling of the hero trying to rise above it all -something anybody can identify with.
Glover and director Hiro Murai have also captured a raw, authentic view of this world, with the dialogue sometimes sounding improvised, an influence from shows like Girls?
Atlanta won’t be to everybody’s instant liking, but it works hard to find a diamond in the rough.
Atlanta begins with a double episode 9:20pm Tuesday on SBS VICELAND.