Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The No. 1 Show on HBO . . .

(Cross-posted, with links, at dangerousNegro. I'll put links in later.)

. . . and BBC One: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency! starring Jill Scott, Anika Noni Rose, Lucian Msamati, and Desmond Dube, the man who is “very much like a woman.” (That’s a line from the show. It’s funny.) Okay, so I don’t know if it’s actually the #1 show on HBO. I don’t watch a lot of HBO original shows, or, maybe, actually, any HBO original shows. Just this one. But I like it! And that’s all that matters to me.

But I’m not the only one who does. Rick Porter of “From Inside the Box” likes it. Along with Latoya Peterson of Racialicious, Mary McNamara of the LA Times, Alan Sepinwall of the Newark-based Star Ledger, and finally, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly. I invite you to read their reviews. Mostly because I haven’t written one since college, but let me take a whack, huh? I promise, I’m not an amateur.

Now, initially, I thought some of the things I liked about the show would be negatives for others. After reading the reviews, I’m happy to say I’m wrong. The show is bright, light, and happy. It doesn’t have the darkness and grit that you’d expect from HBO. And, most surprisingly, it doesn’t have the sex you’d expect from a show about black women in Africa. Each episode debuts Sundays at 8p but recur throwout the week. It’s definitely something you can and should watch with kids, be they your own or some neighborhood kids or some kids from church or, maybe even, a foster child you’ve decided to love.

Anyway, while it’s another “detective” show, it doesn’t have the intensity or action most expect. Me? I don’t need the action. In fact, I kinda like that the show is what some might call slow. It’s not slow in the way that you’ve watch 10 minutes of a movie and nothing’s happened. But it has a gentle, baby-rocking sense to its timing and movement.

For the things I love about the show? Well, first of all, lets cheer the fact that there’s another primetime show starring black women! And these aren’t little skinny bitches, as Monique would say, but “proper, African women” (another line from the show). Well, Rose is little and skinny. But Jill Scott ain’t! Now, I’m not promoting obesity or over-eating and under-exercising, but most of us sistahs, even at our thinnest, are still thick. It’s nice to see that lauded in the media. It really is.

I also love the picture it promotes of Africa. Here’s something from Engl 042: the director is probably using an open lens to let a lot of light in, and the natural lighting adds to the beauty of the shot. After all, it is all shot in beautiful Botswana. Don’t get me wrong, apparently not everybody was happy with the more happy portrayal of Botswana. And there is something to be said about the fact that in Africa, “cheating husbands spread AIDS” (Though I would like to point out not everybody in Africa has AIDS. Don’t get me wrong. 29 million AIDS patients is an alarming number. But 664 million who don’t have AIDS is an honest number as well.). But who doesn’t know about the troubles in Africa. Who doesn’t know about the genocide, the hunger, the dying, etc and so on. I’m not trying to downplay it. In fact, because of my commitment to educate and inform, I’m finishing a book that will enlighten us as to some things we can do for Africa. So, I’m not trying to act like Africa doesn’t need our attention and help. It’s just nice to see another side that’s just as real and true of Africa. There are people who eat regularly, see a doctor and dentist regularly, and go about their lives like we do here. That’s important to know. Botswana is one of the more “luckier” countries. It’s not beset by civil war or anything like that. The wealth coming from the countries natural resources are used to benefit everyone. So the 4 D’s of Africa, death, disease, disaster, dispair, aren’t so awful in Botswana as say, the Congo. It’s good for us as a people, as well as other people in the US and around the world, to see something about Africa that we can be proud of.

So the show is light, and the scenes and shots can be gorgeous. But don’t sleep on the characters. BK is a gay hairdresser. Initially, there’s just been some cute moments like Rose’s character Grace’s “that man acts very much like a woman.” But in the 2nd episode, and since I’m not some big-time reviewer, I only see what you see, there was a touch of controversy. Jill Scott’s character left a husband whose abuse caused the death of their baby. And while I thought Grace wasn’t married, in the 2ndepisode, there was some man at her house. Yeah, it’s probably her husband, but in the pilot, someone comments that Grace can’t know about men since she’s never been married and Grace doesn’t argue, so. But anyway, the characters are complex. They have depth. Yes, the picture quality is Disney-like. But the character’s aren’t. Rose isn’t a princess in this show.

Another thing to love about the show is the music. I’m sorry to be going on so long, but I have to say something about the music. It’s great! There are some snippets of the traditional African song/harmony, which is pleasant to my ears. But there’s also some modern African funk/soul/R&B/jazz that sounds wonderful. It’s nice to hear the soundtrack of the motherland. It is.

And let me just stress the racial politics of the show. Again. How often do we see black women portrayed as the standard of beauty, much less fat/thick black women. Our children need to see that. And these women aren’t running around have sex. They’re not the hyper-sexual picture of black women that we usually see. Not the usual “sassy” black woman. Not the fat, mothering, “mammy” black woman. We need to see that.

The show is based on an African woman who lives in a town that’s the capital of a country that’s run and governed completely by people of color. We need that! Hey, I love Obama, but we need more. Right? This show is superb in regard to racial politics. It really is. I mean, really, take a break from wonderbread land, and get yourself some fresh fruit! Imagine! a show based in a world without anti-black racism. It’s like chicken soup for the black soul. I ain’t even lying!

I only have 2 minor problems with the show. One is that it’s on HBO. Not everyone has access to it. But hopefully, it can have the same impact on popular culture as Sex and the City. The other problem is that I always start talking with an accent when I watch it. It’s crazy!

Jokes aside, honestly, watch the show, Mma!

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