TV Review – The Hollywood Reporter
Amazon’s Harlem is familiar. The contours of Tracy Oliver’s entertaining 10-episode comedy series reliably adhere to formulas refined by other sitcoms, old and new. As Sex and the city and Girlfriend, the show focuses on four women as they manage their romantic lives, careers, and friendships. And similar to Starz .’s Run the World (also set in New York’s Black Sanctuary) and work by Issa Rae Not safe, Harlem retrofitted to contemporary audiences yearning for self-reflection combined with a fantasy aspect.
Oliver, who stars in Rae .’s edgy web series Confused black girl before sharpening my pen in comedies like Girl’s trip and Little, Wanted Harlem to fill the void: Stories of the friendships of Black women are few and far between, especially those that focus on the typical messiness of the 30s. By that metric, the show, Will definitely compare with Run the World, successful: Simple humor, enviable wardrobe, winks at previous sitcoms, and questionable character antics are likely to keep many viewers hooked.
Tons of potential.
Camille (Meagan Good), an anxious adjunct anthology professor at Columbia University, mentors her program and lectures, which she cryptically conveys to dim-eyed college students, topics directing each episode. Her friends are a diverse team assembled in the university. Now in their 30s, the women have maintained an impregnable relationship. Quinn (Grace Byers) is a former banker turned designer who regularly asks her parents for money to keep her store afloat. She lives with Angie (Shoniquia Shandai), a lousy singer who has been unemployed since the record label fired her 5 years ago. Tye (Jerrie Johnson), by conventional standards, is the most successful of the bunch. She founded a popular app for “odd people of color” and has advanced financially and socially. In fact, her wardrobe is a dead thing.
The quartet gathers for small dishes and drinks in a stylish Harlem restaurant, where its location becomes one of the show’s bigger mysteries. Despite its title, Harlem its amazingly overused, and sometimes abused, settings. In the opening scene of the first episode, Camille, wearing a cow red coat, walks past a part of campus that is clearly part of City College and not Columbia University, where she teaches. Narrative options, such as the anti-manifest protests against the closure of a fictional local favorite bar, would have been easier to buy if the show had gone beyond shoots. needed about brownstone blocks and richly decorated interiors.
HarlemThe character’s, fortunately, fare better than its language. Camille, Quinn, Angie and Tye add to today’s television offering that reflects the power of Black women’s friendships and the chaos of modern life. The series opens with Camille, presented to viewers as a Cinderella with an unhappy ending, facing an uncomfortable truth: Her path from teaching assistant to full-time professor Time isn’t as secure as she thought it would be, and Ian (Tyler Lepley), the man she dumped five years ago to pursue her dreams, has moved back to New York. Should she leave a prestigious workplace that ends up not taking her seriously? Is it worth reconnecting with her ex, who looks suspiciously like Drake? She honestly has no opinion.
Well, known for her work in Think like a man and Cheat, transitioning into your new role, fully embodying an awkward supporting role that easily leaves you with difficult decisions. She’s at her best when pitted against veteran comedians like Whoopi Goldberg, who makes a delicious guest appearance as a rival new member of the Columbia faculty.
While Camille tries to rearrange her life, her friends struggle with similar troubles in career and love. Quinn, easily fooled, struggles as a hopeless single romantic. When she’s not shying away from sketchy dates on Tinder, she’s battling her mother (Jasmine Guy), who doesn’t believe in her daughter’s newfound passion for design. Byers is fascinating, giving Quinn a dimension beyond a rich, dull friend. Get up there with Empire alum is the perfect Shandai, Angie adds charm to the group, but not for the sake of a suitable plot. Her arc – includes auditioning for the musical version of Get out and wondering how much of a personal sacrifice she has to make to become a star – that’s something I’m happy to see growth in.
If there is a key difference between Harlem and his predecessors and even his contemporaries, that is best seen through Tye, a hardcore gay startup founder who must confront the emotional roots of his dating life. her inconsistency. Her story is tense, but even in its most dramatic moments, the film tries to seriously explore her character and relationships. Johnson imbued Tye with an infectious appeal, balancing the grit and humor of the CEO with the more sensitive and quiet elements of her personality.
Harlem feels the hardest in its dialogue, sometimes revealing a painful perception by the audience. As the conversations drift away from the specifics of the four friends’ dynamics, the show falls into the trap of overtly ostentatious writing. “The West Indians are a beautiful diverse and complex people, whose cultural influences should be celebrated, not ridiculed, especially by the Diasporians,” Quinn quipped Angie as he posed as a Jamaican nanny to get a gig. Nothing she says is untrue, but its blunt suppression makes it more like a public service announcement rather than a natural part of the flow of interaction.
For most viewers, the show’s shortcomings will be forgiven in the bigger picture of what it’s all about: Four new characters they can gossip about and debate in group texts. As Not safe to the end, Harlem provides those of us who aren’t ready to let go with a slightly softer landing.