Creator and star Issa Rae is a 2007 graduate of Stanford University where she earned her Bachelor's degree in African and African-American Studies.While a student at Stanford Issa wrote and directed music videos, plays, and created her own mockids reality Web series. See more »
Here's a review from a European English Guy - perhaps not the normal demographic for the show
Well someone else from London gave this series an extremely unwarranted 1 of 10! 'So Girl, I'm gonna be correcting dat!' (Say that in Issa voice for full effect)
I probably need to state from the beginning, I have NOT seen any episodes of Awkward Black Girl, the web series upon which this is based, nor was I aware of the stand up comedy work of either Ms Rae or Ms Orji before this show. My reason for watching it simply came from wanting to see a good comedy show (I normally watch 2 or 3 before sleeping) and this had been recommended to me, so I came into it totally blind.
The premise of the show is relatively simple. Issa Rae plays Issa (Were no other character names available or was this just easier on set when asking for coffee?) a working black woman in LA, who has been employed as the token black woman run in a charity office run by a an all upper middle class, nearly all white people board of directors who seek to help disadvantaged children by primarily making them feel good about themselves, while also occasionally helping the kids. Issa is also in a steady relationship with Lawrence, (An excellent Jay Ellis) who has dreams but currently is unmotivated. Ex unrequited crush Daniel comes back on the scene and seems more motivated and the danger is of course appealing. Issa's best friend is Molly (Who is not named after the drug Xtasy, and a great performance from Yvonne Orji in her first leading series role) Molly is a lawyer, has a nicer apartment, is more financially stable but like so many people keeps playing the dating game of 'waiting for something better syndrome' and cannot find her ideal man. The friendship of these two affable women lies at the heart of the series and the energy that they have on screen together is key to show's success. Molly has an on/off relationship with mechanic Jared, while seeking love elsewhere with a man of more stable financial means and when she finds it is either too keen, or not keen enough.
So the scene is set for both girls to self sabotage their relationships and indeed their own friendship while looking for true love.
As a personal side story is that while I was on holiday in Florida during the playing of the Florida Classic Football game, a friend and I gave up our table for a black couple who could not sit down to eat, as we were close to finishing our meal, and they looked on the verge of leaving from frustration. Said couple then asked us to have drinks with them (Oh your English! Let's get you a drink!) became two of my best friends and a huge portion of both that and subsequent trips was spent with them and their families - something that was completely unheard of (They had no white friends and this only happened because I was English) so it gave me a real insight into just how divided, culturally American was. I mention this because I found several of the characters in the show Insecure, very close to Vikki & Anthony and their friends. So even though being from a different culture, race & country I found the show very accurate based on my own experiences of the time I spent with my friends family. (Hey, that plot line could make a funny episode, I could play the English guy!)
Regardless of this - I also need to add I found the show extremely well written with sharp performances (Though sometimes actor Neil Brown JR spoke so fast I needed subtitles and often watched his scenes twice to catch everything he said.) While in America I am sure this is perceived primarily as a 'Black' show by Executives, but (and please take note of this) the themes of friendship, love, insecurity and relationship choices were all aspects of life that in my view transcended race and indeed gender. While no doubt the setting might be more familiar to those living in LA from the neighbourhoods in which it was set, I found that had little relevance in my ability to enjoy the show. Amusing though it was for me as a man, to see a show where the male cast had their bums out as often as possible and the girls tactfully always kept their pants on during sex scenes (Strip club scene not included) so Female Producers = maximum male butt shots, but hey my other half wasn't complaining plus I am sure this will result in a large gay fanbase for the men! (Funny but true)
Special mention also needs to go to actress Natasha Rothwell (Also Executive Story Editor) who plays mutual single friend Kelli, the annoying friend you want to hate but cannot. A very familiar character. This again underscores the ability of the writers again, to have characters that transcend race and indeed continents. Not all of the writing is perfect and the show is not without its flaws but by episode four I thought it had found its feet well and had me fully engaged. I also saw the writers cleverly squeezed the occasional more serious debate. (Black male labels and sexuality) It would be good to see some Gay characters in season 2 and have them challenge stereotypes within the black community or those seen on other shows.
Issa Rae, I can see how hard she has worked to get this show made from nothing and Producers should take note that this is often where the raw talent comes from. Creatives frustrated with doors being unopened, find a way to open them, themselves.
The final episode of the show sets things up nicely for Season 2 and I will be watching it and I shall encourage many others to do the same.
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