A tale of two black guys

This is a story about two men. Two black men. They are both tall. They are both straight. One lives in TV LA, the other lives in TV Chicago.

This is Brad.

This is Winston.

Brad, played by Damon Wayans Jr on ABC’s Happy Endings, an improv-heavy ensemble comedy about six friends in Chicago with lots of that quick, pop culture riffing that has become the tone de jour since 30 Rock and Community, is a metrosexual  with a pair of great, pearly white teeth and a hot, ultra type-A white wife Jane (Eliza Coupe).

Winston, played by Larmone Morris on Fox’s New Girl, an improv-lite ensemble comedy about three men and one girl living in a loft in LA with the will they/won’t they non-tension of imminent copulation always, perpetually on the horizon, is a black man who played basketball in Latvia for some time. He likes the musical Wicked. That’s about it for Winston. Read the rest of this entry »

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Shangela: Tokenism in ‘Boy Meets World’

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For reasons  fully understandable to me, though deeply, deeply shameful, I stayed up until 3 in the morning watching old episodes of Boy Meets World.

Actually, I should be more specific.

Some kind soul decided to upload and string together in an old-fashioned, homemade kind of way every significant clip of Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), Cory Matthew’s troubled best friend, and Angela Moore (Trina McGee-Davis), Shawn’s first major girlfriend. The YouTube clips run 12-14 minutes each, and they are eight parts in total. Official Kxren, the dutiful uploader, explains why there is, as of now, no part 9:

LIFE IS HECTIC AT THE MOMENT, WILL FINISH IT ONCE I GET SOME SPARE TIME. THANKS FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS AND PATIENCE.

That didn’t do me any good though, so I ended up using Wikipedia as my ad-hoc TV guide and watched the pertinent season 6 and season 7 episodes until I saw the end of their relationship to its forced, unnatural conclusion.

I know exactly why I spent three hours watching Shawn and Angela. It’s the same reason I have occasional, overwhelming longings to watch Something New. But I’ve already done that blog postRead the rest of this entry »


Mo’ Better is best

My first exposure to a Spike Lee joint came courtesy of my 11th grade US history class. Actually it wasn’t a class, it was an after school AP review session for all the cool kids who fancied themselves smart and edumacated (sic). The teacher who taught the session was very popular among a certain subset of intelligent social justice types, about half of whom now appear to be in Teach for America. (You did good Mr. D.)

Anyway, we watched Bamboozled, which is not–it’s safe to say– one of Lee’s finest moments. All of his worst tendencies are on display. His heavy-handedness. His lack of focus. Bad acting. (Lawd have mercy–Damon Wayans’s white voice!) It’s supposed to be a satire but the film is relentlessly humorless.

I judged Mr. Lee so hard after watching Bamboozled. It certainly didn’t help that it seemed like Lee was always taking something too far, like a bitter old uncle. But I guess it’s to his credit that I’ve always gotten an avuncular vibe from him. He cares about black people. He’s very earnest in that way.

The problem is sometimes that unbridled passion can make his films too absurd. Jungle Fever and She’s Gotta Have It, had that effect on me. Do the Right Thing I’ve tried and failed to finish. Malcolm X I’ll conquer when I have three solid hours to spare. (UPDATE: Conquered it. It’s up there.) Read the rest of this entry »


‘Everybody Hates Chris:’ Underrated treasure

BET these days is only good for one thing (not that it has ever really been good at anything): its reruns of Everybody Hates Chris, one of the most underrated shows once on television and a kind of mini-revolutionary take on the black sitcom.

It sounded like a horrible idea at first, Chris Rock, edgy stand-up comic, making a sitcom about growing up in 1980s Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.

But the dude knew what he was doing. The single camera sitcom, starring Tyler Williams, as the 13-year-old Chris incarnation and Terry Crews, the fantastic Tichnia Arnold, Tequan Richmond and Imani Hakim as father, mother, younger brother and younger sister respectively, debuted to strong reviews and ratings. Read the rest of this entry »


White Noise

Be young, be white, an obvious member of the creative underclass, make a movie, get some buzz, make another movie, cast your famous artist mom, your sister, a fetching Brit, a cruel hipster–and  boom! A New Yorker profile, a Marie Claire  shoutout, mucho love at Vulture, an HBO pilot with Judd Apatow, a film collaboration with Scott Rudin! That’s what happens when good fortune shines on you, or rather when older white women and younger white women and a few men watch a mumblecore movie that takes them back to those postcollegiate years, when  life was hard and purposeless, and you let a strange, unfunny man sleep in your mother’s Tribeca loft and you continually straddle the line between bad acting and mumblecore acting.  Read the rest of this entry »


‘Not too careful with the calories, Mindy?’

That’s the takeaway sentence from this ridiculously condescending article from Vanity Fair’s December issue. In this iteration of John Heilpern’s recurring short feature, ‘Out to Lunch,’ Heilpern does that thing old white people are really good at: doling out compliments in the most unflattering way possible.

He wants us to know, right off the bat, that Mindy Kaling is “immensely gifted, and slightly nuts.”

Then, adhering to the tired trope of every celebrity profile, Heilperin describes her meal order in irritating detail. (Why he and other journalists in general do this is beyond me. I’ve never been even remotely curious as to what celebrities eat. Most of this has to do with the fact that they eat at restaurants that are so prohibitively expensive, I’m never familiar with any of the dishes the reporters are describing.)

Heilpern concludes the regurgitation of the menu with: ” She devoured the second course happily and requested jam to go with the toast.”

‘Devoured’? Really? And then, just in case I was willing to give his choice of verb the benefit of the doubt, Heilpern adds:

‘Not too careful with the calories, Mindy?’ I ventured.” Read the rest of this entry »


A second look at ‘Love Jones’

When Love Jones came out, I was six years old.  Two years ago one  Saturday I watched the whole movie in bite-sized YouTube chunks for the first time. Naturally, like all* black women, I fell in love.

But time has passed. We’re in an economic recession. Come February, Starz will soon no longer distribute its films on Netflix. This begs the question, does Love Jones hold up?

Read the rest of this entry »