Sunday, September 11, 2016

Pilot Review: Atlanta

Atlanta (FX)
Premiered September 6 at 10pm

I should start off by noting that I was not a “Community” fan, but I did enjoy seeing Donald Glover on the show and in other projects whenever I happened to. I like FX but I’ve also noted that its comedies – all its shows, really – tend to be considerably darker than on most other networks. That’s certainly true of this “comedy,” which covers racism, crime, police brutality, and a whole lot of other issues in just its first two episodes. Its tone is particularly interesting, since it’s full of funny jokes embedded within a calmer, more serious narrative anchored by Glover’s Earn and his desire to hit it big by making Paper Boi and his signature track into a household name. Ending the first episode with a news report that the two of them had been arrested for their involvement in a shooting and then finding Earn in jail for almost the entirety of the second episode underscores the show’s dramatic nature, indicating that it’s not going to all be fun for Earn in his attempt to make it. There’s still plenty of entertainment, like Paper Boi showing up to tell his neighbors that violence isn’t cool and then ending up taking a selfie with their mother, and while it’s an adjustment to be ready for the way that it’s all framed, it is certainly enticing. I’m not sure how long I can stick with it, but I’m intrigued enough that I’d like to see where it heads, a more sophisticated “How to Make It in America” of sorts with a unique Glover-infused flavor and a great performance from the creator-star as well.

How will it work as a series? It’s going to be entirely story-driven if its main character can spend an entire episode in jail, and I think that’s a plus because the writing has been to be rich and engrossing for that to work. Blurring the lines between comedy and drama isn’t too difficult, and this show seems to have a superb handle on that.
How long will it last? The reviews are great and Glover is popular, so I think FX will renew this one very soon. Like “Louie,” it’s a darker comedy that still makes people laugh, and I bet that they’ll be all about that. The positive reception only helps matters, so count on this one to be picked up shortly.

Pilot grade: B

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