Monday, May 8, 2017

Pilot Review: Dear White People

Dear White People (Netflix)
Premiered April 28

I remember a film with the same title as this show opening at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, and it didn’t fit in with my screening schedule, so I opted to skip it and never got around to seeing it after it enjoyed a pretty successful theatrical run later that year. The next I heard about this project was that it was coming to Netflix as a television series, and that the trailer had created controversy since many found it to be offensive to white people. Without knowing much what to expect here, I tuned in for this pilot episode and found it to be a relatively involving half-hour. The show does its best to emphasize certain stereotypes, both positive and negative, to create an embellished version of a college campus with plenty to say about racial and social interactions. To its credit, this opening episode did a superb job of tackling any negative responses to it by having its protagonist field questions about its title and general message, allowing those calling in to make their cases and Samantha to refute them. This show doesn’t hold anything back, having Samantha’s relationship with a white guy come out in a very public way and then having her admit to sending around the invitations for the Dear Black People party just to conduct a social experiment that showed exactly what she thought it was. This episode had a strong ending, and Logan Browning, who plays Samantha, is definitely a great fit for the main role. I also recognized Giancarlo Esposito from “Breaking Bad” right away as the voice of the narrator who gives the show a certain feel. This isn’t a show I feel any need to watch, but it was certainly much better than I would have expected.

How will it work as a series? This episode had a lot to do it, but given the high number of social and cultural groups on campus that all interact in different ways and have different priorities, I have no doubt at all that this show can milk any number of storylines from its rich array of characters.
How long will it last? It seems like the reviews have been very strong for this show, and while I’m sure there are still a handful of people boycotting this show and Netflix, I think it’s likely to have a formidable future. Netflix doesn’t do ratings data this early in a show, but I’d expect at least another season or two of this show if the creative forces behind it so desire.

Pilot grade: B+

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