Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pilot Review: The Chi

The Chi (Showtime)
Premiered January 7 at 10pm

It’s very interesting to see Showtime launch a second show set on the streets of Chicago on Sunday nights. This one is a whole lot different from “Shameless,” presenting the serious side of things and showing how the African-American community is treating unfairly by the police and subject to both internal and external cycles of violence. This pilot picks up a few main characters but also introduces two people who weren’t fated to survive past the first hour. Having a white cop who treats those in the community with respect but sees what goes on around him should be interesting, and the perspectives this show provides through the eyes of its protagonists are diverse and compelling. I had no idea until I see her name during the end credits that Emmy winner Lena Waithe, best known for writing and starring in “Master of None,” created this show. I recognized Jason Mitchell, the standout performer from “Mudbound,” as Brandon, and now I realize that I also knew Alex Hibbert from “Moonlight,” who plays Kevin. The cast is good and the stories seem interesting; it’s just up to this show to develop a voice of its own as it zeroes in on this city and the people that live in it. The most memorable moment from this first hour for me wasn’t a violent confrontation or painful development but rather the very humorous announcement of a new kind of PB and J: pork belly and apple jelly. I look forward to seeing this show’s creativity shine.

How will it work as a series? This show seems to have a good rhythm to it, so it’s just a matter of keeping that up and telling worthwhile stories in the process. Chicago is a very commonly-featured city on television, and so this show will need to stand out for the world it portrays and the characters who live in it.
How long will it last? Both the reviews and the ratings are solid, and I see no reason why Showtime wouldn’t want to excitedly welcome this show to its permanent lineup. It’s not such a typical program for them, with no big stars headlining and tackling a slightly more serious subject matter, and so I think this one will be swiftly and enthusiastically renewed for a second season.

Pilot grade: B+

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