21 March 2017 | PaigeTurner
It Gets An "Incomplete"
The closest I ever came to an HBCU was looking through a catalog for Spelman College as a freshman hopeful. That and faithfully watching "A Different World," to see when Whitley and Dwayne would get it together and be my dream power couple!
So I like the idea that BET is offering another hour-long, prime-time drama closely centered around the lives of Black excellence. Only trouble is right now Dr. Eva Fletcher, as portrayed by the sublime Anika Noni Rose, is one of the few truly excellent things about this show.
It has great potential, with its production value and subject matter. But what is the contemporary HBCU experience, for the students, alum, staff and administrators these days? After eight episodes, I can't say that I'm any more invested in what happens to Cedric Hobbs, Noni Williams, or Cecil Diamond or Sydney Fletcher than when I started watching. And that is saying a-lot because I'm well aware that a murder investigation, band treachery, parental abuse and rape happened to these characters. Despite all of these high-drama plot points, these characters fall short. They feel shallow. For instance, in the promo for Ep. 9, the narrator says, "It's the answer to the mystery we've all been waiting for. Who killed (Cedric's girlfriend)." ARE WE NOW?! The show itself seemed to forget all about the poor young lady for at least 3 episodes in a row. We didn't see flashbacks of their romance. We didn't see Cedric miss her while at school. Did he want to stay behind in Chicago to stay close to her, and does he blame himself for her death because she only came down South to see him? None of this was addressed, *on top of* the fact that we saw very little sleuthing, CSI work, and detective work being done to find out how this poor girl died, and that we cared.
Sydney is lazily written as a rich spoiled brat, a one-and-a-half dimensional Tyler Perry character waiting to be humbled. Noni has potential as a "don't let the sweet face fool you," type of villain, but then again -- what is driving her? In dramas the main people who are evil for no reason are serial killers. Hmmm. The brief, fast-talking diatribes are not enough to establish character, and so the series suffers a bit, I think.
It also doesn't feel contemporary. There is no commitment to deftly handling the issues touching on young Black lives, and it seems like the show's creators have decided to steer clear of entanglements in the major issues and experiences -- except for sexism -- that make us the varied culture that we keep telling the world we are.
Hope is not lost, even though the first season has wrapped. The Quad still makes the Top 50 cable ratings charts. If it gets renewed for a S2, maybe the writing team will pick up on the things that audiences these days gravitate to, whether or not it challenges our religious, political and social dogmas. There's even fodder for "ships," which, if done right can win over a loyal fandom to a show. Who else thought right away that Dr. Fletcher and Coach Hardwick had potential? And what about BoJohn and Tiesha -- "BoEsha" anybody? Laugh now at the wink- wink 90s throwback, but that's easy low-hanging fruit right there, and you didn't even need to hire Brandy's expensive self for a cameo. Anyway, give thinking fans something to cleave to, people make a hashtag for and trend on Twitter during live viewings. There is social media buzz now, but no hive. No Gladiators or Sleepyheads.
I could go on, but I already have, and no one is paying me for my review. :)