The Best Stories on TV
This is not going to be the blog post that wins me a Pulitzer (has that happened, I wonder? Ah, yes, sort of), but I keep having this thought, and I feel like it deserves to be “out there.”
Two of my favorite television shows of recent times have been Orange Is The New Black and Dear White People. No, this is not a post about how woke I am. I promise.
I love the shows for two very different reasons, but I think there’s a common cause.
I love Orange Is The New Black because, in many cases, of the depth of the characters. Danielle Brooks’ “Taystee” is one of the most charming, compelling, believable, sympathetic characters I think I’ve ever seen on television. I don’t think I need to go into why, nor do I think I’m equipped.
Thank god for Netflix. This show just couldn’t possibly exist on network television, obviously, but even if it was on cable—HBO, for instance—it just wouldn’t be the same. Danielle Brooks, I hope I offend no one by saying, does not fit the traditional mold of “TV star.” I’m referring mostly to the twisted standard of beauty applied to the western world, and then taken up an order of magnitude or two for television actors, and then a couple more for film actors. A network or cable version of this show may not have cast Brooks, and that would have been a major loss for the world.
And she’s not the only one. Adrienne Moore’s Cindy, Laura Gómez’s Blanca, and several others are incredible characters and performances that I’m glad to have known.
So, on the one hand, god bless Netflix for making this show. On the other hand, why is it that when we finally get some people of color on a well-written TV show, it has to be about inmates in a prison?
Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and whoever the hell else, please make more shows with actors like Brooks, Moore, and Gómez. I don’t need all my TV stars to look like they were genetically engineered.
Which brings me to Dear White People. I don’t have a lot to say about this show, except that:
- These characters are so well developed. Every time I think I’ve found the 2-dimensional character the writers couldn’t be bothered to flesh out, they get an episode that focuses on them, and I realize how complex they really are. There are no heroes or villains on this show. Except maybe Kurt Fletcher, but that seems fitting.
- The cinematography always stands out to me. The episodes feel like Wes Anderson films at times. I’m told that black directors and/or cinematographers with black casts result in beautiful film more often than not because of the care required to properly light black actors. I can’t speak to that, but I can say this show is always exquisitely lit.
- To counter my own complaint from before, about only making a show with people of color if those people are imprisoned, I love the fact that this is a show about successful college students.
- While the cast is made up of 100% beautiful people, they do bring a depth to each of their characters that makes it easy to forgive the casting director.
Also, Lionel is the best.