At the risk of looking like that page in the back of Jet that tells you when Black people are gonna be on TV, here’s a shortlist of pick-ups and renewals of programs starring people of color:
- TNT has renewed Men of a Certain Age for a second season, after airing just five episodes. I’m one of the few people I know who watches it, but trust me: this is good news. The show, while quiet and plodding, can be really stunning to watch for two reasons, one of which is Andre Braugher (obviously). Playing against type as a used car salesman reluctantly working for his domineering father’s dealership, Braugher shows remarkable restraint and longing for a more fulfilling life every week. In a typical series, he’d play the domineering father. But here, as the cuckolded, overweight son, he lets his usually steely eyes slacken under disappointment or defeat or fatigue and you just want to reach through the screen with some want ads for him. Lisa Gay Hamilton as his vaguely annoying wife is well-cast, as are his supporting cast of family. In other news, the second reason the show is stunning: star and series co-creator Ray Romano, who turns in awkward, self-effacing, troubled performances every episode. Go figure.
- J.J. Abrams, television’s (and now film’s) popular sci-fi/action auteur is taking on a series called, Undercovers, about a retired married spy couple being called back into commission by the CIA. “It’s been done,” you say? Not with former model Boris Kudjoe and a beautiful British ingenue named Gugu Mbatha-Raw. That’s right: the spy couple? They’re brown. Odder still, this show is slated to air on NBC, which has been one of the whiter mainstream networks out there, since the cancellation of Fresh Prince and In the House. Sure, the supporting cast of Undercovers will probably be all White (or “multicultural,” as is J.J.’s wont), but the principal couple—the stars!—of this action-suspense one-hour series will be people of color. Pretty cool stuff.
- Spike Lee is planning a five-year follow-up to When the Levees Broke, focusing on New Orleans’ rebuilding efforts (and lack therof). As yet untitled, the miniseries will air on HBO some time this summer.
If you just can’t wait to support Black cinema, The Hughes’ Brothers The Book of Eli opens nationwide today. I’m partial to Roger Ebert’s “WTF” review, found here.
I’ll let G.D. and the other many David Simon acolytes here at PB fill you in on the most exciting new black show of all, HBO’s Treme. I’m pretty sure we’re all agreed that a series that monumental needs a post all its own.