With Labor Day over and done, it’s time for the new fall lineup. That we are a few episodes in, here are the breakout new shows that are definitely worth your time.
Queen Sugar, Wednesdays on OWN at 10 p.m. EST
Why It’s a Stand Out The story is so steeped in Black tradition that it felt like I was returning home to my roots right along with Charley, one of the show’s three lead characters. The way Nova dispensed homemade remedies, the hand-sown pouch in father Ernest’s casket, the family sitting solemnly under the funeral tent. It all felt so familiar.
Additionally the show is visually stunning. Every scene looked like a work of art.
Breakout Star Rutina Wesley puts a lot of soul into her character, Nova Bordelon.
On the OWN website Nova, Ernest’s daughter and Charley’s sister, is billed as little more than a journalist and activist. But with this “True Blood” actress playing the part, Nova more layers than an onion.
Storylines to Watch For Pay close attention to the Bordelon children’s love lives. All of three of them have enough drama brewing to satisfy both you AND your mama.
Right now Nova looks like she the most grounded of the Bordelon offspring following their father’s passing. But her secret affair with Calvin, the very sexy and very married detective, could cause trouble down the line. Especially given her uncover hustle as a marijuana grower.
A relationship should be the last thing on Charley’s mind after husband Davis West’s sex scandal. But by the way she was looking at farming hand Remy, it’s clear she might jump back in the saddle sooner than expected.
Finally, there’s a love triangle forming around Ralph Angel. Just as he starts falling for his son Blue’s teacher, his baby mama Daria is making her way back into his life. Ralph Angel is resisting right now, but it is clear that old habits die hard for this former felon.
One Thing I Would Fix Dawn-Lyen Gardner’s role as basketball wife Charley Bordelon-West seems a little too stereotyped to me.
Of course she had to be a thick, light-skinned girl with the good hair who’s really smart, but putting all her drive into her star husband thinking his success would be hers too for the rest of their lives. And of course she, of all the siblings, had to be the one most disconnected from the family’s cultural identity.
I’m pretty sure the audience watching this show is familiar with the reality show “Basketball Wives.” We don’t need a copy of that drama here. Nor do we need to constantly beat up on the same stereotyped woman.
There’s evidence that film director Ava Duvernay wants to make more of her character.
Like how Charley asked her husband to stop bankrolling their son so he can learn how to work for what he wants. Or how she didn’t flinch when her wanted to leave a voodoo-esque trinket in their father’s casket.
Still it’s not coming through clear enough for this viewer. I hope she has more up her sleeve that will add some more fresh complexity to Charley.
How to Catch Up Watch the first three episodes on Xfinity On Demand or turn to OWN two hours before Episode Four and get caught up.
Atlanta, Tuesdays on FX at 10 p.m. EST
Why it’s a Stand Out This show about a drifter kid trying to find his way is both witty and wise.
Lead character Earnest “Earn” Marks dropped out of school and now he’s got a child to support. But he’s still got dreams. Earnest is serious about making it as a manager to rapper cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles. But this show doesn’t take its self too seriously.
There are moments of levity that tend to come from Alfred’s boy Darius. All the silly things he says and does makes it hard to tell whether he’s high or just plain crazy. Also there is plenty of situational humor like the weirdo who confronts Earnest on the public bus and urges the young dad to take a bite of his sandwich.
While you’re laughing, pay attention. Some of the jokes are meant to teach.
For instance the funny way the people around Alfred change once his single is played on the radio. It’s humorous but it also shows us how society gives entertainers and celebrities a pass for bad behavior while it condemns regular folks for those same actions.
Also there’s a scene in lock up where a black detainee’s strange behavior causes everyone around him and maybe even some watchers to laugh. However the laughter stops when white police officers begin beating and kicking him.
Then the whole scene becomes a demonstration of the systemic problems in U.S. police departments. This viewer was also left to ponder the state of mental health in the United States and also in the black community where there is a stigma attached to mental illness and related treatments.
Breakout Star Donald Glover is truly a chameleon. With his performance in this new drama, Glover shows his refusal to be type-casted. Yes, you may know him from the NBC comedy Community. But there is none of Troy Barnes’ goofy, immature antics in this new role.
Instead he brings a very sober and beautifully contemplative air to Earnest. Chills ran down my spine when I watched Earnest ponder out loud why he continually encounters failure.
Don’t get me wrong, Glover is still funny. But it’s subtle. It’s Earnest’s awkwardness in every situation he finds himself in and the shade he throws out so perfectly. But his weird expressions and quiet digs always fits the situation perfectly.
Story Lines to Watch For Alfred isn’t one of those head-in-the-clouds kids trying to be the next Kanye. He’s not here for the praise or the instant fame. He’s also not under the illusion that his rhymes are the best in the game. He’s really trying to find his way just like his cousin Earnest.
His rap career will reveal a lot about himself and Earnest too.
One Thing I Would Fix Nothing.
How to Catch Up Find the first three episode Xfinity On Demand or the FX website.
Too Close to Home, Mondays on TLC at 9 p.m. EST
Why It’s a Stand Out This show knows how to serve up the drama. The show starts out with Anna Hayes, the White House Social Secretary, caught deep in a political scandal. Anna, previously known as Annie Belle, escaped her backwoods upbringing to make something of herself. But unfortunately she’s been sleeping with the president and now everybody knows.
But that’s not the only drama on this show.
Annie Belle’s sisters Bonnie and Shelby back in Happy, Alabama are serving up some “T” of their and by T, I mean trouble. Both are messing around with their sister’s old flames, but Shelby’s fling with Bonnie’s man may cause both their lives.
Shelby, an addict, slept with J.B. right under her nose in the hopes of scoring her next fix. When he didn’t deliver, she stole the big rig he was using to secretly transport drugs to a very dangerous man.
Breakout Star Viewers have been going crazy on Twitter about Brody Allen, the man Annie Belle left behind for the allures of the big city. Brody, played by Brock O’Hurn, is a hunk with lots of muscles and a long brown-blonde mane. Maybe he’s the reason it’s called Happy, Alabama.
Storylines to Watch For Shows like “Scandal” have tried to portray the president’s mistress but all of them have had some kind of armor to protect them from the resulting scrutiny. When the details of her affair with the president comes out, Annie Belle has nothing. No money, no friends, no family. She is forced to face the brutal press all alone. It’s painful but, as a viewer I couldn’t look away.
There are clues that Annie Belle’s life is only going to get more complicated. There’s a chance that she may be framed for murder.
Also there’s more to Annie’s old life in Happy than she’s telling. For one, she has a daughter named Rebel. Is Brody her husband?
One Thing I Would Fix The dialogue between characters is awkward and a bit clumsy at times.
How to Catch Up Find past episodes on Xfinity On Demand or the TLC Go app.