“Atlanta” blends unique comedy with modern themes

Tim Forkin

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Donald Glover is a jack of all trades.

He has released three albums under the stage name Childish Gambino. He wrote for the show “30 Rock” and starred in the show “Community.” He has release two stand-up specials, and he will play a young Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo film.

 

All of these roles tie together in one piece for the show Atlanta, which Glover has created and stars in. The show follows Glover as Earnest “Earn” Marks, a Princeton dropout looking for a way to make money. He has a daughter with his best friend Vanessa, and he and his cousin Alfred (an upcoming rapper going by the stage name Paper Boi) work their way through the Atlanta rap scene.

The show starts out with Earn at a dead-end job trying to earn money to support his daughter. He comes to realize that his cousin is on the verge of rap stardom, and uses his connections to get his cousin’s song played on the radio. This convinces Alfred to let Earn become his manager.

After the first episode, the show takes many turns. In only ten episodes, many different issues are portrayed, such as police brutality, mental illness, transphobia, the urban drug scene, internet criticism, exploitation, and racism. The show goes back and forth on these issues, and makes light, intelligent and timely observations on the matters.

The show was very intriguing to me because of the way it didn’t follow a set plot. Sure, some episodes were connected, but until the last episode, it was almost like Seinfeld, where things just happened in the episodes but there was no real end goal. It just seemed like a humorous, intelligent depiction of life in 2016.

At the Golden Globe Awards, Atlanta took home the award for Best Comedy and Donald Glover won Best Actor in a Comedy. And these awards were won with good reason.

The show is not one to have you laughing for 22 minutes straight. Most of the time, you are sitting, thinking, trying to comprehend what has happened. The small, quick, smart quirks of the show make it funnier than most shows I’ve watched.

There are no running gags in Atlanta; all of the humor is timely and quick hitting. Justin Bieber is portrayed as African-American. Famous rap group Migos are portrayed as drug dealers. Fictitious NBA star Marcus Miles has “an invisible car.” These quirks will keep you watching because you never know what is coming next or what the heck just happened.

The cinematography and music selections are very clean and everything seems to fit right. The episodes bounce around to show character development for each of the main characters. And it is the characters that make the show

Donald Glover wrote the show, and wrote his character in to be a carbon copy of himself in real life. Earn is smart, but desperate, and finds himself in uncomfortable situations as he tries to succeed. He has a good heart, and wants to put on for his family but understands it will take time. He is a very likable character.

Brian Tyree Henry plays Alfred Miles (aka Paper Boi), who comes off as a stereotypical trap rapper: drug dealing, mean, physically imposing. But what makes the character is his soft side, how he tries to help the people around him, and how he is a natural good person underneath the persona he has to play. You only see the real Alfred in small doses, and he leaves the audience wanting more.

ATLANTA — Pictured: (l-r) Brian Tyree Henry as Alfred Miles, Keith Standfield as Darius, Donald Glover as Earnest Marks. CR: Matthias Clamer/FX

Darius, Alfred’s best friend and visionary, is portrayed by Keith Stanfield. Darius says and does the weirdest things. He is in his own world, but he is actually very smart. He is emotional support for the other two characters, and the quirky things he does brings comedic relief to the show.

Earn’s ex-girlfriend, best friend, and mother of his child is Vanessa (played by Zazie Beets). She lets Earn stay with her and is helpful to him. She, like Earn, is trying to make money to support their family and tries to rekindle her relationship with him. She brings a strong female presence to the show that would be missing without her.

All in all, in only ten episodes, Atlanta has become one of my favorite shows I’ve ever watched. The intelligent humor and satire, along with a main character that you have to root for, make Atlanta worthy of the critical acclaim it received. The show is on FX and is set to resume for season two in 2018.

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“Atlanta” blends unique comedy with modern themes