Black Is The New Black:
The Best in Black Shows
By Matthew Arcilla
When it comes to conversations about this “Golden Age” of TV – or “peak TV,” depending on who you’re talking to – it can sometimes feel like the situation is oh so very white. But the truth is, that there are a lot of great shows now contributing to some much needed “blackening.”
Now, black actors on TV don’t necessarily equate to progress, but they are definitely a welcome corrective to an imbalance that favors mostly white characters with affluent upbringings or white collar professions.
Thanks to streaming, you don’t need to rely on the limits of network schedules and cable channel slots to find a great show with a compelling black lead. Here’re eight of the best shows you can stream right now on Netflix PH.
8. Luke Cage
After a government experiment gone wrong grants him super strength and unbreakable skin, Luke Cage goes on the run as a fugitive. Cage tries to claim a simple, honest life in the neighborhood of Harlem, but crime and corruption pull him out of the shadows. Mike Colter (The Good Wife) brings a soulful and intelligent quality to a Marvel Comics character prone to bombast and jive talking cliché.
7. How To Get Away With Murder
Each year, prominent defense attorney Annalise Keating chooses a select handful of students to assist her with high-profile cases that challenge their principles. It’s a mesmerizing thriller series and whether she’s chewing the scenery or caught in romantic intrigue, Viola Davis is the real standout in this ensemble. Davis’ performance as Keating earned her an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, making her the first black woman to win the award.
6. Chewing Gum
One of Netflix’s secret gems is this hilarious, whip smart show about one young woman’s romantic misadventures and her quest to lose her virginity. The dialogue is cracklingly original – “Look, I know sexual harassment is illegal, but it came from my heart” – and creator/writer/star Michaela Coel expertly balances her character’s lack of sophistication with the cringe of trying. “I’m a grown ass woman. I just – regularly make childlike mistakes.”
5. The Get Down
When young poet Zeke “Books” Figuero meets aspiring DJ and graffiti artist Shaolin Fantastic, the two become “The Get Down Brothers.” Meanwhile Zeke’s crush Mylene dreams of leaving the Bronx to become a disco singer. Justice Smith, Shameik Moore and Herizen Guardiola star in this musical drama that spins a mythic saga of how hip-hop and disco emerged from one of the darker decades of New York, and was co-created by Baz Luhrmann, director of Moulin Rouge!
4. Black Lightning
Our own Tim Henares called it “the most Tito-rrific superhero show.” Black Lightning stars Cress Williams (Hart of Dixie) as high school principal Jefferson Pierce, who gave up a life of costumed crime fighting years ago. But a long gone nemesis resurfaces, a local gang grows in power and a young woman with powers needs his guidance forcing Pierce to become Black Lightning once more.
This dark procedural from several years ago is the show that put Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Beasts of No Nation) on the road to stardom. Elba turns in a compelling performance as the obsessive and sometimes violent inspector John Luther. And though he possesses a brilliant mind, that can’t shield him from the psychological troubles of his suspects nor can it save him from his own dangerous impulses.
2. She’s Gotta Have It
This romance comedy series stars DeWanda Wise as Nola Darling, a liberated young woman dating three men at the same time: narcissistic photographer Greer Childs, successful alpha male Jamie Overstreet and hip but geeky sneaker head Mars Blackmon. While each suitor has merits, Nola has trouble deciding what she really wants out of love and out of life.
1. Dear White People
Despite the confrontational title, Dear White People is actually a smart, insightful send-up of woke culture. While the cast of black students attending a mostly white university as they weather the strain of political correctness, the injustice of cultural bias and misguided activism in the millennial age. The series’ greatest strength is its brutal honesty.
For while the young kids at Winchester University might be united in skin color and the ideals of black empowerment, Dear White People rejects an all-encompassing definition of blackness. Instead it expertly weaves drama and humor to explore how young people find their own identity and forge a unique journey for themselves.
What other shows can you recommend? Share them with us below!