Just a Couple is the type of show which helps you realize that while Black actors may get more opportunity for roles in America, the Brits are the ones with more diverse choices.
Shav (Frieda Thiel) and Mark (Michael Salami) are a two twenty-something-year-olds who have been dating for a while. Not long enough that there is a need to talk about marriage, but long enough where there are conversations about Mark moving in and showing that things aren’t just about what is convenient for him. However, this show isn’t solely focused on serious relationship stuff. Both Mark and Shav are shown to be silly when they want to and even though the season is only 6 episodes, you will get the vibe that these two, at their best, are #CoupleGoals.
Realistic Black Relationships
One of the things I have been fond of when it comes to non-American Black programs is that while there aren’t a lot of them, they take advantage of any opportunity they do get to show different sides to the culture. Like with Chewing Gum, you get the type of odd Black girl you rarely ever get to see, even within Nick or Disney teen comedies. With this show, however, it strips out all that soap opera drama we are used to with someone cheating, exes causing drama, and all that nonsense and just focuses on the couple and some of their everyday stuff. Some of it is Black specific like the issue some men have with their women wearing some type of head scarf, and the other issues stem from general, anyone can relate to, like when it comes to commitment, feeling left out on activities, and things of that nature. Something I’ve rarely seen in either movies or TV programs, so for the BBC to produce this is truly something. A perhaps true sign that some networks out there aren’t just looking for diversity in different colored faces, but trying to bring the culture of those people on as well.
But, I should note, it isn’t just the romantic relationship between Shav and Mark which are noteworthy. It was also quite nice to see Shav’s relationship with her friend Mel (Weruche Opia) and Mark’s relationship with his friend Daniel (Sean Sagar). Going a bit deeper, Shav and Mel have an almost Gina and Pam, from Martin, type of relationship. One you can tell is a bit more suburban than the other, but even with that difference, they have each other’s back. Also, be it financial, emotional, or mental assistance, she got her.
A conversation Mark has with Daniel.
Then with Daniel and Mark, while it is mostly your generic, “Look at this picture of a fat ass” type of friendship, you also have moments where, when no one else was there for Daniel’s birthday, Mark shows up. Even while Shav was a bit upset with him. Now, true, what ends up happening is they go to the club and Daniel ends up with his arms around two women, but the point is that because Mark values his friendship with Daniel and when no one else was there, he made himself available.
Everything Outside The Relationship Is A Mystery
The season is 6 episode and each episode, at most, is 15 minutes. With that, a lot of details you’d normally get are gone. What do any of the characters do for work? Who knows. What is Mark’s mother like [note]The one whose house he isn’t ready to leave to live with Shav.[/note] Also, there are certain arguments and stories you wished were played out more or allowed to simmer. Be it Shav questioning Mark’s commitment, or feeling a bit insecure about their relationship, or the time Mark bounced on her because her apartment was having a gas problem and there was no heat. In general, you will just become frustrated with the limitations that likely came from the budget and time constraints the creators were given.
On The Fence
While Mark generally seems like your average guy, there are times he gets weird and corny to the point he seems like a live action version of a Black cartoon character. That, or he was written for a sitcom. With that, he sort of takes away from the seriousness of being in a relationship Shav brings to the show. Yet, at the same time, him acting as a sort of comic relief helps this show stay lively and the chemistry between Salami and Thiel makes up for whatever annoyances you may get from Mark at times.
Overall: Positive (Watch This)
While a short season, and missing some details you may feel are necessary to get a full understanding of the relationship dynamics, this show is cute. And while I very much believe being a rare depiction of something doesn’t give a production a pass, I see these 6 episodes similar to what Awkward Black Girl is to Insecure. What you are given is a taste of what the team of the show can do within the limitations given, so just imagine what they could accomplish with more time and a bigger budget?
Hence the Positive label. For I look at it this way, there is a world of difference between a web series on YouTube and a platform like Amazon Prime and Netflix. So to make that transition, you got to show your idea and way of portraying characters is worth something and people want to see it. Plus, while this is a BBC 3 production, you can tell they didn’t give a nice production budget for this. There was enough to get things done, but I’m sure there wasn’t enough there to pay off a student loan debt or anything. Making it so, I figure for writer/ creator Sebastian Thiel, this show is but a platform for bigger things and to get his stuff accessible outside of the UK.
Shout out to Shadow & Act, as always, for letting people know about Black media outside the US or not heavily marketed. Also, for those interested in watching, find the playlist below.