Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)
Despite notions that this is like Shonda Rhimes-light or even some sort of A Different World 2.0 or Drumline spin-off, it doesn’t deserve the comparisons. The only thing similar when it comes to this show is a Black woman as lead, it dealing with a college campus at a historically black university, and the drum line dealing with part of the drama. From there, I don’t see much of a comparison.
Eva (Anika Noni Rose) | Jason (Redaric Williams) | Noni (Zoe Renee) | Ebonie (Erica Michelle) | Cedric (Peyton ‘Alex’ Smith) | Chantel (Candace B. Harris) | Sydney (Jazz Raycole) | Madison (Michelle DeFraites) | Cecil Diamond (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) | Carlton (E. Roger Mitchell) | BoJohn (Jake Allyn)
Characters & Storyline
On a campus of 3200, new president Eva Fletcher has her hands full at Georgia A&M. She has to cut the budget, raise money for and the standing of the college, plus deal with the egos of the faculty. Most of which are held by men who may have taken part in her being hired, but seemingly aren’t for her changing a damn thing. One, Carlton, thinks she ain’t Black enough and is mad he was passed over for her job. Another, Diamond, head of the marching band, don’t like that she is in his business too much, even when a student gets injured in a hazing incident. However, with his program being the sole prestigious thing the university has year after year, she is warned to leave him and his work alone.
Though of course, it isn’t just the staff with drama. Fresh from Chicago, young Cedric is trying to become a rapper and stay out of trouble. But when his girlfriend Chantel visits, possibly running away from an incident back home, trouble follows. Then there is Sydney, Eva’s daughter, who is still in some sort of rebellious phase and two token white characters, Madison and Bo John. Both worried about those they left behind.
Alongside them is Noni, A sweet girl who gets caught up in faculty drama but is trying to stay out of it. If only because it could impede the dreams she has had since she was a little girl. But she isn’t the only one caught up with the faculty. A young man named Jason knows some things about President Fletcher and they already ruined her life once, and could very well again if the information becomes widely circulated.
Petty Ass Men & Women Looking Out For Each Other
Not to appropriate Viola Davis’ words, but she mentioned a long time ago about how much she loves that Annalise, on How To Get Away With Murder wasn’t always likable. Something I don’t think a lot of people of color are given the opportunity to be. Women especially, but men as well. So with the Black men on this show being misogynistic and petty, I feel they are being given rare opportunities.
Which is why Diamond and Carlton are so refreshing, even if perhaps for all the wrong reasons. For the misogyny doesn’t come as a surprise, especially with Carlton questioning whether Eva is Black enough and calling her the B word since he is mad she got the job he wanted. Much less Diamond seemingly not liking a woman calling the shots. To me, Eva’s story could be any woman’s dealing with men who fear their power, thoughts, and influence. To the point, they’d rather belittle and try to take them down just to keep the status quo.
Various Types of Black Folk – Looks & Background
Physically you get dark skinned, light skinned, those who grew up in the hood as well as the suburban Black folks. There are those who got their curls out and others who straighten it. Pretty much, look & background wise, there is someone who potentially has the same look or style as you unless you are on a Lisa Bonet or Jaden Smith type of wave.
Token White People
You know how awkward it is when there is one or two Black, Hispanic, or Indian characters on a show, and the writers avoid the characters and story addressing how there is just something different about them, it is sort of the opposite here. But, to make matters worse, both BoJohn and Madison seem like CW characters who got lost and ended up in a random show.
There is Nothing Rooted in Normalcy
To me, everyone’s life and story is setup to be sensationalized. Cedric’s girlfriend dies and he gets arrested. Eva cheated on her husband with a grad student, got fired from her old job because of it, and then he transfers to her new school.I could go on and on but do you see a pattern here? No one has a normal life.
Something which bugs me for I can’t think of another scripted show which has this many Black people who all could have a speaking role. So this being just another soap opera with cheating spouses, people being framed for what they didn’t do, and your usual dark agendas, it’s frustrating. For as much as this show has the potential to break out from the comparisons people could make, it seems those involved want are banking on the comparisons.
Lack of Racial And Sexual Orientation Diversity
Considering this is a college, I find it interesting how there is no representation of queer or non-binary individuals. Also, where are the Hispanics/Latinx folk? How come there are no Asian characters with a speaking role? Not even someone from Africa, directly, for a lack of a better way to put it? Surely diversity, inclusivity, or whatever they call it nowadays, is about more than just cis and hetero white folk and Black folk sharing the screen.
On The Fence
Anika Noni Rose Isn’t Like Other Black Lead Actresses, But It Is Because She Is Forging Her Own Path
I wouldn’t put Anika Noni Rose in the same category as Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, or even Gabrielle Union. She doesn’t cut people with her words, even when she is being serious and standing up for herself. Also, she doesn’t really have some iconic look, walk, attitude or anything. In many ways, she sort of blends in and I like that in a way. She maybe the lead, perhaps one of the most recognizable names and faces, outside Jasmine Guy, but she isn’t made out to be overly exceptional. She is qualified, but she isn’t the best and you don’t have to constantly hear people remind you of her stature.
The bad thing about that is, with her not being treated as this big to do, we are given a show which is very much an ensemble and no one really makes that huge push to be notable. Diamond perhaps, to a point, but take away his sass to his boss and he is just a boring old man who has one specialty – coaching a marching band. He isn’t presented as some interesting and complex figure. He is just someone you can love to hate. As for everyone else, except maybe Noni who seems like a 20 something-year-old version of all these women who lead these shows, there isn’t anyone who really pops.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
Excuse perhaps one of the longest reviews I ever posted for a single production, but this show really could be something. The problem is, it seems there isn’t a strong push toward pushing boundaries, bringing the type of stories and performances rarely seen outside of the once a year indie film, and that bothers me. This show has potential and doesn’t really aim, in the first outing, to harness it. Thus leading to the “Stick Around” label for maybe they just wanted to establish the players before getting too deep. But if it sticks to the usual storylines we’ve been given for years, then all that BET and this show is doing is milking the trends for all they are worth.