1. The Get Down
The Get Down is a Netflix original series created by Baz Luhrmann, who is a well-known director for incredible films such as The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet. Through his use of cinematography and music, Baz Luhrmann is known to create unforgettable movies and television series, such as The Get Down.
Baz Luhrmann enlists the help of Nelson George, a hip-hop historian; Grandmaster Flash, a pioneer of hip-hop as a DJ; the Oscar winning Catherine Martin, a legendary MC; and the award-winning playwright, Stephen Adly Guirgis. They all come together to show the rise of hip-hop in the late 1970s.
The Get Down is set in the South Bronx in New York and revolves around these teens who change the city through their music, dance and graffiti. At the heart of this show is a beautiful love story between the protagonist, Ezekiel ‘Zeke’ Figuero, played by Justice Smith, and Mylene Cruz, played by Herizen F. Guardiola. Zeke loves Mylene, and is so committed to helping her dream of being a singer come true that is sure to tug at your heart strings.
The cast, being predominantly black and Latino, is great in terms of representation because of the importance of seeing someone who looks like you portrayed as a three-dimensional character rather than a stereotype. As someone who was born in the late 90s, I have always wanted to know what it would have been like to grow up in a different era, and this show allows you to immerse yourself in all that the late-70s South Bronx has to offer you. I urge everyone to see this show and continue to support it and watch all six episodes on Netflix.
2. Queen Sugar
Queen Sugar is the number-one must-see show of 2016, created, directed and executively produced by Ava DuVernay. DuVernay is well-known for directing one of the best films of 2014 called Selma, which was based on the voting rights marches led by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) previews this show, with Oprah Winfrey being an executive producer. Queen Sugar appears to be ground-breaking in many ways by not only portraying strong black women on screen, but also having many black women behind the scenes that have created this magnificent show.
It is based on the book Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile, and it follows the lives of the Bordelon family, showing how a tragic loss can bring these once-estranged siblings back together in the formidable south. The show revolves around three siblings: Nova, who is a journalist, healer and activist; Charley who is a mother, wife, and manager to her NBA-husband; and Ralph Angel, who is trying to redeem himself after being released from prison, and is trying to be a better parent to his son Bleu.
This show is a must-see, not only for its beautiful cinematography of the south — shown by all-women directors throughout the episodes — but also for the powerhouse performances of the cast that is fundamentally supported by the incredible writing.
StartUp is a phenomenal TV series, yet, unfortunately, seriously underrated. I can understand why, seeing as it is on Crackle, a fairly new online-distributor of shows and movies similar to Netflix, except in popularity. However, with the release of this original series created by Ben Katai, I genuinely hope that it gains more viewers so that there can be a second season. This show follows Izzy Morales, our main protagonist and creator of a new digital currency called GenCoin that is on its way to changing the world.
Izzy creates this revolutionary currency so that everyone all over the world can have access to a bank account that is not controlled by any government or any higher power, and all that is needed to access it is a phone. Often with shows that are based on technology or new innovation, the lead is a white male; so for Izzy, who is Cuban-American and a woman, to be shown as the creator of the powerhouse that is GenCoin is pretty inspiring to watch.
However, like all revolutionary ideas and inventions, Izzy struggles to find people to invest in her creation. This introduces Nick Talman (Adam Brody) as an investor in her start-up using money stolen from his dad. It also leads to Ronald Dacey, a Haitian- American gang-lord who owns a part of that stolen money, to become involved.
The three of them work to get Izzy’s currency off the ground, which is affected by FBI agent Phil Rask, played by Martin Freeman, who is after the stolen money. StartUp is set in Miami, but offers a dramatically different perspective by showing the tech-scene as well as being presented from the eyes of Izzy and Ronald, who are people of colour and not often associated with this world in television. There are ten episodes that are already available to watch for free on Crackle, and I urge everyone to support this show because it definitely needs a second season.
Atlanta is FX’s new original series that is a comedy created by and starring Donald Glover. So far, I have been listing shows that are intense dramas, so I wanted to list a comedy, and a great one at that. This show centres around two cousins that are entering the Atlanta rap scene.
Donald Glover plays Earnest ‘Earn’ Marks, a college dropout and father. Earnest notices that his cousin Alfred Miles, played by Brian Tyree Henry, has been becoming popular with the release of his single ‘Paper Boi’. Earnest sees an opportunity to become his manager and help Alfred get his career off the ground.
The cast also includes Earnest’s best friend Vanessa, who is his daughter’s mother, and Darius, who is Alfred’s friend. Atlanta is critically appraised by The Hollywood Reporter as being “simple but soulful”, and I wholeheartedly agree. This is a show that is quite minimalist in its approach to comedy, but it still manages to get you laughing because of how much this show resembles real life problems in terms of being poor, unemployed, trying to be a good parent, and struggling as a college dropout to make something of yourself.
Clearly, Atlanta has resonated with viewers seeing as it has been renewed for a second season. It is similar to Queen Sugar in the aspect that there are people of colour on and off screen; creating the kind of representation is great to see and very inspiring to watch.
5. This Is Us
This is Us premiered recently, and is honestly one of the sweetest and the most endearing show that I have ever seen. It revolves around a group of people who are born on the same day, and whose lives become intertwined with each other.
We are introduced to Jack and his wife, pregnant with triplets, giving birth on his birthday. We are also introduced to Kate who turns thirty-six alongside her twin Kevin, a sit-com actor struggling to find inspiration as an artist. Kate is a plus-sized woman and is seen, on her birthday, going to a weight loss support group where she meets Toby and befriends him.
The rest of the cast include Randall, who is celebrating his 36th birthday by tracking and confronting his father who abandoned him at a fire station when he was born. Randall shows him that, despite the way he was abandoned. he made something of himself — he became a successful business man, and a great husband and father. It seems that everyone in this show has something to prove to themselves and to others.
To me, this show is a show about resilience, family, and love. This is Us is a show that is truly beautiful, in every sense of the word, and I urge you to watch it because it is so incredibly relatable. It is a show that has amazing performances in an interplay with great writing to truly make you become invested in the characters’ lives.
Written by: Dalia Saeed
Edited by: naydeeen