(Black) Lightning Does Strike Twice

The CW threw there hat in the inclusive ring with last year’s announcement of D.C.’s Black Lightning. After the success of their mostly white superhero shows – adding Supergirl two years ago- it was time D.C.’s first African American star shined. Akin to Marvel’s Luke Cage, Lightning struck in the 1970s off the popularity of blaxploitation culture. Afros and jive populated the original comic as Jefferson Pierce, a crime fighter wielding the ability to control electricity, fought injustice. Decades later as the comic genre booms along with the need for fairer representation, Black Lightning strikes back in 2018.

While many blerds rejoiced at the thought of seeing this character come to life, there was an equal level of apprehension. This is The CW we are talking about. Other than Jane the Virgin and supporting casts on the comic titles, accurate potrayals of blacks and POC was scarce. And when rumors buzzed of a Black Lives Matters episode of Arrow, even the ancestors rolled their eyes. Luckily Black Lightning’s success is sewed by Salim and Mara Brock Akil.

The coupled screenwriters behind Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane deliver a relevant and substantial black family drama with hero elements. From this vantage point, the series elevates its tone above the campiness that plagues nominal comic vehicles. The story becomes the focus. And with a good story, everything else can fall into place.

Jefferson Pierce is a divorced principal of Garfield High, curbing the vices of the neighborhood from his students and family. He retired his cape nine years ago, but when a villainous crime circuit threatens his two daughters, Black Lightning suits back up. Driven by Pierce’s need to protect his family, he sees his responsibility goes beyond his own front door. The community is plagued with gun violence and drugs. And where there is violence, there are the unjust hands of the police.

The opening scene finds Pierce (Cress Williams) driving home from a school event. Dressed in a suit and tie, along with his two young daughters, the cops pull him over claiming he matches the description of a theft suspect in the area. Pierce exhausts its the third time that month he’s been profiled as his eldest daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) records the interaction with her smartphone. The series unabashedly displays and discusses the current Black experience in America. From protests against police brutality, to questions of class within the Black community, its all on deck. And we’re all better for it.

In addition to the topical issues addressed, the Akils have surrounded the show in a tapestry of authentic blackness. A man compares Black Lightning’s costume to a Parliament/Funkadelic outfit. Anissa chides her younger, rebellious sister Jennifer (China McClain) as “fast ass.” The soundtrack – much like Shonda Rhimes’ with Scandal – is syrupy soul and funk, an homage to the 70s original comic. The series opens to the politically-charged anthem “Strange Fruit” made famous by Billie Holiday. The show is a level of blackness never before herald on The CW.

Beyond the great story and rich cultural observance, the hero stuff we actually came for is legit. Black Lightning kicks ass with believable fight scenes and seemingly strong graphics. The pilot skips the clumsy stretch of our protagonist figuring out how their powers work. Instead we see the veteran Pierce reassemble his skills seamlessly. And he’s going to need it facing one of the most gruesome villains in CW history. Arrow had Slade and Flash Zoom, but Lightning brings Tobais – a brutal thug kingpin who harpoons his foot soldiers for discipline. The violence delivers real consequences for our characters and the story, keeping viewers intensely bound to what happens next.

Two episodes in and I’m sold for the season – which promises us at least two more heroes joining the family’s fight. Black Lightning airs Tuesday’s at 9 p.m. ET on The CW or all the time on The CW app.

TV BYKE

This week marks the return of all the shows (ALL OF THE SHOWS *in my Rihanna voice*). 2018 began at a gradual pace of a show here (Star Trek Discovery) and there (This Is Us). But midway through January, new and returning shows are stampeding on my evenings. Let the games begin.

Monday – Tomorrow is the 2-hour season one finale of Fox’s surprise hit The Gifted. The battle between mutant and human intensifies as the Hellfire Club gains the Underground’s trust. Meanwhile Dr. Campbell convinced Jace in using his next stage in mutant manipulation – a machine that replicates the Strucker siblings’ powers.

Tuesday – This Is Us is in mid swing of its second season, but a new challenger at 9 p.m. will require my live viewing instead. The CW’s highly-anticipated Black Lightning series premieres. The first African American hero of the CW’s D.C. family features Cress Williams as the retired metahuman. When a violent gang threatens the livelihood of his family and neighborhood, he places the cape back on. And may received help from his two daughters as well. Black. Female. Heroines. On. TV. Sign me up.

Wednesday – Wednesday evening is a triple threat of entertainment. At 8 p.m. I play soap drama with the kids of Riverdale. Next I return to Filory as SyFy’s The Magicians entered its third season. Magic is no more for Quincy, Julia and friends. But a gallant quest may be the key – or seven – to restoring the magic in the world and beyond. Finally FX delivers Ryan Murphy’s second installment of American Crime Story. This time we revisit the murder of Gianni Versace, a crime I remember but definitely do not know the full story.

Thursday – TGIT returns with Liv and Annalise on their shows respectively. And as recently promised, their two worlds will collide when Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder crossover. Who wants more wine!?

Friday – Fridays are dedicated to ABC’s excellent fifth season of Agents of SHIELD. The team has been transported 80-some years into the future, where the Earth is nothing but a crater – remnants of a catastrophic Inhuman event. Coulson and the team are fighting  Kree as well as other forces of the galaxy.

Saturday – This still remains my catch up day – between apps and Hulu anything I miss will be devoured within these 24 hours.

Sunday – CBS is screwing the populace hiding the superb Star Trek: Discovery behind its $6 pay wall. The show is great for Trekkies and newbies alike, with an African American female lead in Sonequa Martin Green (The Walking Dead). In addition to Trek, Showtime via Hulu boasts The Chi. From Lena Waithe and Common is the multi-narrative portrait of Chicago lives.

This is the schedule as of now. Subject to change of course.

ELN: ‘Gifted’ – “eXit strategy” sets up war to come

the-gifted-exit-strategy-comicbook.comFox’s The Gifted saw our mutant rebels risk it all for a rescue mission.  Lorna and Reed form an unlikely alliance while Marcos visits someone from his past.

The episode opens in a flashback: Marcos, Johnny and others attempt to free prisoners from Sentinel Services. They barely escape, with one mutant – Josh – being left behind. He’s shot in the back. Another casualty in the fight for justice. Continue reading ELN: ‘Gifted’ – “eXit strategy” sets up war to come

30for30: Day Eleven

The Cosby Show | Being I was born in 1987, a full three years after Cliff, Clair and thuxtables existed, didn’t stop me from falling in love with the family comedy. I would make my parents record reruns of the show for me. I never realized the impact then, seeing these upwardly mobile African Americans living their lives and culture weekly. A monumental moment in television history.

A Goofy Movie | Back when the dollar cinema was a thing, my mother took me to see Disney’s father-and-son animated comedy starring Goofy and his son Max. Staple 90s film capturing teen angst and how that relationship with your parents change through those years. It will stand the test of time for the brilliance that is Powerline aka Tevin Campbell and “Eye 2 Eye.”

Unorthodox Jukebox | Before 2015, Bruno Mars was the fedora-wearing hook guy on B.O.B.’s “Nothing On You.” When his debut album came it was too pop perfect for my taste. But somewhere between a cocaine arrest and 2013, Mars flipped the switch with his sophomore effort. While still pop, it was threaded with a funky, sexy, R&B edge of yesteryear and a Parental Advisory sticker. Like Beyoncé and B’Day, Jukebox signified a point of no return for Bruno as he rose above his counterparts flexing his writing, producing and singing abilities.