IANS Review: ‘Harlem’: A frothy, ‘girls wanna have fun’ series (IANS Rating: ***)

Series: Harlem (Streaming on Amazon Prime). Duration: 35 minutes per episode.

Directors: Malcolm D. Lee, Linda Mendoza, Stacey Muhammad and Neema Barnette.

Cast: Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai, Jerrie Johnson, Tyler Lepley, Whoopi Goldberg, Jasmine Guy, Andrea Martin, Robert Richard, Juani Feliz, Kate Rockwell and Sullivan Jones.

IANS Rating: ***

This frothy series created by Tracy Oliver centres on the exploits of four stylish and ambitious best girlfriends living in Harlem, New York City, the mecca of Black culture in America.

The friends, three coloured and one white, with varied tastes in life, dreamt of a fairytale life as young girls, but now in this phase of their lives, in between careers, they are constantly thinking, contemplating and debating about dating and relationships, whenever they meet. They banter without missing a beat. The four are:

Camille, essayed by Meagan Good. She is a professor of anthropology at Columbia University. She has extensive knowledge of the dating norms of many cultures, but has a hard time navigating her own love life between her ex — Ian (Tyler Lepley) — and current boyfriend Jameson (Sullivan Jones). Making matters worse for her is her work-life balance, as she fails to impress her boss, Dr Elise Pruitt (Whoopi Goldberg).

Tye, a “dyke” played by Jerrie Johnson, is an IT entrepreneur who has created a successful queer dating app. But on her relationship front, she is always conscious of what people will think of her if she dates a white woman and thus keeps her partners at arm’s length.

Shoniqua Shandai plays the fizzy-head Angie. She is a confident, vibrant and filter-free black singer-cum-actress who is forthright and constantly suspicious of people’s attitudes towards black people.

Grace Byers portrays Quinn, the only white among the four. She is a fashion designer who depends on her family’s trust fund. She dates Shawn (Robert Ri’chard), a stripper, after meeting him for the first time, but being bi-curious, she is confused, thus complicating her love life decisions.

The characters are relatable and the cast slip into their roles effortlessly delivering their chops effectively.

Shoniqua is too dramatic and over the top for most of the time. The only odd one out is Jasmine Guy, who plays Quinn’s concerned mother. For an elite society lady, she is too loud and a bit crass, which makes her so out of place.

The series, consisting of ten episodes, begins with the girls appearing to be on a desperate note, but gradually, the script meanders on an even keel.

Each episode proves to be a hardy one and it is executed here with an appealing self-awareness about the flush of new love or lust, and the way it can become a matured yet all-consuming distraction.

Overall, the series is entertaining, mildly addictive, and so fluffy that it does not take itself seriously at all. Not to mention the fact that it bears similarities to so many other four-friend chick-flicks and series templates available on various OTT platforms.

(Troy Ribeiro can be contacted at troy.r@ians.in)




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