Harlem, on the other hand, is a classic sitcom from Amazon that focuses on four women in their romantic lives, careers, and friendships. And, unlike Starz's Run the World (also set in New York's Black mecca), and Issa Rae's masterwork Insecure, Harlem is retrofitted for a contemporary audience hungry for self-reflection served with a side of fantasy.
Oliver, who starred in Rae's shrewd web series Awkward Black Girl before sharpening her pen in comedies like Girls Trip and Little, wanted Harlem to fill a gap: Stories about Black female friendships were short and far between, notably those concentrating on the messiness typical of one's 30s. By that measure, the show succeeds: the simple humor, enviable wardrobes, winks to previous sitcoms, and questionable character antics are likely
Creative Producers: Tracy Oliver, Amy Poehler, Kim Lessing, Mimi Valdes, Pharrell Williams, Dave Becky, and Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai, Jerrie Johnson, Tyler Lepley,, Jasmine Guy Producers: Tracy Oliver, Amy Poehler, Kim Lessing, Mimi Valdes, Pharrell Williams, Pharrell Williams, Dave Becky,, Spacio Guy
Quinn (Meagan Good), an anxious adjunct anthology professor at Columbia University, anchors the program, and her lectures, which she delivers with aplomb to bleary-eyed collegians, thematically steer each episode. Her friends are an assorted crew assembled in college. Her wardrobe is, frankly, to die for.
Harlem shockingly underutilizes and sometimes misuses its setting despite its title. Camille, wearing an oxblood red coat, struts across a slew of campus that clearly belongs to City College and not Columbia University, where she teaches. Narrative choices, like anti-gentrification protests against the closure of a beloved fictional local bar, would be easier to buy into if the program went beyond requisite shots of brownstone-lined blocks and lushly decorated interiors
Camille's characters, thankfully, fare better than their locales. The series focuses on the current offering of television programs, reflecting the strength of Black women's friendships as well as the fury of modern living. Camille, Quinn, Angie, and Tye, as well as confronting uncomfortable truths, says she has moved back to New York to shift from adjunct to full-time tenure-track professor. Do she leave a prestigious workplace that ultimately does not value her? She honestly has no idea.
Good, known for her work in Think Like a Man and Deception, kicks into her new role, embodying an awkward adjunct prone to cringey decision-making. She's at her best when pit against veteran comedians like Whoopi Goldberg, who makes a fantastic guest appearance as an opposing new member of Columbia's faculty.
When Camille is desperate to reorder her life, her friends struggle with similar struggles in her career and love. Quinn, prone to being catfished, struggles as a single hopeless romantic. Up there with the Empire alum is the flawless Shandai, whose Angie enables her to do so well, but not at the expense of a proper plot. Her arc is one I'm excited to see develop.
When Harlem isn't a significant difference between its predecessors and even rivalry, it's most clearly seen by Tye, a cagey gay startup founder who must confront the emotional roots of her inconsistent dating life. Her narrative teeters, but even in the most melodramatic moments, the show attempts to explore her teeters, but even in the most melodramatic moments, the show attempts to explore her personality and relationships with wry humor. Johnson combines Ty
When conversations drift away from the particularity of the four friends' dynamic, the performance falls into the trap of overly expository writing. West Indians are a beautifully complex and varied people, whose cultural influence should be celebrated, not mocked, especially by fellow Diasporians, Quinn quips at Angie. None of what she says is true, but its blunt insertion makes it feel like a public service announcement instead of a natural part of the interactive flow.
For most viewers, the show's shortcomings will be forgiven in the greater picture of what it does offer: Four new characters that they can chat about and debate about in group texts. As Insecure comes to an end, Harlem provides those of us not ready to let go with a slightly looser landing.