By Jack Lopez
Whether you’re a fan of Childish Gambino or not, it’s impossible to deny the talent that Donald Glover possesses. Over the course of the past decade, he has evolved from a YouTube sketch comic personality to a Grammy-nominated rapper and an actor who has been able to find success landing roles in Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” as well as the upcoming “Spider-Man” film. He has been known to most people under either his rap alter-ego Childish Gambino or as Troy Barnes, the lovable nerd from the NBC-turned-Yahoo original television show, “Community.”
Glover’s newest foray into television comes in the form his new FX original series “Atlanta,” which, at its core, is a snapshot into the lives of three Atlanta natives. Glover writes, produces, directs and stars in the show that he created, which makes “Atlanta” something that is truly all his own.
The story follows Glover’s character, Earnest “Earn” Marks, as he struggles to support his daughter and her mother. Earn discovers that his estranged cousin, Alfred, has become one of the most popular rappers in Atlanta under the pseudonym Paper Boi. Earn finds his cousin with the hopes of managing Paper Boi’s career so that he can support his family.
The show is, at its heart, a dramatic comedy. “Atlanta” takes a very real and dark approach to humor. With a dramatic storyline, “Atlanta” might have been better served by a 44-minute run time for each episode instead of the 22 minutes FX allotted.
The show tackles issues like police brutality, mental health, gang violence, racism, homophobia and drug use all within the first two episodes. Each of these issues is presented in a somber way that still manages to find a proper balance between comedy and the reality of the situation.
When watching “Atlanta,” certain scenes and moments come across as hysterical until you realize the situation. What seems funny to us when satirically displayed on camera is actually a sad reality in which some people in this country live.
The show really hits its marks well. The jokes in each episode are clever and never feel forced, while the drama feels realistic and gritty. Glover has an unmistakable gift for writing dialogue that sounds real — dialogue that doesn’t leave the viewer believing that what they’re watching is scripted.
For 22 minutes each week, Glover and the show transport the audience into some of the roughest parts of Atlanta.
“Atlanta” is a show that after just eight episodes has proven to be one of the best original programs I’ve seen in recent years. FX has put so much faith into the show and fans have loved it so much that it was renewed for a second season after just three episodes. The show is as ambitious as it is creative, and I, for one, am excited to see what Glover will be able to do with a show that he has so much control over.