As promised, this week’s focus is on Lance Reddick and Jasika Nicole from FRINGE, as well as new reviews for NYC 22, The Game and Don’t Trust the B---- In Apartment 23.
Fringe is a show that pushes the boundaries of perception and reality, turning concepts on their heads and playing with the weird (or fringe) science of monster men, time travel, and alternate worlds the way procedural cop shows play with the case of the week. The show is centered around FBI agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv) who in an effort to solve the increasing amounts of unexplained phenomenon occurring in the world is forced to team up with an self-institutionalized scientist Walter Bishop (an irascible John Noble from Lord of the Rings: Return of the King) whose past actions are actually the cause of all those troubles, and his genius yet mysterious son Peter (Joshua Jackson from Dawson’s Creek) who is the only one capable of wrangling his father.
While undoubtedly the leads in the widely popular sci-fi FOX television show are Torv, Jackson and Noble, the show wouldn’t be near as strong without its supporting characters. Key among them are Lance Reddick as FBI Agent/Fringe Division Head Phillip Broyles and Jasika Nicole as Science Team Member Agent Astrid Farnsworth. Reddick, who most know as Lt. Cedric Daniels in HBO’s Baltimore-based police drama The Wire, plays Agent Broyles as a man who keeps things very close to the vest, holding onto secrets about the government and the world until they really need to be known, and even only then giving info as needed. Though tight-lipped the entire first season, as things get wackier he becomes very trusting of Dunham and her Science Team and becomes more a real ally than the stereotypical mean-face department head. Reddick especially gets to play with his character when more about him and his personal life gets revealed and even more so when the alternate universe version of Broyles gets in tricky situations (I love Fringe too much to reveal spoilers!) and shows that no matter what universe or timeline he’s in, Phillip Broyles is a man of great conscience. Watch episodes 18 and 19 from the current season for great performances from Lance Reddick.
Nicole on the other hand, though essential to the dynamic of the show is not allowed as strong a character. Astrid is first shown as an assistant to Dunham, and then primarily as a lab assistant to Walter. Very slowly, we learn bits n’ pieces about Astrid, like the fact that she’s fluent in five different languages, an expert cryptologist, and very close to her family. Still, she’s used mostly as the straight-person to Dr. Bishop’s nutty notions. She gets into the field more in the current season, and shows here range as the alternate universe version of herself, but it would be great if she were able to do even more. Still, as the voice of reason among the scientific chaos she provides that everywoman element to the show. Outside of the show Nicole herself is pretty exceptional. She's an accomplished dancer (she co-starred in the Antonio Banderas movie Take The Lead) and one of the only openly gay actors of color in show business. Fringe is currently in its 4th season and as of this posting (literally JUST read this) it has been renewed for a fifth and final season, though only for 13 episodes which will allow the show the have a potentially great and ultimate resolution!
The Game was pretty personal this week, choosing to focus on whether Derwin (Pooch Hall) will allow his baby-mama Janay (Gabrielle Dennis) move to NYC with her fiancé and of course Derwin’s son DJ. Meanwhile, Tasha decides to go forth with a relationship with Pookie (Rockmond Dunbar). Not what grown man allows himself to be called Pookie is in question, but considering he’s a known killer I guess no one would dare ask him. Regardless, their first kiss is awkward and they decide to not follow-through with their courting. But then after getting reamed out by Malik on how often she messes up a good thing, she drops him Pookie off at the airport and their goodbye kiss turns out to be a helluva kiss, and he decides to stay. Meanwhile, after prodding from Melanie, Derwin decides to let Janay take DJ with her to NYC and Derwin, in an effort to please Melanie (Tia Mowry) decides to let Tasha become their surrogate. Of course with her sabbatical from men know over with, will Tasha still want to?
The second episode of NYC 22 was, dare I say, pretty good – actually, more entertaining than the pilot, though that’s often the case. Harold House Moore’s character Officer Toney and Officer Khan (Tom Reed) end up having to babysit Toney’s old friend/rival the rapper Monsta White, played quite naturally by Kirk ‘Sticky Fingaz’ Jones, who is starring in a new movie and accompanying the officers to see how they really work. I’m not going to get to into it, but they have some comical encounters including Monsta’s manager tweeting fans to come to a crime scene that the officers are temporarily at - wherein gunfire ensues, though not because of the rapper (more on that later) and a double-parker (local NYC actor Clinton Lowe) as concerned that he’s meeting Monsta White as he is that he’s getting a heavy ticket, among others. The aforementioned gunfire takes place after a Molotov cocktail bombs the Harlem home of a local businessman/weed dealer (Carl Morrell) who the cops allow to sell freely because its safer that this family man do so than the thugs who would otherwise, much to the disgust of rookie Officer Sanchez (Judy Marte). Though he and his wife are safe, the gangs from other territories try to assume his territory and the cops are forced to watch over the entire scene, much to the dismay of the other denizens on the block, headed up by community leader played by Frank Whaley (Pulp Fiction, Swimming With Sharks, and so many other great movies and TV shows).
Concurrently, Officer McClaren, who has the hots for the sister of local bad kid T-Rex (played innocently yet wanna-be thugily (new word!) by child actor Odiseas Georgiadis) who he saved from getting his head caved in by a bat in the pilot episode, continues to try to look after the kid who is keen on joining the local gang. McLaren ends up locking up the kid for tagging in order to save him from a 'breaking and entering' after he finds out T and the gang are going to rob a local pharmacy, angering Terry’s sister Michelle who definitely was faling for McLaren before, but now hates him. I didn’t figure out where I knew Michelle from when I watched the pilot, then realized she was recurring character Courtney from The Good Wife (though she intentionally looked much younger), but was also in the film Rivers Wash Over Me (co-starring with Derrick L. Middleton, Leslie Jones, and movie co-writer Darien Sills-Evans) as well as recent indie dramas Toe To Toe and Yelling To The Sky. To finish, the episode got a little hokey there in the end, yeah, but its TV, and on CBS and Frank Whaley’s in it, so what do you expect? The ratings aren’t good for this show, so you may want to catch it soon as you can.
Speaking of The Good Wife, actor Mike Colter resumed his role of drug lord and Lockhart/Gardner client Lemond Bishop. Colter is equal parts charming and dangerous as Bishop, a stark difference from his role in Ringer, and I'm shocked he doesn't get cast in more roles. The brother's got range!
Meanwhile, you readers were right, comedian Eric André is really good in Don’t Trust the B---- In Apartment 23. As a matter of fact, though he’s only in small snippets of it, he’s my favorite new character on any of the mid-season shows. The show itself is hilarious as well with some creative and unexpected humor, as well as big laughs from co-star James (Dawson’s Creek [wow, two mentions of this show in a Black TV column]) Van Der Beek but Andre’s comic timing is what’s not to be missed.
Wanna see more of Andre? Well it was announced in January that he’ll have a new talk show on Adult Swim, seemingly like Space Ghost Coast-To Coast. According to MovieWeb.com, “The Eric Andre Show may be the most manic and unorthodox late night talk show ever made. The show's traditional talk show format quickly devolves into chaos as its inept and bipolar host Eric André along with his apathetic co-host Hannibal Buress (30 Rock, Saturday Night Live) subvert all late-night conventions. Taking place on a dingy public-access TV channel within an alternate reality, The Eric Andre Show creates its own distorted pop culture universe by conducting interviews with an unpredictable mix of actual celebrities, "fake" celebrities and extreme real-life weirdos. These interviews are broken up with deranged man-on-the-street segments, surreal flashes of inexplicable studio chaos, talk show desk-pieces and the general deconstruction of late night's most beloved tropes in every quarter hour episode.” As a Hannibal Buress fan as well, I’m hyped for this! So what's the other show? The Black Dynamite cartoon, remember?
By the way, If anyone saw Jaleel White’s new game show Total Blackout, please let me know. I missed it but sure will give you a review next week. And if anyone has seen my wife-to-be #3 Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Kiefer Sutherland’s new show Touch, which also has Danny Glover in a recurring role, please let me know how both she and the show are.
That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll also see what’s up with Winston on New Girl, check in on Kerry Washington’s Scandal, try to figure out why so many white characters on Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice have black babies, and share my newest part of this column: my favorite British shows with Black talent (warning kiddies, Luther is NOT on my list).