This Week in Black Television - I Need A Hero!

Television
by Curtis Caesar John
April 20, 2012 3:49 PM
8 Comments
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(l to r) Rocket from Young Justice; Loretta Divine in The Client List; Harold House Moore of NYC 22

This week I review CBS' newest cop show NYC 22, follow the latest in BET's current sitcoms, get freaky with Loretta Divine and Naturi Naughton, and visit some comic book heroines. 

NYC 22 was pretty much as predicted, but had some surprising highlights.  Let’s start with the predictable.  The titular 22nd Precinct (cops call their precinct houses by the double or triple number so that there’s clarity in the number they’re saying) is nestled in Harlem so naturally the dreaded Black menace is, yes, the Black man, in this case Black teenage gang members looking to retaliate against each other for an attack and a somewhat confusing storyline involving a man that is threatening shop owners who just happens to be an old friend of the only Black member of the cast, new rookie officer Jayson “Jackpot” Toney (they all have nicknames) played by Harold House Moore.  Naturally, we’ll be seeing some bad girl sistas soon too.  While the only killer on the show is a scary Irish guy that there’s an APB out on, he seemingly gets away.  It’s a bit vague).

Moore, an actor I was previously unfamiliar with, is actually charmingly convincing as a neighborhood guy who after washing out of the NBA joins the police force.  At first I thought they were being stereotypical having the only Black male character be from the hood and a guy who tried to escape that with sports, but, Moore in real life had a similar life trajectory and I wonder if they patterned the character a bit more after him or is the connection what made him land the job.  According to an article from The Detroit News, a city which Moore is a native of the west side, Moore, “turned heads as a star Amateur Athletic League and Police Athletic League basketball player.” The article goes onto say how, ‘He garnered more attention and accolades at Central High School; and when he graduated, he played at Alabama State University. The actor made it as far as the NBA Development League in Mobile, Ala., but none of the pro teams recruited him. Instead, he was offered a chance to go overseas and play. He turned it down.

Still, the  odd thing is that from what I understand cops aren’t usually assigned to their home neighborhoods.  At the end of the episode, though off-camera, Jackpot is the most successful of the rookies as he gets his old friend to turn himself into the police. His partner and love interest played by Leelee Sobieski is fun to see after her hiatus from entertainment (perhaps she only wanted to be in films) as are Judy Marte, co-star of Raising Victor Vargas, who plays Officer Sanchez (there’s a funny moment between her and other Latina officers) has potential to shine on this show if this show lasts; Marte still has a nice presence on the screen, though it feels like a network show where she can hone her craft weekly would be the key.   Also of note is Felix Solis, who most of us last saw as Esai Morale’s good friend in Gun Hill Road and who here plays the older and level-headed detective Terry Howard that’s head of the gang unit.  Also of significance is that the title song “Back in The New York Groove” was made by hip-hop star and legend Pete Rock using the chorus sample from Ace Frehley’s famous rock song “New York Groove.”

The Game continues the fallout from Derwin Davis’ (Pooch Hall) decision to miss an easy block and allowing his teammate, who he had a personal gripe with, to get hurt out on the football field.  Derwin overreacts on live-tv by calling in on Jason’s show The Pitts Stop when the QB who he may have injured calls him out.  He tries to make up for it a few days later by appearing in-person on The Pitts Stop, but then loses control and makes matters worse.   But Jason (Coby Bell) has problems of his own when Jason’s girlfriend/wife Chardonnay, played by music superstar Brandy, invites his friends over, thanks to Malik giving her all their contact info revealing to Jason’s ‘The Pitts Stop’ co-star/new lover that he’s actually married and embarrassing him on the whole by them seeing how poor his woman lives.  Meanwhile, Rockmond Dunbar’s character Pookie, an old and dubious (see: former jailbird) friend of Tasha’s returns to try and woo her, but she turns him down…but isn’t sure she should. 

Let’s Stay Together had two decent storylines flowing, but BET’s sad and salient product placement for the movie Think Like A Man made it unbearable.  Firstly, they ran a commercial for the show starring show co-stars Kyla Pratt, Ronreaco Lee and Joyful Drake, but ran it right after the opening credits and it starred the characters not the actors making it seem like part of the show, though it did have a darker color palette as do most of the commercials on that network do. In this commercial, they said the name of the movie at least 27 times in the fake conversation (I exaggerate, but it was a lot) between the characters.  Seriously, it was akin to if Florence on The Jeffersons was washing the tub and said, "Please pass me the Soft Scrub.  Man, nothing cleans my tub better than Soft Scrub...except for Mr. Jefferson's head, topped off with Soft Scrub."  Bad as all that was, THEN they even brought up the movie twice during the show as well. Sigh.  This is in addition to all the commercial spots for the movie during the show.  By the by, RonReaco Lee did have a cool guest appearance on this week's episode of Fairly Legal, so he somewhat redeemed himself.

I totally forgot to mention in last week’s column about Loretta Divine and Naturi Naughton’s supporting roles in Lifetime TV’s The Client List. The show itself, starring Jennifer Love Hewitt as a newly-single mother whose job as a message therapist takes a turn when she’s economically forced to start providing ‘extras’ for her mail clients, is pretty corny.  Visually, they show those ‘extras’ as her wearing provocative outfits and such and only insinuate, but never say, that she has to provide her clients with a ‘happy ending’ – the show itself plays things pretty safely.  Nonetheless, Divine plays Georgia, the owner of the shop, and Naughton portrays Kendra, one of the other handful of massage therapist that provides these services at the parlor.  While Divine gets to shine a bit, she thankfully isn’t playing the mammy role to Hewitt’s character Riley.  They haven’t shown any of the other girls give favors yet since the show does focus on Riley, so we’ll see if Naughton gets into any dangerous situations or the like.  Or not.  I’m not casting final votes on it, but the show is pretty week.   

Lastly, a new comic book heroine has joined the Young Justice team and her name is Rocket.  Based on the character of the same name in DC Comics, she’s actually the sidekick to Superman-like character Icon, who joined the Justice League in this same episode.  Her real name is Raquel Ervin and her suit allows her to generate a force field that absorbs kinetic energy with which she can offensively strike bursts (why do I know all this?!?).   Both Rocket and Icon became part of the DC Universe after they were created for DC’s Milestone Comics imprint by the recently deceased Dwayne McDuffie and comics legend Denys Cowan.  As there’s a dearth of Black female superheroes (can you name more than one?), hopefully Rocket gets some major attention on the growing team.  Voice actress Miss Kittie provides plays Rocket while the Canydman himself Tony Todd provides the voice for Icon. 

Lastly, in more comic book related TV news, the newest comic from The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman is being adapted for television after only three issues!  Thief of Thieves is about a man who lives a double life.  By night he’s Redmond, master thief extraordinaire, but by day he’s Conrad Paulson and just trying to hold things together.  As the FBI is closing in on him he’s trying to piece together what's left of his life but with an ex-wife he’s still in love with and a grown son he barely knows it may be too late. So why do I mention this here?  Two reasons. Firstly, the FBI agent on Redmon’s tail is a (seemingly) Black character named Elizabeth Cohen.  Heck, if she ain’t Black she’s got one helluva tan!

The other reason is because Shawn Martinbrough, an extremely talented artist who illustrated a run on Detective Comics years ago, pencils ToT and just last year finished the last few issues of Black Panther’s book and in 2009 drew Luke Cage Noir.  Obviously, he’s a brother.  Of note is that Martinbrough co-directed and wrote a cool sci-fi film called Mindgame that I saw at ABFF back in ’04, about a young P.S.I. (Psychic Surveillance Initiative) agent who is ordered to hunt down her mentor, a powerful psychic gone rogue. All the while, she is working with the shady alliance of Section Ten, the Department of Defense's technological counterpart to P.S.I.  He and his co-creators had a cool talkback at a café down Lincoln Rd. in Miami after that screening, and they are really cool guys.  Thief of Thieves is a really cool book that’s been on my pull-list since I read the solicits prior to it coming out and after reading issue one I could see how well it could be adapted into television or a movie. Question is, will Elizabeth Cohen be played by a Black woman on the show – or even exist at all a’ la the character of Tyrese (no, that’s not T-Dog (sigh)) in the comic book version of The Walking Dead? 

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll focus on Lance Reddick and Jasika Nicole from FRINGE, and catch you up to date on the rest of the Black TV universe.

Television
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8 Comments

  • Ghost | April 22, 2012 10:07 AMReply

    Don't forget Robert Richard should be popping up on the Vampire Dairies along with Perisa White. Arlen Escarpeta will be on The Client List this week and check back on Young Justice again as Static (not voiced by Phil Lamarr) should be popping up in season 2 (although it was confirmed he would pop up at the end of season 1) that starts next week. And Rocket will have a bigger role on the show as she was put on there by a Milestone alum that works on the show. Jaleel White's SYFY show Total Blackout starts this week-I think. Ads for Arjay Smith's Perception on TNT should be starting up as well.

  • Curtis Caesar John | April 22, 2012 4:21 PM

    Good looking out on Jaleel White's show as I was unaware. I'll look out for Static on YJ too. Didn't know that about Rocket though...can you post that info in a reply? Dunno if I can bring myself to watch Vampire Diaries, but I'll try (cause I do like Persia White)! As for other shows, Michael Ealy will be on a new USA Network show too...good stuff all around.

  • yup | April 21, 2012 4:26 PMReply

    oh plz to NYC 22..Surprising how they can never make a black mans love interest a black woman. wont be watching

  • Teddy @ TheSLSBlog | April 20, 2012 6:09 PMReply

    Well there's Vixen, Misty Knight, Bubble bee, Wonder woman's twin sister Nubia (yeah, her twin is black), Thresh (think that's her name . . . she's a mutant and only appeared in one of the XMEN universes) and Storm. There are a few more, that I can't seem to remember or don't want to mention since their run was so short. I'm sort of a nerd as you can see, and research black female super heroes on my spare time. Nice to see a new one though! Alwasys looking for something to show my little brother and sister so that they know dark skinned people are just as Super as their white counterparts.

  • Nerd Librarian | April 26, 2012 2:02 PM

    There's also Captain Marvel/Photon/Pulsar (Monica Rambeau) who led the Avengers for a while!

  • Curtis Caesar John | April 22, 2012 4:18 PM

    Great list of Black comic heroines...glad someone stepped up to the challenge. Never knew Nubia was WW's twin, which shows that a comic geek like me can learn new things! There's also Cecilia Reyes, who was in the X-Men for awhile and has returned in the latest issues of Astonishing X-Men, and other X-Women like Shard, M, and Penance. There's also Silhoutte from the New Warriors. And in the DCU, at least before the New 52/DCnU was created, there were Black Lightning's daughters Thunder and Lightning, both of who were pretty dope...but barely ever appeared together . One of my faves is from ABC Comics' book 'Top 10' about a police station in an alternate universe full of people, mages and gods with poweres. One of the stars of that books was 'Synaethesia' Jackson. There are more, but like you said they're eighte short lived or in some cases just inappropriate.

  • Dr. Johnson | April 20, 2012 4:09 PMReply

    Don't forget Loretta's dead on portrayal of Alzheimer's this week on Grey's Anatomy. If she doesn't get the Emmy again, at least another nomination is in order. She, along with the writers, have literally climbed into (stood up in) the complexity, range, and nuance of the disease through her character. Her accuracy and execution is masterful. I applaud Shonda for keeping this story line in play rather than shipping the character off into the nether regions of the Grey's universe. Bravo Loretta Divine!!!

    Add that with the bi-polar story line with Anika & Taye on Private Practice, Shonda Rhimes, is basically trial blazing for contemporary issues of mental health among African Americans....Just saying.....

  • Curtis Caesar John | April 22, 2012 4:28 PM

    I actually watched Grey's this week but for the sake of time I left that out of my Loretta Divine writeup....felt so sad for the (former) Chief. It is complex though Dr. Johnson, seeing her downward progression thoughout the season. Though not the same, her role in Grey's makes me think of my fav Loretta Divine movie 'Funny Valentines' in which she's mentally disabled - I'm sure that was great training for this. That movie co-stars Alfre Woodard and Megalyn Echikunwoke when she was a teenager and is worth checking out. And I did mention Anika Noni Rose's role in Private Practive three weeks ago. She was scarily fantastic on that show. She's great all around.

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