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This Week in Black Television: Powerful Women and Power Man!

Shadow and Act By Curtis Caesar John | Shadow and Act April 12, 2012 at 3:53PM

As promised, I’m beginning this week with Taraji P. Henson’s role as Detective Carter on Person Of Interest. 
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(l to r) Power Man, Kerry Washington, Hosea Chanchez, and Taraji P. Henson
(l to r) Power Man, Kerry Washington, Hosea Chanchez, and Taraji P. Henson

As promised, I’m beginning this week with Taraji P. Henson’s role as Detective Carter on Person Of Interest

But first, a summary of the show: More than other shows on the air, POI is one that you’re better off suspending disbelief with and just sitting back to enjoy.  It’s crammed with gun battles, explosions, and somewhat realistic fighting as Jim Caviezel’s John Reese, an ex-CIA hitman, partners with scientist Harold Finch (Michael Emerson) to prevent crimes before they occur with a machine that predicts crime from people’s social security numbers (but was originally created as an anti-terrorism tracking device).  Caviezel is bad-ass in this role and Emerson is still creepy, but less so than in his Emmy-winning role of Ben Linus from LOST.  Taraji factors in as a cop who first met Reese when he was homeless and beat up some potential muggers, which is when he first caught Finch’s eye as the perfect operative to solve the problems his machine predicts.  When similar incidents to the staved-off mugging occur, Carter tries her hardest to find Finch, although mostly unsuccessful.  Months ago (real-time, not TV time) after having to save her life (in Episode 9 -- ‘Get Carter’) Reese and Finch realized that Carter was a cop they can trust and brought her into their club of heroes.  But after Reese gave up the location of a just-released from prison elderly mob boss whose diabolical son Elias (Enrico Colantoni, in his best role to date)wants to murder to save the life of a baby girl the heroes were protecting, she refuses to work with them anymore.  This is until recently when the events of the previous episodes all tie together and Reese goes through the ringer to get back Carter’s son who Elias had kidnapped. 

All that said, Taraji Henson is pretty good on this show.  She took a gamble with her public derision of not being featured on TV Guide and other ads that paid off with giving her a more substantial character on the show (this was widely featured on S&A and social media, which no doubt validated her claims).  I actually enjoyed her tireless search for Reese in those early episodes, kind of like Javert searching for Jean Valjean, but that would’ve gotten tired after awhile.  Henson displays how relentless she can play a character and still be believably sweet and warmhearted, which isn’t easy. If you want to see her at her best on POI, watch episodes 9 & 10 (Get Carter and Number Crunch, respectively) and #19 (Flesh and Blood) as the best to get a sense of how good she is.  Person Of Interest returns with new episodes on April 26th and her newest movie Think Like A Man releases next Friday April 20th.

This week’s Mad Men featured more of Teyonha Parris as Dawn, the newest Sterling Cooper receptionist.  With her boss, main show character Don Draper sick for most of this episode, I thought we wouldn’t see any of Dawn, but midway through she pops up – caught by Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) sleeping in the office because it would take her too long to get home to Harlem whenever she works late and her brother is afraid of her getting hurt because of the city’s (and country’s) racial tensions. Peggy ends up inviting Dawn to stay the night in her Brooklyn apartment. There they get drunk and Pegs gets pretty frank about her place in the agency and in the world, once again trying to equate women’s struggles with the Black one, though Dawn is more surprised by oddness of all the staff and the high amounts of alcohol they daily imbibe.  The night ends on a sour note however, showing how liberal Peggy isn’t as cool as she thought she was.  Teyonah had a lot of lines in her second episode, so let’s hope she gets even more in the future.  And oh, agency partner Lane Pryce stay’s out of her knickers.  And to answer questions from last week - I did see her McDonald’s commercial. Teyonah is so cute, but you can tell she really wouldn’t eat all those McNuggets!

Speaking of Elisabeth Moss, her former TV beau Dule Hill’s show Psych had its season finale yesterday (they both starred on The West Wing – he as the president’s first aide and she as his daughter). I admit I’ve fallen away from watching this show, mostly embarrassed by Hill’s partial cooning on what’s otherwise an amusing show.  No, a Black guy doesn’t always have to be the coolest character of a show, he can even be the straight guy since it is essentially a cop show, but he doesn’t have to pop out his eyes and scream when danger happens. C’mon Gus.  Anwyay, let me know how the finale was.

Meanwhile, yes…Scandal finally premiered!  S&A editor Tambay was all over this with his article asking you all what you thought of it.  Me, I really dug it and am proud of creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes and star Kerry Washington for bringing us an entertaining and layered network show.    Washington was really good and convincing as fixer/crisis management firm head Olivia Pope.  The main client/accused killer on the show had a predictable story, but the ongoing story between Olivia and her former boss/current President of the United States of America (Tony Goldwyn) was surprising and much better done than I expected.  The show has some surprising sexiness to it, and I’m glad that despite her directness, Washington as Pope isn’t asexual in the least.  I know it’s online, but I’ll watch episode 2 live.  Columbus Short wasn’t given much to do in the pilot and it’ll probably be awhile before he can shine.  Yes, all of Rhimes shows have a predictability to it  - confined workspaces + driven protagonists = sexual tension + cheesy dialogue – but they are for the most part entertaining. 

This week’s episode of The Game was on point with Derwin (Pooch Hall) going back into things with an “any means necessary” attitude.  His ongoing beef with the new star quarterback Kwan Kirkland (Charles Michael Davis) makes Derwin miss a block that not only takes the QB out of the game and potentially threatens his career, but allows the recently demoted Malik (Hosea Chanchez) to assume his main quarterback duties and win the would-be losing game for the San Diego Sabres.  Malik’s star power is finally back up, however it’s obvious to the press that Derwin deliberately made a mistake and he becomes a sports media villain making Derwin sink under the scrutiny.  When Derwin admits to his wife Melanie (Tia Mowry) what he really did she chastises him for his cruelty, but he dismisses her naiveté and assures her that he’ll do whatever he has to secure his legacy, which includes shutting down Melanie’s plan to have Tasha be a surrogate for them.  Next week: more of Brandy as Jason’s (Coby Bell) love interest Chardonnay.

Meanwhile, Let’s Stay Together had some decent guest stars, including Tony Rock and Jackee in her recurring character of Charles (Burt Belasco) & Kita’s (Erica Hubbard) mother Delores.  Having recently inherited his Dad’s company, Rock’s character is pursued by Charles to merge into a bigger construction company, and invites him over to a home cooked-meal to entice him more.  But instead of business, Delores and her cooking and coolness ends up attracting his eye instead, which leads to them starting an age inappropriate relationship, much to her son’s chagrin.  Insert hilarity.  Like last week, the best thing for me about this episode was Kita’s return. No, she’s not that great of a character, no classic sibling a la Dee from What’s Happening, but her (somewhat) humor isn’t as forced as some of the other characters.  She’s the only non-straight man (er, person) on a show with three to four of them.  This is supposed to be a comedy, right?  Anyway, to echo the sentiment of a friend of mine, the best thing about Let’s Stay Together is that it has a lot of beautiful Black people on it, of different hues and all.  Hey, if that’s this show’s purpose, then so be it.      

On the cartoon side of things, the new show Ultimate Spider-Man finally premiered his new team of Iron Fist, Nova, the White Tiger and (yes!) Luke Cage himself Power Man.  Though the cartoon features teenage versions of all of these characters, it’s still cool to see Luke Cage, voiced by Ogie Banks, using his former superhero name, in cartoon form. This show is much more for kids than previous incarnations of Spider-Man cartoons, with him breaking the third-wall and narrating throughout the show, this young version of Spidey is also reminiscent of the 80’s Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends which made stars out of the X-Men’s Iceman and then-new-character Firestar.  I grew up on that cartoon and totally regressed to my 8-year old self when they finally started showing them on Netflix.  Anyway, the cartoon is fun and Luke Cage/Power Man seems to be a cool character so far so peep more of him when you can.  Also of note is that he Black version of Nick Fury, popularized by Samuel L. Jackson and now widely used in most non-comic book media, is voiced by Chi McBride

That’s it for now. Next week I’ll feature my review of NYC 22, which follows a new episode of a show with a lot of Black folks (though not in the main cast – grrrr) The Good Wife, as well as other going-ons in Black television.  Anything of significance that I missed?  Please feel free to share.

Excelsior!


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