Friday, August 23, 2019

REVIEW: 'A Black Lady Sketch Show' - Patti LaBelle Helps Denise After a Breakup in 'Where Are My Background Singers?'

HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show - Episode 1.04 "Where Are My Background Singers?"

A divorce party spirals out of control following Eboni's bad mushroom trip. The tragic tale of star-crossed lovers, Rome & Julissa. A 1930s groupie sets her sights on Negro League baseball player Satchel Paige. An airline passenger seeks a like-minded customer service representative. Denise tries to prevent another breakup and its typical, unusual side effect. Taskmaster, Insecurity and Turnt help Krystal navigate a possible cat-calling situation.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show.

"Where Are My Background Singers?" was written by Lauren Ashley Smith, Robin Thede, Ashley Nicole Black, Akilah Green, Brittani Nichols, Amber Ruffin, Rae Sanni & Holly Walker and directed by Dime Davis

The punchline at the conclusion of the first sketch here is absolutely killer and hilarious. Up until that point, the sketch was very dark with Katy essentially murdering her friends and anyone who got in her way after a mushroom trip led to the police getting called. The fact that it was all suppose to be some twisted message about how tough she is on drugs for a campaign ad is so inspired and unexpected. It never presents in that typical way either. Instead, it goes to the absolute extreme in order to present someone's worst possible impulses. But it also aspires to deconstruct the notion of what being tough on drugs and crime actually means. It may actually infer that the person also has to be willing to cross those lines in order to be effective. Katy just happens to be very blunt about it all. She is willing to kill her friends and throw their bodies away in a lake just to prove just how serious she takes all of this. That's the message she wishes to send. It's scary and terrifying. But it is also insanely memorable. In fact, so much of this episode is very inspired because of the unusual way it depicts some familiar story tropes. A sketch that centers on star-crossed lovers complete with Shakespearean dialogue plays to a modern audience. It's no longer a tense situation because of warring families. Instead, it is one of warring fandoms and how Rome and Julissa don't feel like they can like each other as a result. It too leads to a very dark place. But suicide also means something different because they feel like they can get out of this situation without having to take their own lives. In fact, they can disappear from the world simply from deleting their social media presences. That too is shocking and inspired. It insures that not every sketch ends in murder or the suggestion of such. But it's also uplifting because it highlights how the need to hold onto something can actually prevent people from actually forming genuine and true connections with one another. Of course, like-minded individuals don't always have each other's backs when the time ultimately depends on it. It's fascinating to see just how brief the airline passenger sketch actually is. It's a simple premise that gets in and out quickly. This women believes that she can just call in until she gets a representative she knows has her same cultural identity. In fact, it's a strategy that works out too well because she connects with a cousin she never knew she had. But that doesn't change the fact that there are no planes available. Even with this connection, compassion doesn't immediately need to be extended especially when circumstances can't be changed for one individual. That's fun and insightful. It's also just playful to see the show depict the first female groupies and thirst traps. That too is a simple premise for a sketch. But it's also just a lot of fun seeing Robin Thede, Issa Rae and Natasha Rothwell getting fully into the 1930s era while also being wildly ahead of their time. They see themselves as pioneers. In reality though, they are such desperate people who are ruining lives. They are still honored as such. But it remains a scam even to this day thanks to the contributions that they brought to the field. Elsewhere, the Patti LaBelle sketch may not immediately present as being relatable but it absolutely is. Breakups can be so tough and emotional especially when it's unexpected. Music can be used to cope with all of those complicated emotions. It's through that understanding that we come to the clarity necessary to move on. In this situation, Denise just has Patti LaBelle magically appear whenever she gets dumped. It's ridiculous especially because Denise has grown tired of the concept while everyone else gets sucked into the performance. But it also presents as Patti just wanting the best for Denise and is fighting for her to find the best guy possible in this world. That's very encouraging. And finally, the potential catcalling sketch plays almost as an adult take on Inside Out. The competing emotions inside Krystal's head are trying to rationalize what she should do. But the emotions are limited to Insecurity and Turnt. Those are wildly different with Taskmaster trying to keep things practical. But it's also fundamentally about how people often build things up in our heads not knowing just how embarrassing a certain situation already is that we aren't even aware of. That's brutal but very effective comedy.