Friday, August 2, 2019

REVIEW: 'A Black Lady Sketch Show' - Robin, Ashley, Quinta and Gabrielle Showcase Their Talents in 'Angela Bassett Is the Baddest B***h"

HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show - Episode 1.01 "Angela Bassett Is the Baddest B***h"

Claude and The Boppers perform their hit song "Ice Cream Shop." A world-renowned author promotes her latest masterclass. Maya's confession in a support group gets a less-than-supportive response. Trinity, the Invisible Spy, meets a formidable adversary. Drea confronts a mysterious woman stealing her dance moves at a club. Fun and games lead to tension, as Robin, Ashley, Quinta and Gabrielle are stuck in a house after an end-of-the-world event.

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 series premiere of HBO's A Black Lady Sketch Show.

"Angela Bassett Is the Baddest B***h" 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

This show's sheer existence is a blatant and pointed political statement. It allows black women into the depths of storytelling. It features them experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions. This collective group provides so much of the backbone for this country. And yet, they are often trivialized and diminished when it comes to their depictions in pop culture. As such, it is revolutionary to see a show centered around black women as they tell these very specific but also universally hilarious sketches about their perspective on the world. It opens the world up to so many possibilities while highlighting the strength of four performers who typically don't get to show this kind of range. It's a very welcome development. One that should be embraced by the industry at large. But the show is also a sketch comedy at the end of the day. As such, it has to be judged on the effectiveness of the humor in each particular piece. Sketch comedy can be really difficult because it's a story cut down to just a few minutes without the need to provide any more context. Now, it seems as if some of these premises could continue in the hopes of establishing some kind of further point. It's insane to see four black women surviving the apocalypse and just having basic chats as girlfriends. That's low-key in a way that is so refreshing even while in a slightly off world. It proves that the bond between the performers is already comfortable and lived-in. This is a community that supports and uplifts each other even when they are mocking each other for their oddities or failings. Plus, it proves that the end of the world doesn't mean that people suddenly have free range to do whatever they want. Horrible people are still horrible and shouldn't be judged on a different curve after the apocalypse. Sure, some of that can be generational as the show points out with the twisted joke at the end of the Boppers bit. That shows how musicians can often have very different interpretations about what their songs actually mean. Claude is very adamant that the song is about sex and getting with as many women as possible. Meanwhile, the rest of the singers understand and respect women. As such, they need to make their stances known immediately. It shows just how easily all of this success can end as well. Things don't go well for Claude afterwards even though his legacy continues with the existence of Chris Brown. Elsewhere, it's meaningful that the show features a joke about ashy skin before one about eyelash extensions and cheekbone contouring. That fuels a conversation about unobtainable beauty standards and how that entire industrial complex prays on these women and the broad stereotypes that are projected onto them. They are not test subjects who will embrace these products no matter what. Beauty goals should not be closely associated with being a bad bitch either. But there is also the lack of trust in the one leading the group. That too should make all of this questionable even when no one is all the wiser to what's going on. But that's a very poignant message. So is the sketch about Trinity the invisible spy. She feels unnoticed and unappreciated even in her own community - both in the CIA and as a black woman in general. Ashley Nicole Black nails every single beat of that sketch. It shows Trinity as this incredible woman. The addition of Nicole Byer makes it even better by showing how common an experience this can be as well. It's insane but it's something that they have had to endure for too long. At least they know how to take advantage of it. And then, the show concludes with the silliness of an alien stealing dance moves at a club. That's outrageous and once again calls attention to the fact that black women often have the most rhythm even if they don't always get the appreciation. Plus, it provides some great physical comedy from Robin Thede and Quinta Brunson.