How the ‘Harlem’ TV Show on Amazon Surpasses ‘Sex and the City’


HBO’s “Sex and the City” bar series returns next week with “And Just Like That …”, a limited-series reboot of ’90s comedy about four single women navigating love and careers in New York City. . But this review is not about this show – or “Girls” or “Run the World” or any of the other series that turned “a comedy starring four single women navigating love and careers in New York City” into a familiar TV trope.

The black women of “Harlem,” a 10-episode streaming comedy that aired Friday on Amazon, are decades younger than – and a few zip codes aside – Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte. (Samantha, absent from “And Just Like That …” has presumably returned to LA) But they still wander eloquently and stumble drunk in the footsteps of these 20th century pioneers, sipping cosmopolitans. The question is whether assistant professor of anthropology Camille (Meagan Good); Tye (Jerrie Johnson), creator of successful gay dating apps; fashion designer in trust Quinn (Grace Byers); and unemployed singer-actor Angie (Shoniqua Shandai) have something to add to the fraternity’s playbook in the city.

The answer: absolutely, although the awkward pilot episode of “Harlem” may lead you to believe otherwise. The characters first seem to have stepped out of the mold that HBO used over 20 years ago: Camille is the responsible person who thinks too much about things, longs for her ex, and makes bad choices when she questions herself. (She’s also, in a move that can’t help but think of Carrie Bradshaw, the show’s voiceover.) Tye is a disciplined, confident businesswoman with an engagement issue. Quinn still openly believes in true love, even in the world of scam dating apps. And Angie doesn’t have an edit button, especially when it comes to men, sex, men and more sex.

But “Harlem,” created by “Girls Trip” writer Tracy Oliver, ultimately has a lot more to offer than a modern black overlay on a beloved but very white series. Each character becomes more and more interesting as the series progresses through strong character development and crisp writing, and the chemistry between the performers becomes the bond that carries the show as the women become entangled. in the relationship disasters and respective work dilemmas of the other. For example, Angie can be a professional freeloader, crash endlessly on Quinn’s couch, eat her food, and use her Uber account. But when Quinn gets ripped off by a bad date on Long Island (which adds insult to injury), Angie comes across as a superhero. (“Harlem” also polishes the wording of the town girls by adding a gay character to the inner circle with Tye.)

Shoniqua Shandai in “Harlem”.

(Sarah Shatz / Amazon)

It also points out the limits of the whitewashed New York of “SATC”: some of the most compelling conversations and storylines of “Harlem” deal with the characters’ varying ideas and anything but static about darkness – culturally, personally, comically. And the gentrification of Harlem is part of history here, too. Locals are evicted from the neighborhood and landmarks are taken over by chain stores: “Do you think we’ll live long enough to see a Sephora become a jazz club again? One girlfriend asks another.

But “Harlem” does not drown in its social conscience either. Camille is thrilled that the new head of her department at Columbia is a black woman (Whoopi Goldberg) until she finds out she has to go through as many, if not more, hoops to impress her. The young professor organizes an anti-gentrification rally to impress her boss, but before delivering her speech, she must correct the previous speaker ‘s passionate claims: No, black men didn’t invent food, she informs. she crowds it.

Dating provides more vivid jokes that make this series pop. Romantic hopeful Quinn continues to get the kitty hook, so when she finally hooks up with a real flesh-and-blood man during a video chat, her friends cheer her on. Then they stop dead in their tracks and assess the reason for the outburst of joy: “It’s a sad day for society where all a man has to do [to be good] it is to exist.

‘Harlem’

Or: Amazon prime

When: Anytime, from Friday


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