Dear White People (Friday, April 28, Netflix), series debut: A few white people were angry about the mere title of creator/director Justin Simien’s 2014 film Dear White People, and even more got pissed when Netflix dropped a trailer for his new 10-episode series of the same name. They’ve never seen more than a minute of either, but said whiteys waged futile YouTube downvote campaigns and “cancel Netflix” drives to stop this reverse oppression … or whatever the hell was perceived as happening. Too bad, because Dear White People is a ferociously funny look at “post-racial” relations, PC college culture and misconceptions from both ends of the color spectrum. Could it maybe change some minds? Nah, probably not. But! For everyone else, DWP features some killer performances and nimble comical/political scripting. What’s in a name?
Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (Saturday, April 29, TBS), special: In the name of Serious Journalism, this column has never agreed to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, a clique-y gathering wherein reporters and politicians mingle in a professionally suspect manner. (It should also be noted that this column has never been invited to attend the event, but whatever.) When our likely temporary Cheeto in Chief was elected bigly last November, the fate of future WHCDs was thrown into doubt—so Samantha Bee and her Full Frontal crew decided to hold their own alternative soiree, whether the other one will happen or not (and it is, tonight, with The Daily Show’s Hasan Minhaj hosting). Even though details are scarce, Bee’s affair is the better entertainment bet, and TBS is waaay easier to find than C-SPAN.
American Gods (Sunday, April 30, Starz), series debut: Producer extraordinaire Bryan Fuller is no longer attached to CBS All Access’ Star Trek Discovery; in other news, Star Trek Discovery is never going to happen. Anyway: Fuller’s previous TV work, even the darker-than-dark Hannibal, has always been constrained by the limits of broadcast “standards.” But his (and Logan writer Michael Green’s) American Gods, based on Neil Gaiman’s geek-grail 2001 novel, is on Starz, a premium-cable network on a roll with more to prove—no PG-13 compromises here. The fantastical, vivid and violent story of Old Gods ramping up for war against New Gods on Earth is impossible to sum up in a paragraph, but the performances of Ian McShane, Ricky Whittle, Orlando Jones, Gillian Anderson, Crispin Glover (!) and others are revelations. Get Starz now.
United Shades of America (Sunday, April 30, CNN), season premiere: Similar to the Dear White People situation, viewers of all colors took exception to comic W. Kamau Bell kicking off his CNN docu-series United Shades of America in 2016 with a behind-the-sheets look at the Ku Klux Klan, claiming that he was “normalizing” white supremacists. He wasn’t; they’re morons. Over eight episodes, Bell profiled prison life, Latino culture, police, survivalists, gentrification and more from a black perspective with a deft blend of humor and factuality—a task that won’t come easier in the era of “fake news.” Season 2 isn’t toning anything down, as the first episode tackles immigration and features an interview with everyone’s favorite white nationalist/Nazi piñata, Richard Spencer. United Shades of America: The bravest (and, as far as I know, only) show on CNN.
Drop the Mic (Tuesday, May 2, TBS), series debut: Prompting celebrities to sing karaoke, lip-sync hits and engage in rap battles are cheap and easy methods to connect with Middle ’Merica, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Late Late Show With James Corden have the gimmick on lock. Spike expanded Fallon’s Lip Sync Battle bits into a successful series, and Corden’s Carpool Karaoke gets regular prime time-special treatment on CBS; now, his hip-hop combat segment Drop the Mic is a TBS show. (Note to these series: Stop dropping unplugged microphones in commercials—details, people.) Drop the Mic blatantly clones Lip Sync Battle’s LL Cool J/Chrissy Teigen dynamic with hosts Method Man (veteran rapper) and Hailey Baldwin (model with an Instagram account). Up next: Celebrity Colonoscopy.