The new FX show Atlanta, starring Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Keith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz and others has had an extremely successful TV debut, one that none could’ve predicted. Sure we thought it would be different, but the show’s originality is what has caught viewers off guard!
It’s been labeled as a “Magic Realism” show by tackling facts that are often overlooked, if not facts than at least key components that add to a show’s creativity. Similar in the manner that the HBO show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver takes on almost boring news topics that most people sweep under the rug for not being interesting enough, so too is Atlanta’s entire premise. That’s one of the genius aspects of it, the simplicity-to an extent. It is centered around a college dropout (for which the percentage of students who do not graduate in six years is 44%) who’s main focus is about taking care of his family, the daily battle for some people to put food on the table and just survive. Most TV shows today do not choose to focus on poorer part of society as they will not garner as much attention as will the reality tv shows where money is not a problem.
Another aspect of Atlanta that adds to its individuality, is the amount of comedy in the show. It is not a sitcom centered around being funny, however you cannot deny it’s humor. The comedy in episodes comes and goes, proving it difficult to predict or anticipate which helps add to the “aura” of watching Atlanta-a feeling that has been shared among many on the web.
When pitching the idea to FX, Donald Glover had an interesting encounter with the living space of “Paper Boi” in that FX suggested he live in a “traplike apartment” fitting for a rapper/drug dealer. However, Glover responded that “a drug dealer would evidently have enough money to live in an average apartment”. This makes sense when you think about it, yes there will be instances where there are drug dealers who are not doing well in their profession and wouldn’t be able to afford said apartment. However, there will always be flaws and holes to poke in society-there are actors who are millionaires and some who are homeless living check to check. Here once again Atlanta is at its best, portraying the real parts of society many do not stop to think about.
On the topic of its “aura” that was mentioned previously, there are footsteps that can be traced to the source of this in a sense. Donald Glover wanted and has a writing staff that is all black, to show that “white people, don’t know everything about black culture”. He was also keen on making sure before the show came out there were not hidden leaks, videos, interviews or information released. He wanted people to wait and feel their anticipation once it premiered, while acknowledging the difficulty of keeping it quiet as the deal of the contract was even released 2-3 years prior to the debut. Now while taking all of this into account, it is easy to see why this show is receiving the positive reviews and is generally acclaimed. The show is making people think, look at TV differently and pioneering a path for sitcoms. Atlanta touches upon social issues such as how the American law enforcement can mishandle mentally ill, or the difference between the black community and law enforcement. Both of these can be seen in episode 2 of Atlanta, and are both issues in todays society. Atlanta brings a voice to a part of American society that frequently is put on mute, and for sure will only have its effect heighten as the show goes on.