In the US: Sundays, 10.30pm, HBO. Starts October 9
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic. Will air in October
Don’t let my TV-set avatar fool you. I’m not actually an everyday household appliance. Let me reveal to you now that I’m actually a middle-aged, middle-class, white guy from London who doesn’t get out much and who’s never spent longer than a week in the US.
Now I think about it, you probably worked all that out for yourselves already.
Anyway, that ‘revelation’ means that it shouldn’t surprise you that I have no idea what it’s like to be a twentysomething, educated, single black American woman. I can guess, but you might as well be asking me the length of the Emperor of China’s nose.
To be fair, though, judging by Insecure, twentysomething, educated, single black American women aren’t quite sure what it’s like to be a twentysomething, educated, single black American woman – or at least, they know what it’s like but they’re pretty sure it’s different from what it’s supposed to be like.
Based on her own web series, Awkward Black Girl, Insecure is co-written by and stars Issa Rae, who plays a well meaning member of an outreach programme for inner city schools. The only black member of the programme, she finds herself seen by her white colleagues as their ‘in’ to the ghetto, even though the kids all mock this college graduate for ‘not talking like a black girl’. Meanwhile, her boyfriend of five years is still trying to get his act together and her attorney best friend is looking for a man – perhaps any man – who doesn’t respond with ‘I’m not looking for a relationship at the moment’ when pressed for any degree of commitment.
The show is co-written by former Daily Show correspondent Larry Wilmore, who’s established himself as a guarantee of clever, insightful comedy writing about African-American life with shows such as black-ish and his own show, The Nightly Show. Together, Rae and he have created something that’s not really laugh out loud funny, but which has the ring of authenticity, as well as sympathetic, recognisable characters.
Rae is herself a top performer, successfully depicting someone who’s navigating through all of society’s stereotypes about women, American-Americans and American-American women. One stand out scene has Rae rehearsing for a night out, running through a gamut of different ‘black women’, including one fairly decent English black woman (“No, you drive on the wrong side of the road”), before collapsing into a heap of self-doubt (“No, that’s too aggressive”).
Will I stick with it? Maybe. It’s got a lot to say that’s interesting, but I’m potentially too far away (continents and decades) for it to truly grab me. But I will say that not being a big BET or OWN viewer, I’ve not seen anything like it before and new always interests me. Give it a whirl, because it might be new for you, too.