In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm ET/PT, FX
Boyz N The Hood was one of those great movies of the early 90s that announced a new talent and a new voice in cinema – in this case, John Singleton’s. Originally entitled Summer of 84, it’s a blistering movie about his experiences of growing up in the-then South Central LA.
So when you see that he’s making a TV series on a similar theme to his magnum opus, you’re going to want to take note, aren’t you? Snowfall is set in the summer of 1983 and is almost a “the path not taken” rebuke to Boyz n the Hood. It sees Damson Idris playing a young drug dealer. Idris is smart, smart enough to go to college, but he resents being treated as ‘a mascot’ at predominantly white colleges and can’t leave his family to go to a black college on the east coast. So minor league drug-dealing and mopping floors it is for him. But then he comes across a big-time drug dealer at his home and sees an opportunity to finally start making real money.
But Snowfall is all about the crack epidemic of early 80s LA and what it did to the city, and to tell that story, Singleton goes Crash, giving us multiple seemingly unconnected stories that are all set to converge later on. We have Carter Hudson playing a disgraced CIA agent who finally sees an opportunity to make some good money to fund his operations – by selling cocaine. There’s also a Mexican lucador (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) who takes enforcement projects on the side, but who may have burgled the wrong house at the wrong time. And there’s a Nicaraguan ‘freedom fighter’ (Juan Javier Cardenas) who needs his war funded, too.
The show has saving graces. Idris’ character is indeed smart and gets great dialogue, too. The direction (Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s, not Singleton’s) is lovely, too. The CIA plot is fascinating in the same way Narcos was, thanks to the air of historicity and Idris’ mission to sell drugs is tense and you do root for him. Watching how all the characters come together is going to be intriguing, too.
So I’ve sat up and taken note. But I’ve not been very intrigued. Sure, the story of what drugs did in the 80s specifically to the West Coast isn’t something that’s been explored much. But unless you’re from LA, I’m not sure how interested you are in drilling down.
The female characters are all pretty terribly handled, too, although things perk up a bit at the end. Peris-Mencheta’s doesn’t have any explanation for existing yet and with so many plots to handle, everything advances slowly.
Snowfall is good enough that I’ll tune in for another episode. But it’s not a show that captures the interest straight away and it doesn’t yet feel like something that has anything new to say. I’ll give it a chance, though.