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I Watched the First Episode of Harlem – Here’s My Review

Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York. She's worked with clients like Instacart, Tailwind, Columbia, Esurance, and LifeLock.

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The first episode opens up with a story about a tribe of people in the Himalayan Mountains called the Mosuo, living in what has been named the Kingdom of Women.

The monologue, voiced over by Megan Good, goes, “Here the women are openly stronger than the men and entirely in charge. They practice walking marriage. The women choose who they want to be married to. And when things get old or stale, they simply decide, boom, they’re not married anymore, and they move on to another husband. And another. And another. And the guy has no say. The woman’s pleasure and convenience is all that matters. She’s in control and it’s easy, fast, and painless.” She laughs. “Must be nice.”

While that’s an interesting story, I feel like it’s a little out of place in this series. I feel like I know what they were going for, but it wasn’t well-executed. It did nothing to help set the scene, and now we’re left wondering what the tone of this series is going to be.

And then Camille (Megan Good) is walking around the city, and when she walks past an empty storefront that’s about to be turned into a Sephora, Banana Republic, and/or Tory Burch, she posts something on social media about it: “Will we live to see a time when a Sephora gets turned back into a jazz club?”

Gentrification. We get it. I feel like it could’ve been done in more clever way.

I get the sentiment behind it, but it just feels a little off. Because we still don’t know what’s going on, what the show will be about, and she’s sending a politically charged text for no reason? Already?

It Gets Better, Though

But it gets a little better during the scene where Camille’s gay friend is trying to sell her app (I believe) and the person that wants to buy it (an old white man, of course) is valuing the company at less than $1 million.

This is nothing new, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it on screen (I think). But it’s interesting commentary on how little value can be placed on minority startups vs. other startups.

Interesting. Got my attention.

Another thing that caught my attention and actually made me laugh out loud: When Tye declines his offer and tells him, “Nice suit. Give 1987 my regards.” That had me dying!

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But the scene gets a lot more interesting when the buyer unknowingly asks her assistant to weigh in, not thinking the man was her assistant. The caucasity!

Pros

The social commentary. I love the social commentary in the first episode about how we need to value ourselves and our creations - at Tye’s meeting to sell her app. And then the whole gentrification thing.

Inclusiveness and diversity. The show has a diverse crew of women in all shades of brown, as well as what I’m guessing is a Latina woman. There’s also the lesbian woman, Tye.

Magical realism (however limited it is). I LOVE shows with magical realism, like Jane the Virgin and Insecure. I wish this show would lean more intelligently into this. The Masuo woman standing in Camille’s apartment is a start.

Cons

The flashback of Camille’s ex. (it didn’t really reveal anything or show what happened to make them break up – she’s just crying next to a cab as he gets in…like, what?)

The way Angie talks. It’s almost like she’s reading a poem at a poetry slam when she talks. Her voice is also a little irritating. But I love the fro tho!

The dialogue isn’t as tight as it could be. Compared to shows like Insecure, the dialogue in this show falls flat a lot. I know it’s just the first episode, and the show is still trying to find its footing, but I feel like writing is a little sub-par for my tastes. I LOVE Insecure and it feels like every piece of dialogue was carefully chosen and helps push the story forward in some way (usually in a funny way). This show struggles with that. (In one scene, Angie says, “Have a good train ride to the island of Long.” Like, really? Couldn’t come up with anything wittier than that? Sigh.)

The Verdict: Should You Watch? (And Will I Continue Watching)

Well, to sum it all up, I think the show definitely has the potential to be something great.

Do I think it’s great after watching the first episode? No.

Do I think it could be with some work and development (and maybe a few new writers)? Absolutely.

I’d say give it a shot. It might just not be my cup of tea, but maybe you’ll love it. I might give it another shot another day, but as of now, I’m good on it.

The show is expected to have a Season 2, so maybe that means it gets better as you get further along in the episodes of season 1.

© 2022 Shanea Patterson

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