"Harlem Heights" is BET's new show that premieres at 10 tonight. It's a docudrama, which means much of it is not happening organically, but I'm not against contrived TV if the results are good.
The press materials say the show will "provide a window into the fascinating world of New York's young, Black and fabulous crowd."
Maybe, but I found the first two episodes light on the fascinating.
The show is narrated by Bridget, a Spelman College graduate who is in law school and also writes. We follow her rather fabulous group of friends and frenemies, including a magazine editor, an aspiring actress, a Victoria Secret Pink designer and a single father trying to start a nonprofit for children with incarcerated parents.
The first episode highlights the day before, and then the night of, the election of Barack Obama as president. There's a lot of hopeful talk, happy tears, promise of activism.
Much of that happy/shinyness fades away in the 2nd episode when we get to the typical twenty-something drama: one of the girls used to date a "very well-known international music superstar" (Oh, OK Kanye West) and another girl thinks she's changed. Camps are formed, a friendship has ended. But Kanye's ex still gets invited to her ex-friend's birthday party because it makes good television. Actually, in this case, it doesn't. We don't want them fist-fighting but there wasn't even a hand on a hip. It was all so restrained.
I gotta applaud giving Harlem, which has had a resurgence in recent years, a showcase. I hope later the show deals in some way with the gentrification issue which is a big deal in the community.
And the show is interesting in another way: if President Obama and other African Americans in their 40s and 50, are the post-civil rights generation, this is the middle-class generation behind them. They are a confident and secure bunch, truly ascendent.
And pretty superficial. I hope the show either gets a little cattier or a little meatier.