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Programming Review: ‘Them’

The Emory family (top) battles the supernatural and bigoted neighbors like Betty Wendell (Alison Pill, below) in Them. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Supernatural elements and a backdrop of 1950s racism provide a potent mix of terror for Amazon Studios’ anthology series Them.

(Series preview by Michael Malone.)

The limited series focuses its first season on a Black family who moves to California from the Jim Crow south during the Great Migration of the 1950s. The father of the Emory family and engineer, Henry (Ashley Thomas), wants a better life for his wife Lucky (Deborah Ayorinde) and two daughters, Ruby (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Gracie (Melody Hurd), and entrusts that the openness and freshness of the Los Angeles suburb of East Compton will provide the family with a slice of the American dream.

But within five minutes of driving through the all-white neighborhood, it’s clear the community won’t welcome the Emorys with open arms. A protest sit-in in front of the Emory house organized by the neighborhood wives, led by antagonist Betty Wendell (Alison Pill), is just a slice of what is in store for the family.

Alison Pill in Them

Alison Pill in Them (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Undaunted, the Emorys go on enthusiastically with their lives — even as Lucky prepares for the worst by pushing bullets into a pistol at the kitchen table — but a supernatural entity emerges from the basement of the home to further torment the family. Several scenes between Lucky and her youngest daughter, Gracie, in early episodes portend some scary situations for viewers.

Them will undoubtedly be compared to Jordan Peele’s Us and the Golden Globe-nominated HBO series Lovecraft Country series in its feel, as well as its mix of supernatural elements and overt racism that at times is more terrifying to the protagonists. Executive producer Lena Waithe does a good job of setting the stage for what could potentially be a fascinating and at times scary tale. 

R. Thomas Umstead
R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.