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MCN Review: 'Atlanta'

FX’s new series Atlanta is hard to define: It’s not quite a drama, but it’s not all comedy; it’s sometimes very edgy and yet often heartwarming. And that’s what makes the show unique and interesting.

The series revolves around Earnest “Earn” Marks, (played by series producer and Community alumnus Donald Glover), a young man looking to find his niche as a manager for his cousin, Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), an up-and-coming hip-hop artist.

Practically homeless (his parents won’t let him in to their house after his father says he can’t afford to have him live there), Earn stays with his child’s mother and on-again/off-again girlfriend Van (Zazie Beetz), whose expectations for Earn are much higher than what he’s currently living up to.

Atlanta is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, but the comedic elements of the series are very funny and often subtle, and can easily be missed or overlooked if you’re not paying attention. Many of the lighthearted moments are derived from interactions between Earn, Paper Boi and his best friend/right-hand man Darius (Keith Stanfield), who comes off as both unassuming and unnerving.

Earn’s first encounter with Darius at Paper Boi’s house — Darius meets him at the door with a butcher knife, but then offers him fresh baked cookies when he realizes Earn is cool — sets the stage and tone for one of the more integral character developments in the show, with free-spirited Darius playing off the more serious, slick Earn and hard-core Paper Boi.

Over the first few episodes, Glover slowly unwinds the show’s storylines around the main characters, through the lens of a focused slice of urban life that’s rarely seen on television. He also weaves in larger societal issues, such as racism, illegal drugs, the overcrowded prison system and poverty, helping shape a very intelligent and entertaining show.

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.