Review: ABC's 'Queens'
Drama premieres Tuesday, Oct. 19 on ABC
Queens looks at four women who once made up the girl group Nasty Bitches, who get back together in their 40s to give hip-hop another go. Eve plays Brianna, also known as Professor Sex. Naturi Naughton is Jill, a.k.a. Da Thrill. Nadine Velazquez is Valeria, also known as Butter Pecan, and Brandy plays Naomi, a.k.a. Xplicit Lyrics.
Pepi Sonuga plays Lil Muffin, a young hip-hop star of the modern era who performs the Nasty Bitches hit “Nasty Girl”, and ends up bringing them back together.
The pilot, directed by Tim Story, bears the title “1999.” A couple decades removed from their short-lived superstardom, Naomi is struggling in the Nashville bar scene, and has a tattered relationship with her daughter. Church-going Jill has a loving husband, but longs for someone else. Like Jill, Brianna appears to be in a happy marriage, but learns her husband is less than faithful. Valeria has enjoyed the most success of any of the former Nasty Bitches, making a name for herself in morning television. But she sabotages a star colleague and gets the boot.
The Nasty Bitches are lined up to play the BET Awards with Lil Muffin, but the women must work out the issues that blew up the group years before. Brianna refers to the modern-day band as “a mom, a washed up musician, a disgraced daytime TV host [and] a lesbian church lady.” The women see their former selves in Lil Muffin, and pass along the hard lessons they learned as young stars.
Created by Zahir McGee, Queens is inevitably compared to Peacock hit Girls5Eva, also about a one-hit girl group from the ‘90s that reunites when their hit gets sampled by a young rapper. Girls5Eva is a straightforward comedy, while Queens is a lively drama with some humor mixed in. With Swizz Beatz the executive music producer, Queens also takes its music a bit more seriously, the Girls5Eva tracks designed more for laughs.
Queens has something to say about how the world treats pop stars today, a slight improvement over how it treated pop stars in 1999. Eve, Naughton, Velazquez and Brandy work and play well together, and give Queens some legit promise.
Queens premieres on ABC Oct. 19 at 10/9c.
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.