You’ll Like It If You Already Like: BET & OWN shows, Shonda Rhimes’ shows…
Likely timeslot: Joining TGIT on thursday at 10 once How To Get Away Murder ends.
A whole team of powerful black women, from writer to director and producers, crafting a compelling story about a sisterhood of complex black women, that’s unprecedented on network television and beautiful and precious. I really hope ABC will proceed with a series order in may. Not only for the symbol and the huge step forward but also because it’s worth one judging by the script and because, as Empire and Scandal proved, there’s an audience waiting for it, desperately. There is not a single white person in a regular role in this show. So what? We got a ton of shows with only white people for years… The Finest is a bit messy sometimes and can’t be labeled as “a fine drama”, but it does have potential. You just have to deal with the fact that this premise is highly unlikely: what are the odds not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 -and even 6- women from the same family -mostly sisters- all become police officers? I mean… It’s just weird. They make it believable somehow on the page but you just need to look beyond this, just relax and enjoy. EDIT: Turns out those sisters exist in real life! Good Morning America did a segment about them a few years ago!
Let me introduce you to our main characters, who all have secrets. Some are included in my descriptions, some others I’ll keep, just so you still have surprises while watching it. First, there’s what we could call “the lead sister”, Lena Kendrick (played by Frances Turner). She’s not the oldest but she’s the highest ranking and accomplished. Witty and intelligent, Lena is the first African-American woman to be promoted to Assistant Chief in the department. But she struggles with the news that her cancer may be back. And there’s an incredible scene, a mash-up of two cult scenes in fact, when she takes her wig off (hello Viola Davis in HTGAWM!) -let’s see it as an hommage- and we discover a scar across her scalp (hello Kimberly Shaw in Melrose Place!). That’s quite powerful. Then we have Ella (Amirah Vann). She’s smart, kind, and principled, she goes out of her way to prove that police officers can still be good guys who treat people fairly. Married for 18 years, Ella is also a mother of three who struggles to balance her home life with her job. When she chooses to disregard protocol, her partner gets shot, putting his life and her career in jeopardy. There’s an interesting thread here since the call they responded to which was supposed to be about domestic abuse turns out to be a fake, an ambush designed to target a police officer… Also, Ella may be having an affair… with a woman! Yeah, it’s a lot for just one character.
Then we have Anise (Tisha Campbell-Martin), a witty, tough and outspoken patrol officer with a sharp sense of humor. She is immensely proud of her family, especially that her four sisters are in the NYPD, she was the first to join the force and kinda led the way. She has a daughter, Taylor (Zoe Robbins), who’s just been accepted in the police academy, and she’s not happy about it. She wanted her to become a lawyer, or at least get any college degree. Let’s move on to Nicole (Leigh-Ann Rose), an attractive, fit, strong-willed, tough detective. Her ex-boyfriend Jessie, who’s the father of their child, refuses to move out of Nicole’s apartment despite her wishes. He takes her to court to establish paternity and gain legal custody of their kid. Finally, there’s Serena (Aubin Wise), the youngest sister, a youthful and wholesome beauty, playful but tough who is happily married to her handsome architect husband. She’s a germaphobe. And kinky. She’s kind of the sister the story didn’t need, to be honest. Four would have been enough I guess. We’ll see what they’ll do with her but for now, she doesn’t have much to offer.
As I said earlier, it’s not “a fine drama”. By that, I mean it’s very very soapy, not always subtle, often on the nose. But it’s damn ambitious too. I mean, there are so many things going on at the same time, so many characters to introduce, both personal challenges and investigations to go through… It’s a damn lot! The writer did her best, I guess, to make it all fit. As a consequence, it’s fast-paced, with a few action-packed scenes in the streets of New York, but it never goes deep, there’s just not time left for that. The good side of it is that there are a lot of things left unsaid, especially about their family as a whole, their parents, their past, that they will be able to delve into later. It’s probably more of a script problem than an actual pilot problem, but you need an awfully long time to distinct the sisters. They’re all tough, they’re all beautiful, they’re all police officers of course, they’re all in their thirties or forties, they’re all fabulous… It will take more than one episode to understand the way their sisterhood works. Then again, it’s good to have things to look forward. You end up bloated but with a undeniable desire to have some more.
The Finest‘s pilot wants to be all over the place and actually is. But when you think about it, it looks exactly like what ABC needs actually: a character-driven, female-fueled soapy drama, with police elements on the side, targeting a large audience, including an african-american demo mourning Scandal’s Olivia Pope. They’re offered like 5 Olivia Pope instead! Let’s just hope they don’t turn out as unbearable as her. For now, they’re queens from Queens and they’re just great as they are.