We Are Lady Parts
“I’m gonna kill my sister! She stole my eyeliner! It’s an honor killing, it’s an honor killing,” sings Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey) early on in this half-hour British comedy created by Nida Manzoor about an all-girl, all-Muslim punk rock band. Saira fronts the band Lady Parts, and she’s on the hunt for a lead guitarist. The other bandmates are bassist Bisma (Faith Omole), a Black vegan mom who draws violent comics about periods; drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed), who moonlights as an Uber driver; and manager Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), who wears a niqab and is fond of smoking marijuana. They’re not so sure a lead guitarist is necessary. But Saira is convinced that Amina (Anjana Vasan), a 26-year-old grad student who secretly shreds on guitar but refuses to perform because she has a “nervy disposition which induces diarrhea and vomiting,” might just be their new star. Both sweet and hilarious, We Are Lady Parts is an irreverent look at a community that doesn’t get enough screen time. —Tomi Obaro
Where to watch: Peacock
OK, look, I too had an attitude when I saw how hard Netflix was pushing Sweet Tooth. A show about a little boy who’s part kid, part deer? Wyd, Netflix? Sorry to this man/kid/deer/boy/creature, but I ain’t watchin’ that, I thought to myself. And I’m here to report that I was wrong. For reasons I no longer remember, I started watching Sweet Tooth and I just…couldn’t stop. The postapocalyptic fantasy drama is set in a world after a devastating virus (“the Sick”) has altered the path of humanity and led to babies being born part human and part animal, aka hybrids. Some thought the hybrids caused the virus and set about hunting them.
The series is based on a comic book by Jeff Lemire, and listen, if you’re not sold on the premise (I wasn’t either!), the show will still win you over. The hybrid we follow is Gus (Christian Convery, who plays him with such warmth and charisma), a charming 10-year-old half-deer boy whose sheltered world is rocked by tragedy. He assembles a host of allies and protectors as he sets out to look for his mom, armed only with a grainy photo of her.
Aided by beautiful cinematography, highly stylized action sequences, and excellent pacing, Sweet Tooth draws you in. Each episode ends not exactly on a cliffhanger, but by posing questions that you need answered. Before long, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in Gus’s world and not wanting to leave. —Elamin Abdelmahmoud
Where to watch: Netflix
I’m sure there are valid criticisms to be made of Hacks, the new HBO comedy that just wrapped its first season, but unfortunately I am unable to hear them because Jean Smart is in this show. Jean Smart in an updo, Jean Smart in wide-legged slacks, Jean Smart in big earrings and a tall shoe. There is indeed a very good show around Jean Smart being beautiful and troubled — one where she plays Deborah Vance, a Joan Rivers–type comic in Las Vegas who’s forced to hire Ava (Hannah Einbinder), a young comedian who recently became unhireable after some ill-advised tweets. But, you know, Jean Smart.
I realize that your enjoyment of Hacks hinges on how much you can tolerate conversations about millennial entitlement, Twitter anti-comedy, and two complicated white women intent on tearing each other down for 10 episodes. But I like that kind of show. It’s one where everyone sort of sucks: Ava is a self-involved, often brutally unfunny craven careerist who thinks everything is beneath her except for the literal work she’s been hired to do. Deborah can be heartless, condescending, and ruthless to her most loyal employees, and often, a great example of the failures of second-wave feminism. The world Hacks built feels so true to a particular corner of the internet, of fame, and of the creative class that it’s easy to identify with them; you’re always rooting for Deborah to dig deeper, and for Ava to fucking get over herself. There’s a Deborah and an Ava in us all. (But if you think you don’t know an Ava yourself — bad news, that probably means it’s you.)
Where to watch: HBO and HBO Max
In Treatment (Season 4)
I didn’t know what to expect when I tuned into the revival of In Treatment, the HBO drama about a therapist who counsels a variety of clients whom viewers follow on their respective emotional journeys from week to week. But I was pleasantly surprised.
The series had an original run from 2008 to 2010, spawning three well-received seasons. The main reason I decided to tune in was because Emmy-winning actor Uzo Aduba would take the helm, replacing Gabriel Byrne as the central therapist who provides audiences with a glimpse into the lives of patients who speak at length about their inner turmoil. The revived series (Season 4) is set against the backdrop of the pandemic, which gave me pause at first (because oh my god, there’s an oversaturation of pandemic-related content), but it was actually a smart way to develop the story. The new season realistically captures the current moment, like showing sessions take place over video chat or the precarity of seeing patients in person (fully vaxxed, of course). Though daily activities are slowly resuming, some are still processing the last year that turned our collective lives upside down, and not only that, there’s grief many must contend with that has nothing to do with the pandemic itself and yet has been, in some ways, exacerbated by the plague.
What I love most about the series is that it showcases the vulnerability of Aduba’s character, a therapist named Dr. Brooke Taylor with her own practice in Los Angeles. It’s easy to forget that therapists are real people with their own sets of issues, and the show expertly demonstrates how nimble one must be to not take things personally (like verbally abusive patients, or those who cross personal boundaries). The first episode begins with Eladio, played by the consistently great actor Anthony Ramos, a home health aide who compromises his sleep in order to work for a very rich family. This interaction sets the tone for the rest of the show, with Dr. Taylor displaying compassion and care to slowly and carefully peel back the layers and get to the root of Eladio’s distress. It’s a dialogue-heavy show that is, at times, equally thoughtful, gripping, and entertaining. Much like real-life therapy, it’s certainly worth the investment. —Michael Blackmon
Where to watch: HBO Max
Ready to Love (Season 3)
There are so many dating shows out there that it’s almost hard to tell them apart. (Especially the ones with Island in the title.) But in its third season, OWN’s Ready to Love, focused on Black singles, is emerging as one of the most original, least shticky reality franchises out there. The show is a little like Dating Around meets The Bachelor. The contestants are brought together at mingling parties, where they chat and get to know each other, and then they go on individual dates. The dating pool includes the usual hot twentysomething people (and personal trainers) we expect from the genre, but also a wider range of ages than your usual reality show, including castmates into their late forties. After the dates, the men and women break into groups and meet with host Tommy Miles to debate and decide who isn’t “ready to love.”
Like all these shows, it often feeds into retro gender politics (one guy was eliminated for saying he thought a mortgage should be split; two women were eliminated for…talking to each other too much), but it’s funny to see players exposed. (One of the men invited every woman on a trip.) The show goes for maximal drama by setting up singles to be eliminated on a random date where they’re told they aren’t “ready to love.” Still, the conversations about why it didn’t work out sometimes feel genuine. And because there aren’t that many contestants, you get to know them enough to become invested. (I was rooting for one comedian who — spoiler alert — was ultimately friend-zoned by the men.) Only on its third season, the show hasn’t congealed into tropes, though convention-savvy contestants are already coming on: One guy self-eliminated before he could be told why he was being let go. But such hijinks just make it even more of the perfect summer binge watch. —Alessa Dominguez
Run the World
If, like me, you rewatched Sex and the City during lockdown while waiting for Insecure to return, you might want to check out this Starz show, created by Leigh Davenport and executive produced by Yvette Lee Bowser (of Living Single fame) about four Black women in their thirties navigating life in Harlem. There’s Ella (Andrea Bordeaux), a writer who works for an online media site and is grappling with feelings for a recently resurfaced ex, Renee (Bresha Webb), who has a high-powered job and is divorcing her husband for spending their mutual fund on a band he discovered on the subway, Sondi (Corbin Reid), a graduate student dating her professor, and Whitney (Amber Stevens West), a banker who is having second thoughts about marrying Ola, her Nigerian doctor fiancé (played by Tosin Morohunfola). While the writing and acting can sometimes be a little stilted, the appeal of this show to me lies in watching four Black women of different shades chat, fuck, and cry in glam outfits in impossibly large New York apartments. I watch it thinking, This could be me? They sing decent karaoke and dance at Shrine, a real bar in Harlem, and Whitney’s future sister-in-law chats with a tailor in Yorùbá. Representation politics has its limits, certainly, but there’s still something kind of nice about seeing Black titties on the TV, ya feel me? —Tomi Obaro
High on the Hog
I make a half-decent grilled cheese sandwich, but I am otherwise a beginner when it comes to cooking. I watch cooking content like others watch sports: with awe at superhuman feats. And I turned on High on the Hog for the same reason: to watch people do what I cannot do, which is cook elaborate, beautiful meals.
Instead, I found myself crying about 10 minutes in. Then crying again 10 minutes later. Then sobbing at the end of the first episode as the host wept while being held by a food historian. What is happening?
I didn’t catch the full title of High on the Hog until the second episode — the subtitle is: How African American Cuisine Transformed America. And the series absolutely lives up to this promise: It is an extraordinary documentary of a culinary revolution. The show is a long-overdue corrective to the unserious treatment Black food gets in food media. Through the show’s trajectory, viewers are introduced to how the ways Black people cook transformed how America eats.
The trajectory is literal, too: High on the Hog does not begin in America, but rather in Benin, as host Stephen Satterfield gets a tour of what enslaved people would have been eating before they were forced on boats to the US.
The series is based on Jessica B. Harris’s book High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America, and it is as interested in making the food look beautiful as it is in explicitly making the case that what we consider American food would simply not exist if it weren’t for Black people. You’ll get hungry and you’ll weep watching it: What a combo! —Elamin Abdelmahmoud
Where to watch: Netflix ●