TV Review: Black Earth Rising (2017, BBC2 & Netflix)

black woman with great cheek bones looking skyward

TITLE: Black Earth Rising

GENRE: Drama/Thriller

STARRING: Michaela Coel, John Goodman (!), Lucian Msamati, Tyrone Huggins, Harriet Walter (basically a ton of amazing actors you’ll recognize)

PRODUCTION COMPANY/DISTRIBUTION/COUNTRY: BBC2 and Netflix

YEAR: 2017

RATING: 🤷🏾‍♀️ (punting on a rating for reasons discussed)

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Available to stream on Netflix starting 25 January 2019

I’m not so hot on political thrillers, hence, the 🤷🏾‍♀️ rating. But I am hot on Michaela Coel and I’m excited to see her getting to do a dramatic role. We knew she could do slapstick (see this blog’s first review ever for Chewing Gum), but she’s riveting in Black Earth Rising. She’s a soulmate to Meredith Grey and Christina Yang: dark and twisty.

Is that adequate attention to Michaela Coel’s acting so that it doesn’t seem like I’m objectifying her before I start going on about her cheek bones, amazing lips and skin I’d probably sell my non-existent first born for?

We’re introduced to Coel’s character, legal investigator Kate Ashby, in her therapist’s office. For someone who’s attempted to kill herself, Kate’s deadpanning her way through a quizzing by her therapist quite winningly. Kate’s survived the genocide in Rwanda and since been adopted by Eve. Eve is a British, international lawyer charged with prosecuting a militia leader for war crimes committed during the genocide for the International Criminal Court.

two women angrily face off
Eve: “What doesn’t kill us…” Kate: “…waits for another chance.”

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Wanderlust (2018, BBC One/Netflix)

man and woman lying on back looking up at camera

TITLE: Wanderlust

GENRE: Drama/comedy

STARRING: Toni Collette, Zawe Ashton, Steven Mackintosh, Sophie Okenedo, Paul Kaye

PRODUCTION COMPANY/DISTRIBUTION/COUNTRY: BBC One

YEAR: 2018

RATING: 🛏🛏🛏🛏🛏 (because five 🍆s seemed too obvious)

WHERE CAN I SEE IT? Netflix

Here’s the thing…the thing is…about Wanderlust is that it’s about sex…well, actually it’s about sexuality without being…I was going to say how it’s “holistic” in its approach to…actually being sexual…you see what I mean?

That’s a sample of about 20% of the dialogue in Wanderlust, so if tongue-tied people frustrate the hell outta you, you should give this show a miss. But that would be a huge mistake. Because what Wanderlust does well is complicate straight, hetero cis sex. And if you think, “Why bother?” because straight sex if everywhere, think of Wanderlust’s exploration of one couple’s attempt at an open relationship as a view into the quality, not the quantity of those types of relationships. Wanderlust looks at monogamy with more sophistication than any TV show in my recent memory by illustrating people grappling with a way of being that not many people are familiar with nor that many are willing to try. Much less willing to try it in small af English town.

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