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.”

Continue reading “TV Review: Black Earth Rising (2017, BBC2 & Netflix)”

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Chewing Gum (E4, Netflix)

TITLE: Chewing Gum
GENRE: Comedy
STARRING: Michaela Coel (star/writer), Susie Wokoma, Kadiff Kirwan
NETWORK/COUNTRY: UK
YEAR: 2015
RATING: 5 out of 5 hairbrushes upside your head
WHERE CAN I SEE IT? E4 on demand in the U.K. and Netflix in the U.S.

When I moved to London in 2003 with a head full of stereotypes about the city and its people, I first tried to find a place to live in Brixton. Brixton is a neighborhood that, back then, was where a lot of Afro-Caribbeans lived. Migrating in the early 1950s as Commonwealth citizens to help rebuild Britain after Hitler bombed the shit out of it, Brixton became known as a hub of Black British life. And also riots. There were massive riots in the 1980s. So, of course, THAT IS WHERE I WANTED TO LIVE.

Alas, the rooms and small apartments I went to look at were, IMO, CRAY. The ones where I would be a “lodger” with older Afro-Caribbean women and men were dark, with lots of heavy drapery and too much white Jesus imagery for my taste. Granted, I looked at 3-4 places so I won’t generalize to the entire populace of Afro-Caribbean landlords. But studying  the evolution of Black British culture and getting to know young, Black British women made the places I looked at, and my introduction to Chewing Gum, all the more hilarious and comprehensible.


Chewing Gum is based on a stage play that Michaela Coel wrote and she brings her character Tracey to fidgety life for the TV show. She works in a corner shop part-time and most of the show takes place in her neighborhood for a fun look at Council Estate life without the hyperbole of what that life is like. Because regardless of the exterior, Tracey is fully obsessed with sex: having sex for the first time (at 24), enjoying sex and being sexy. Yet, she’s incredibly, but adorably awkward in her pursuit. She lives with her very religious mother and her sister (Susie Wokoma, star of Crazyheads and featured in Crashing), so Tracey’s randiness is constantly under surveillance and reprimand. This is especially the case with her boyfriend with whom she shares a chaste relationship, but she’s always trying to mount him like a pony.

What makes Coel’s depiction of Tracey both hilarious and forward-thinking is its opposition to stereotypes about black American women’s sexuality.

Continue reading “Chewing Gum (E4, Netflix)”