Donald Glover is a hard man to pin down. Most know him for his role as Troy Barnes in the cult-ish hit comedy show, Community, while others know him best as his rapping alter ego, Childish Gambino. He even tried his hand at stand-up comedy, releasing his hour long special, Weirdo, in 2012. While Glover has mostly excelled at everything he tried (I am partial to his work as Childish Gambino), nothing seemed to be able to fully encompass his vast skill set. After watching the first four episodes of his new show on FX, Atlanta, it is obvious that Glover finally found the perfect vehicle to put it all together.
Atlanta is best described as Louie meets The Wire, or more accurately, Master of None meets Ray Donovan. The scenes that make you laugh, can just as easily make you cry. The comedy strikes on a very real, no frills level. As creator, writer, and star of the show, Glover is completely unleashed to flex all of his considerable talents. He plays a character that is determined to raise his position in life, and sees opportunity when his drug dealing cousin, Paper Boi, gets a little bit of fame from his rap video. The story follows Glover’s attempts to manage his cousin to the top of the Atlanta rap game, while truly focusing on the struggles that many people face in the black community. The show has a message, and Glover isn’t afraid to use comedy, drama, or violence to tell it.
Not only is the writing excellent, but the acting deserves to be mentioned with the very best on television right now. Glover perfectly plays his role of the level-headed heart of the show, tiptoeing around one disaster after another. Brian Tyree Henry plays the character of Paper Boi, and while it would be easy to play a drug dealing rap star over the top, Henry keeps it very real and down to earth. Last but certainly not least, Keith Stanfield plays Paper Boi’s best friend and business associate, Darius, and he easily steals just about every scene he is in. He plays the prototypical “funny friend,” but still manages to give the character heart and depth.
Atlanta is the perfect storm for Donald Glover, where it feels like everything he has done in life was meant to lead up to this moment. Every episode is so well thought out, each having its own message and story to tell, while still fitting into the bigger picture. If you weren’t already a fan of his, you will be after giving this show a shot. Atlanta airs on FX every Tuesday at 10 pm, and you can watch all of the episodes On Demand whenever you want.